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  • Last updated March 26th

  • An Update From the WMWO Chamber An Update From the WMWO Chamber

    Chamber Friends,

    Please note that as our nation and state take the necessary steps to address COVID-19 in Louisiana, the West Monroe West Ouachita Chamber will do the same. Many meetings are now on hold or postponed, and our staff will be working remotely as much as possible as we all work together to prevent the spread of the virus.

    While our staff may be operating from different locations than usual, rest assured that we will continue to keep you informed of resources and information to support your operations. We stand ready to aid our local, state and federal partners in helping Louisiana's employers and workers during this difficult time.

    Please find below links to resources that will keep you updated during this time. Should you have specific questions you would like help with, please email us: membership@westmonroechamber.org OR call us 318-325-1961. We will get back to you as soon as possible.

    New relief for businesses:

    We highly encourage you to explore the summary of legislation here, consider the SBA loan programs immediately and collect the needed documentation for filing. If you have not already, contact your local bank where you already have an established relationship and ask for their feedback and advice. It is important to note these loans may take time to process so action now is critical to maintain liquidity for your business. Although the Chamber cannot directly advise you of your specific financial needs, we can direct you to quality contacts in the banking, accounting and legal professions that can! 

     

     

    Summary April 2, 2020:

    Gov. Edwards: State-Led Program to Offer COVID-19 Small Business Help, Click Here to Read More & FAQ's on Program

     

    Summary April 1, 2020:

    To better compare the 2 major loan programs, click here for a free CARES Act EIDL/PPP Comparison Chart

    Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) are working capital loans available to small businesses and non-profit organizations to help them meet their ordinary and necessary financial obligations and assist them through the disaster recovery period. Under the recently-passed CARES Act, certain terms and conditions of the EIDL Program have been relaxed or expanded.

    Eligibility, Terms, and Conditions

    • Covered Period: These rules apply to the covered period from January 31, 2020 to December 31, 2020.
    • Who: Expanded to include businesses with the greater of 500 employees or the applicable size standard set by the SBA based on NAICS Code; also expanded to include tribal businesses, cooperatives, Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) with 500 or fewer employees, sole proprietorships and independent contractors during the covered period. Private non-profits are eligible.
    • Interest: 3.75% interest for small business and 2.75% interest for non-profits.
    • Loan Amounts: Limited up to $2 million for economic injury caused by the disaster; pending guidance from the SBA on specific calculations for maximum loan amounts (i.e., 50% of gross profits as reported on the prior year’s tax return).
    • Loan Terms: Terms can vary to a maximum of 30 years on case-by-case basis.
    • Credit History: Applicant must have credit history acceptable to the SBA.
    • Available Credit: Waives requirement that the applicant be able to find credit elsewhere
    • Repayment Ability: Applicant does not need to prove ability to repay.
    • Personal Guarantee: Waives the personal guarantee requirement for advances and loans of not more than $200,000.
    • Collateral: No required collateral for loans under $25,000.
    • Years in Business: Waives requirement that the applicant be in business for one year before the disaster.
    • Insurance: Applicant may be required to obtain and maintain appropriate insurance.
    • Refinance: Businesses that were issued an EIDL prior to the creation of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) may be eligible to refinance their EIDL to a PPP loan.
    • Payment Deferral: No payments are due until the end of 2020.
    • Use of Funds: Loan proceeds can be used for working capital, payroll costs, and other business expenses that could have been paid had the disaster not occurred (i.e., supplies, materials, utilities, rents, etc.).

     

    Paycheck Protection Program Overview

    The CARES Act focuses on providing economic relief with a newly-created tool: the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”). This program expands the existing Small Business Administration (“SBA”) loan program and allows the SBA to provide additional loans and loan forgiveness to businesses and certain individuals as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. PPP loans may be obtained by contacting an SBA-approved lender. The SBA will provide loans through the PPP during the covered period, from  February 15, 2020 to June 30, 2020.

    Does My Business Qualify?

    The PPP expands existing SBA coverage. The following types of entities and individuals can qualify for loans through the PPP:

    Small Businesses & Certain Nonprofit Organizations

    Business concerns, 501(c)(3) organizations, veteran’s organizations, and tribal business concerns that either employ 500 or fewer employees or employ not more than the size standard established by the SBA for their industry are eligible for the PPP.

    Entrepreneurs & Independent Contractors

    The PPP also extends coverage to eligible sole proprietors, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals. In order to receive a loan through the PPP, these individuals must furnish certain documentation, such as Form 1099-MISC and profit and loss statements to establish eligibility.

    Food & Accommodation Sector

    A business that has more than one physical location, but is designated under NAICS code 72, the Food and Accommodation Sector, is eligible for a PPP loan as long as each location does not employ more than 500 employees.

