COVID-19 Weekly Update – December 9th 2020
States that depend heavily on tourism have suffered greatly during the pandemic, and a few are taking creative steps to diversify their economies by attracting new remote workers. For example, Hawaii’s new “Movers and Shakas” program offers free roundtrip airfare to remote workers willing to spend at least 30 days working in that state and to contribute in some way to the local community. Tulsa is offering grants of $10,000 plus membership at a co-working space to new residents, while two counties in northwest Arkansas are offering $10,000 plus a bicycle.
As the virus spreads across the country, we hope you are continuing to stay safe and healthy!
CARES ACT UPDATES
Another stimulus bill?
After months of uncertainty, lawmakers finally reached a compromise on Sunday, December 6, for a new relief package. The deal includes an additional $300 per week for possibly up to six months of unemployment benefits, and an extension of the moratorium on evictions. It does not, however, include a second round of $1,200 checks, which may happen after President-elect Biden’s inauguration. Another round of support for small business with the Paycheck Protection Program is also included.
A reminder to those of you who have received unemployment insurance benefits, those benefits are subject to federal, state and city taxes. You will need to obtain your 1099-G from the agency paying these benefits in order to properly report and file your 2020 personal income tax return. The form will show the benefits and withholding you received for the year.
Even if you won’t be itemizing your deductions for 2020, the CARES Act will allow you to deduct $300 of cash equivalent contributions to charities when you file your tax return in 2021. To get this deduction, your contribution must be made in cash (or cash equivalent) to a qualifying charity by December 31, 2020. Be sure to keep records of your donations, which may be in the form of a cancelled check, bank records, and a receipt from the charity.
For those of you who hire outside consultants in your business may be issuing the new 1099-NEC form this year, still with the same reporting deadline of February 1st. So please keep an eye out for our email requesting required information so we can help you with this altered requirement. While those of you who perform consulting work may be receiving the new 1099-NEC. So please keep an eye out for this form and keep it with your other necessary tax documents we will need you to provide us with. Please note, you will still be required to use the 1099-MISC for such items as royalties, rent, and healthcare payments.
Help for small business
The “fail fast” approach has been used by the startup community as a way to quickly assess whether an idea is viable or not. If a change is successful, it’s retained. Otherwise, a new path is charted, based on data collected from the failed idea. This article in the New York times describes how three very different businesses used that notion to succeed during the pandemic. A center that offered psychotherapy and drop-in classes switched to an online cohort class model. A bagel bakery pivoted to online sales and found ways to ship bagels nationwide. A business that offered photo booths and selfie stations for events switched to selling gift boxes of items particular to different towns.
Older Americans have been especially vulnerable to fraud during the pandemic as essential services moved online. Fraudsters find them attractive because they tend to have more money in savings and they may not be digitally astute. These scams can range from fake messages from grandchildren in need of cash to get out of a dire situation to pet adoption scams to messages about a new stimulus program. According to the AARP, seniors have already lost nearly $183 million through these scams, with an average loss of about $320. Simple steps such as being wary of downloading documents from strangers and using unique passwords can ward off many of these attacks.
To stay safe during online holiday shopping, make sure you follow these five practices:
- Manage your passwords
- Use multi-factor authentication
- Beware of phishing
- Educate your children
- Be diligent
These simple habits will thwart most scams, and will help keep more of your money where it belongs.
Working from home
A recent study reported in Fast Company found that the real problem in working from home is not the lack of physical presence in the same location, but a lack of social capital. Social capital is created when teams have ways to create meaningful connections, whether in person or virtually. Companies thriving in the remote world have taken some kind of action to keep people connected. Managers and supervisors who consistently make small, caring gestures help to build social connections. Structured and unstructured meetings for work and non-work purposes also keep everyone happily working together.
Even though just over half of workplaces plan to remain fully or partially remote through the first quarter of 2021, most still have not developed a formal remote workplace policy. That’s according to a recent study discussed in CFO.com. Remote work policies should address any pay differentials based on the location of workers and any additional benefits for remote workers to help them balance work and family life.
Looking for holiday gifts for remote workers? This guide from the Wall Street Journal includes suggestions to make working from home easier and more comfortable.
LIVING WITH AND AFTER THE PANDEMIC
Work in the post-pandemic world
Leadership tactics that helped teams make it this far during the pandemic won’t work well as we face an uncertain and indefinite future. Too much agility leads to chaos, while making a few firm commitments for how long remote work will continue gives teams a bit of certainty for the future. Acting strongly and decisively may be tempting, but we are entering uncharted waters, so gathering input and striving for a common understanding is crucial for moving forward. Annual rituals such as the holiday party should be retained, even if in an online format. Showing vulnerability instead of steadfast decisiveness builds trust in teams, which leads to higher levels of engagement and energy and lower stress levels.
We have altered our annual holiday party and “Secret Santa/Hanukkah Harry” gift giving this year by using an on line app and scheduling a Zoom Holiday party. We started with ordering our annual holiday card photo which still took an hour to pose for and agree on the photo where we were all smiling at the same time!
- Our Covid-19 Resource Center with relevant blog posts, videos and prior weekly newsletters
- Payroll, HR and benefits company Gusto has put together An Employer’s Guide to Navigating the Coronavirus
- Accounting Today has a special page for articles on COVID-19
- The best source for up-to-date and accurate health information is the Center for Disease Control (CDC)
- The CDC also has recommendations for businesses and employers
- Intuit QuickBooks has a dedicated page to help small businesses
- The Red Cross has pointers to help young adults stay safe
- Entrepreneur put together a listing of free tech resources for remote work
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has warnings about COVID-related scams
- Fast Company has a listing of the best productivity apps for 2020
- The New York Times has an online newsletter on K-12 and higher education
- The Wall Street Journal has a collection of articles on education
We sincerely hope that you and your family are well and remain well. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are all in this together!