COVID-19 Weekly Update – February 10th 2021
Although most of us have not been able to travel for much of the last year, that didn’t stop The Guardian from hosting a travel photography competition. Stunning landscapes, colorful marketplaces, and chance photos that capture an unforgettable moment are all among the winners in the many categories. We may not be able to travel safely yet, but we can at least travel in our imaginations.
I am glad to be able to “travel” down my block to the beach and then share my photos with so many of you. This last week the landscape went from blustery snow to a blue sky day reminiscent of summer:
Progress on Another Plan?
Democrats are pushing ahead to pass President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package, even without Republican support. If passed, this package would likely include these provisions:
- $1,400 direct payments
- A $400 per week jobless benefit through September
- $350 billion in state, local and tribal government relief
- A $20 billion national COVID-19 vaccination program
- $50 billion for virus testing
- $170 billion for K-12 schools and higher education institutions
- A $30 billion rent and utility assistance fund
Another proposal, just introduced by Democrats on Monday, would expand the Child Tax Credit and give millions of families $3,600 per child under six and $3,000 per child aged six through 17. These payments would be paid out monthly starting in July. A Republican proposal would also expand the Child Tax Credit program, with monthly payments of $350 per child per month for young children and $250 per month for school-aged children.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
Are you having a difficult time navigating the ever-changing requirements of the new PPP? You’re not alone, we accounting professionals have been frustrated for months requesting final guidance. Now as we work on PPP2 applications and submit what we believe is adequate documentation as outlined in the law, we get additional requests. Just recently my professional group, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) drafted and submitted a letter to the SBA, which outlines several areas of concern.
- Applications for first and second round draws are being denied for unknown reasons. System and software problems are incorrectly denying applications, but the SBA doesn’t have clear remedies for fixing the problems. Even after fixing the problem, many applications are still being denied.
- Loans are being capped at a maximum of $35,000 per employee, so many applicants are receiving less than they expected with no explanation for the difference.
- The SBA is not clearly communicating that sufficient funds should be available to accommodate most requests, and that processing may take one to two weeks.
However, despite these problems, as of January 31, the SBA had disbursed 891,044 loans worth $72.7 billion, according to Bloomberg News. We are using a software portal launched through an AICPA partnership with the fintech bank Biz2Credit and have been successful in assisting several of our clients in obtaining loans.
Teachers can deduct up to $250 for personal protective equipment purchased to stop the spread of COVID-19 in classrooms, according to new guidance from the IRS. Eligible purchases include face masks, disinfectant, hand soap and sanitizer, gloves, plexiglass barriers, and tape or paint used to mark social distancing boundaries.
We have held off in sending out our “Welcome to Tax Season 2021” email packages due to the delay in the IRS efile portal, so many tax law changes and our concerns about unemployment and other taxpayer fraud (as highlighted in my recently published article for the Intuit Tax Pro Center). Ramona is working on putting your email packages together as she updates your portal links to our new portal and should have them out to you shortly.
LIVING WITH THE PANDEMIC
With most viral infections, those who have had the illness and recovered are usually immune to future infections. However, this does not appear to be the case with the South African variant. In a recent trial with a vaccine from Novavax, people who had previously been infected were just as likely to be infected with the new South African variant as those who had never been infected. However, experts caution that more research is needed.
During 2020, the objective of most businesses was to survive. But if you’ve made it this far, the improvisational strategy that got you through 2020 won’t be enough to set you up for future success. To prepare for the future, these four strategies from Strategy + Business can point you in the right direction. First, evaluate your data and set up experiments to find out what resonates with customers and what flops. Next, manage costs, but make sure that customer experience doesn’t suffer. Cooperate with the ecosystem of suppliers, complementary service providers, and other partners to help each other strengthen their businesses while improving customer satisfaction. Finally, share employee and customer feedback so that employees have an easier time doing their jobs and have better information to help customers.
The connection between employee engagement and business performance has been well-documented. But what about remote employees? A Gallup survey cited in a recent article in Entrepreneur indicates that remote Millennial and Gen Z employees are highly engaged when they have communicative and supportive managers. Other surveys describe strategies for increasing the level of engagement that remote workers have. Communicating the company mission and values and connecting that to employees’ work is essential, but only if the actions of company leaders are congruent with those ideals. Diversity helps to retain employees when they see people in leadership positions who look like them.
As the world went remote in the pandemic, the disruptive phenomenon of “zoombombing” became common. However, as researchers point out in Ars Technica, the common countermeasure of password-protecting meetings tends to be ineffective. This is because those passwords can easily be shared via email with potential disruptors either inside or outside an organization. A better method is to select the option to create a unique link for each user. This link can only be used by one participant, and is verified within Zoom as the one sent in a calendar invite to that person’s email address.
- 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
- 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
- The Atlantic has a state-by-state coronavirus tracker
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!