    Summary March 30th:

    Chamber Members-
     
    As you have probably heard, the CARES Act was passed and signed into effect last week. While there are many items that have yet to be clarified, we think it is important that you know 3 major items immediately. (Our thanks to Senator Cassidy’s and Senator Kennedy’s offices for providing us with this information to pass along)

    1. Great feedback on the Paycheck Protection Program can be found here
    2. Importantly, SBA loans may be forgiven if borrowers maintain their payrolls during the crisis. The SBA loans have a process for loan forgiveness for loan funds used for payroll costs including those of tipped employees, payments on utilities, rent on a leasing agreement, and more. These loans can be up to 2.5x the borrower’s average monthly payroll costs, not to exceed 10million. See attached document from US Chamber for a quick summary including definitions.
    3. The best method of securing your loan is to interact with a local bank with which you already have a relationship. This helps to support our local banks and will dramatically speed your application process. However, full guidance from the US Treasury is likely to not come out until Friday. As a result, your local bank may not have full detail on the process until then. It is recommended that you take action now and gather the important documentation to submit your application. To our knowledge all our Chamber member banking institutions qualify as providers. See: http://www.westmonroechamber.org/list/category/banks-24
    Should you have questions, consider a session with the SBDC –
    The Small Business Development Center (SBDC)  can answer many of these questions directly. While their offices are closed, technical advice is available remotely with SBDC experts. Click HERE to request a consultation and schedule a virtual meeting with SBDC staff in your area and/or email lasbdc@lsbdc.org.
     
    Rest assured that the WMWO Chamber will continue to keep you informed of resources and information to support your operations. We stand ready to aid our local, state and federal partners in helping Louisiana's employers and workers during this difficult time and are happy to seek answers to any questions you may have. Simply email us and we will gladly look into the issue you are facing.

    SUMMARY MARCH 26th:

    Over the last days, multiple sources have emerged to aid our business community. In an effort to keep you informed, please review this brief summary below. As always, we will continue to update content here to reflect the latest information we have.

    • Louisiana Department of Revenue: Due to the COVID-19 crisis, Louisiana today extended the deadline to file and pay the February 2020 sales tax returns to May 20, 2020. This is an automatic extension and no extension request is necessary. Learn More>>

     

    • Refundable Payroll Tax Credits: the U.S. Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of Labor announced that small and midsize employers can begin taking advantage of two new refundable payroll tax credits, designed to immediately and fully reimburse them, dollar-for-dollar, for the cost of providing Coronavirus-related leave to their employees. This relief to employees and small and midsize businesses is provided under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, March 18, 2020. Click here for details.   Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Questions and Answers​   Note: The FFCRA’s paid leave provisions are effective on April 1, 2020, and apply to leave taken between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020.​

    UPDATE March 25: The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division issued their first level of guidance on how the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) will affect employers and employees. In the text, the DOL makes it clear that they will be issuing further guidance and regulations related to the exemptions for employers with fewer than 50 employees, as well as health care providers—which will we share with you as soon as it becomes available.

    The guidance—provided in a Fact Sheet for Employees, a Fact Sheet for Employers and a Questions and Answers document—addresses critical questions, such as how an employer must count the number of their employees to determine coverage, how small businesses can obtain an exemption, how to count hours for part-time employees, how to calculate the wages employees are entitled to under this law, and more. 

    To view the official guidance from the DOL please click here

     

    • Gov. Edwards announced that small businesses in all 64 parishes have access to the Small Business Administration disaster aid. Impacted small businesses may apply for up to $2 million in working capital to pay for fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the COVID-19 disaster. Loan terms (3.75 percent interest rate for small businesses; 2.75 percent for nonprofits) may be extended up to 30 years to keep payments affordable.

    To get started immediately, visit SBA.gov/Disaster. SBA offers a three-step process for disaster loans explained here.

    Further, the SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza announced automatic deferments through December 31, 2020, for borrowers still paying back SBA disaster loans from previous disasters such as the 2016 floods and Hurricanes Gustav, Ike, Katrina, or Rita. Borrowers of home and business disaster loans do NOT have to contact SBA to request deferment.

    SBA has shared the following information related to the COVID-19 disaster loans: 

    • Full eligibility guidelines for non-profits and business, click HERE.
    • Size and standards classification guidelines for small businesses (for use when applying), click HERE.
    • Guidelines on what small businesses can do with the disaster loans, click HERE.
    • Complete resource guide for small business, click HERE.

     

     

  • Louisiana Department of Revenue

    Due to the COVID-19 crisis, Louisiana today extended the deadline to file and pay the February 2020 sales tax returns to May 20, 2020. This is an automatic extension and no extension request is necessary. Learn More>>

     

    Refundable Payroll Tax Credits

    Today, March 23, the U.S. Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of Labor announced that small and midsize employers can begin taking advantage of two new refundable payroll tax credits, designed to immediately and fully reimburse them, dollar-for-dollar, for the cost of providing Coronavirus-related leave to their employees.

    This relief to employees and small and midsize businesses is provided under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed by President Trump on March 18, 2020.

     

    Click here for details.

  • Gov. Edwards: All Louisiana Parishes Eligible For COVID-19 Business Aid

    MARCH 19:  Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that small businesses in all 64 Louisiana parishes will have access to federal Small Business Administration disaster aid in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza confirmed that Louisiana’s more than 440,000 small business are eligible to apply for low-interest federal disaster loans, which will be made available to eligible firms suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus.

    “COVID-19 is a unique crisis affecting all walks of life, and that means Louisiana’s small business community will continue to be heavily impacted by disruptions to their operations,” Gov. Edwards said. “We are pleased to work with SBA and the federal government in providing this critical working capital to our small business owners who are suffering from the necessary measures installed due to the Coronavirus. Our hope is that these SBA disaster loans will be an important part of sustaining their businesses and providing support to their employees who make up over half of Louisiana’s private-sector workforce.”

    Impacted small businesses may apply for up to $2 million in working capital to pay for fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the COVID-19 disaster. Loan terms (3.75 percent interest rate for small businesses; 2.75 percent for nonprofits) may be extended up to 30 years to keep payments affordable.

    To get started immediately, visit SBA.gov/Disaster. SBA offers a three-step process for disaster loans explained here.

    Louisiana Economic Development also is offering COVID-19: Business Resources, an online guide to assistance available for impacted businesses. Look for updates to the guide at OpportunityLouisiana.com.

    “LED continues to monitor business conditions throughout Louisiana and we are identifying every possible avenue of support for our businesses, large and small, so that we can help them navigate the unique challenges of COVID-19,” LED Secretary Don Pierson said. “We are grateful to SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza and Gov. Edwards for securing this critical SBA disaster assistance as an important part of our recovery and sustainability efforts.”

  • Information from the 
    Louisiana Workforce Commission

     

    The Louisiana Workforce Commission has provided guidelines and information regarding unemployment insurance for employers and workers affected by the crisis.

    Information for Workers in Louisiana

    If your employment has been impacted for reasons related to COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease), please review the following information about assistance available. The Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) will do all that we can to ensure impacted workers receive the benefits for which they are eligible.
    Do any of these situations apply to you?

    1. Your work hours have been reduced because of lack of work due to Coronavirus.

    2. Your workplace closes temporarily, and you are not being compensated.

    3. You have been instructed not to go to work, and you are not being paid while at home.

    •   You MAY be eligible for unemployment insurance. You can file a claim at www.louisianaworks.net/hire or by calling our Claim Center at 866-783-5567. Effective March 17, 2020, we have extended our Claim Center hours to 8 a.m.- 7 p.m.

    •  Be sure to answer “yes” to the question, “Are you filing for Unemployment Insurance benefits for reasons related to COVID-19 (Coronavirus)?” This will provide needed information to the LWC to help process your claim.

    •   If your work hours have been reduced, partial benefits could be available to you up to a maximum of $247 a week. You must report any earnings for the week that you work, even if you’ve not yet been paid. Report the gross amount before deductions. These earnings would be factored into the amount of unemployment benefits paid to you for that week.

    •   A number of factors determine eligibility for benefits. The LWC reviews each case separately.

    •   The maximum number of weeks that unemployment benefits can be paid per claim is 26 weeks in a 12-month period.

    •   Wages and vacation pay (received or will receive) MUST be reported when you file your

      unemployment claim. Sick leave and PTO do not need to be reported.
      IMPORTANT NOTE: As per the Governor’s proclamation, for individuals whose employment has been impacted due to COVID-19:

       Work search requirements are waived        Week of waiting is waived

    Information for Employers in Louisiana

    If you are temporarily closing or reducing your hours of operations due to COVID-19, please contact the LWC to discuss how we can provide assistance and answer your questions about unemployment insurance and other programs and resources available.

    •   Contact us at EmployerServices@lwc.la.gov with your unemployment insurance questions. Be sure to provide your company’s name, a point of contact, telephone number and email address, as well as specifics on the assistance you are requesting. The Employer Call Center, 225-326-6999, is also available.

    •   For other programs and assistance, contact the American Job Center in your area. To find the closest American Job Center, go to http://www.laworks.net/Downloads/WFD/AJC_Contacts.pdf

      IMPORTANT NOTE: As per the Governor’s proclamation, reimbursable employers impacted due to COVID-19:

       Non-charges may be granted

    To see LWC's guidance for workers, click HERE 
    To see LWC's guidance for employers, click HERE

    For more information regarding LWC's operations and procedures during this time, visit their Coronavirus website. 

  • Recommendation for Louisiana Businesses

    As you look to pass accurate information to your workers and make important decisions regarding business operations, a good place to start is with the CDC's recommended business strategies, which include:

    1. Actively encourage sick employees to stay home.
    2. Separate sick employees.
    3. Emphasize staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees.
    4. Perform routine environmental cleaning.
    5. Advise employees before traveling to take certain steps.

    For more information, see below or visit the website of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, a LABI member company, for a variety of other resources, fact sheets and fliers regarding COVID-19 including:

    Planning Ahead for your Business 
    Business Consideration

  • Information From the Louisiana Department of Health

    With over one hundred cases of coronavirus confirmed across the the Louisiana Department of Health has resources available for the business community.  

    • To see LDH's Guidance for Business and Employers, click HERE

    In addition, LDH has also made some printable items available that can be placed around your place of business and company facilities.  

    For more information, visit LDH's Coronavirus website or you can call the Louisiana 211 Network by dialing 211. In addition, you can text the keyword LACOVID to 898-211 for regular text updates from LDH on the coronavirus in our state.

     
  • Information From the U.S. Chamber and the National Association of Manufacturers

    Given the nationwide scope of this challenge, our partners in Washington at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) have made resources available for American businesses and workers:

    For shareable social graphics on how to keep families, schools, and businesses safe, and what to do if you get sick, visit www.uschamber.com/coronavirus-response-toolkit.

     
     

    ACTIVELY ENCOURAGE SICK EMPLOYEES TO STAY HOME:

    • Employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
    • Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until:
      • they are free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), 
      • signs of a fever and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of​​ fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants). 
    • Ensure that your sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies.
    • Talk with companies that provide your business with contract or temporary employees about the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive leave policies.
    • Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work, as healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.
    • Employers should maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member. Employers should be aware that more employees may need to stay at home to care for sick children or other sick family members than is usual.

    SEPARATE SICK EMPLOYEES:

    CDC recommends that employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately. Sick employees should cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or an elbow or shoulder if no tissue is available).​

    EMPHASIZE STAYING HOME WHEN SICK, RESPIRATORY ETIQUETTE AND HAND HYGIENE BY ALL EMPLOYEES:

    • Place posters at workplace entrances and in other high traffic workplace areas that encourage:
    • Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees.
    • Instruct employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% to 95% alcohol, or wash their hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty.
    • Provide soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs in the workplace. Ensure that adequate supplies are maintained. Place hand rubs in multiple locations or in conference rooms to encourage hand hygiene.
    • Visit the coughing and sneezing etiquette and clean hands webpage for more information.

    PERFORM ROUTINE ENVIRONMENTAL CLEANING:

    • Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.
    • No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended at this time.
    • Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls and desks) can be wiped down by employees before each use.

    ADVISE EMPLOYEES BEFORE TRAVELING TO TAKE CERTAIN STEPS:

    • Check the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices for the latest guidance and recommendations for each country to which you will travel. Specific travel information for travelers going to and returning from China, and information for aircrew, can be found at on the CDC website.
    •  Advise employees to check themselves for symptoms of acute respiratory illness before starting travel and notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
    •  Ensure employees who become sick while traveling or on temporary assignment understand that they should notify their supervisor and should promptly call a healthcare provider for advice if needed.
    • If outside the United States, sick employees should follow your company’s policy for obtaining medical care or contact a healthcare provider or overseas medical assistance company to assist them with finding an appropriate healthcare provider in that country. A U.S. consular officer can help locate healthcare services. However, U.S. embassies, consulates and military facilities do not have the legal authority, capability and resources to evacuate or give medicines, vaccines or medical care to private U.S. citizens overseas.

     

    3 WORK-FROM-HOME SOLUTIONS

    1. Hosted Phone - Pair your desk phone to your mobile phone, tablet or desktop PC. You can be reached anywhere, all through one number. This service can also include features like conference calling, voicemail, chat and integrated contacts.
    2. Online Meetings - Conduct face-to-face meetings, chat, share your desktops, applications and whiteboard with anyone, anywhere, anytime.
    3. Business Backup and Recovery - Make sure your data is backed up at all times. 
    Courtesy of Vice President of Sales and Marketing at EATEL Business, Tressy Leindecker from Baton Rouge Business Report

    COMMUNICATE AND COLLABORATE

    • Evaluate your current business practices. 
      • Are there ways you can offer services with less face-to-face customer contact? 
      • Can you offer delivery, take out or other options that can support quarantined or home bound customers?
    • Develop policies and practices that build trust with customers and colleagues
      • Encourage employees to take their temperature every day, regardless of  how they feel. Catching a fever early may spare both customers and colleagues from exposure.
      • Insist that sick employees stay home, for their health and everyone's safety.
      • Increase use of cleaners and frequency of cleaning
      • Post steps you are taking online and at your establishment so customers know you are aware and vigilant