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Coronavirus Resources for Louisiana Small Businesses

LSBA's team of experts is working hard to keep you updated on how the coronavirus impacts your business.­ We update this site frequently, but you can sign up for our e-alerts to get updates as they happen.­ Click here to sign up for LSBA's e-Alerts.

If you need help or have a question about the pandemic and your business, you can email our experts at info@louisianasba.org.

(This information was last updated 7/31/20.)

LOUISIANA TO ENTER PHASE TWO TO REOPEN THE STATE JUNE 5TH

Louisiana Governor Edwards signed an official order on June 4th to enter Phase Two of reopening the state for business starting June 5th. In Phase Two, many businesses will be allowed to now operate at a 50% capacity (previously 25%) and some businesses are able to open that were previously closed in Phase One. The 50% capacity counts both the number of employees and members of the public as determined by the State Fire Marshal.

Businesses also have to ensure social distancing, require public-facing employees to wear masks, and provide increased sanitation. In addition, the state strongly recommends but doesn't require businesses to consider temperature checks before a person can enter, and posting the symptoms of COVID-19 outside with a request that symptomatic individuals not enter.

Businesses that can operate at 50% occupancy in Phase Two (previously at 25%) include:

  • Restaurants, cafes and coffee shops
  • Shopping malls (including food courts, following restaurant guidance)
  • Gyms and fitness centers
  • Barbers, beauty shops and nail salons
  • Movie theaters
  • Racetracks (with an approved plan from the Louisiana Racing Commission)

­Businesses that can open in Phase Two at 50% occupancy (previously closed in Phase One) include:

  • Massage establishments, spas, and tattoo establishments (under strict guidance from LDH)
  • Esthetician services (under strict guidance from the Cosmetology Board)
  • Pool halls, bowling alleys and skating rinks (children must be accompanied by an adult)
  • Museums (including children’s museums), zoos, aquariums (no tactile exhibits)
  • Event centers and wedding venues
  • Outdoor playgrounds and play centers (children must be accompanied by an adult)

The following businesses remain closed*:

  • Carnivals, amusement parks, water parks, fairs
  • Children’s indoor play centers
  • Theme parks, concert and music halls, and other similar businesses.
  • Contact sports
  • Live entertainment is not permitted inside any building or indoor function.

*Effective July 13th, bars without food permits must close, but they can still sell alcoholic beverages through curbside pick-up or drive-through service.

However, any business that is directed to be closed in the Phase Two order may petition to reopen under a plan approved by the State Fire Marshal in consultation with Louisiana Department of Health. The State Fire Marshal may approve this plan or offer guidance on how the business may reopen in Phase Three.

For more information, visit OpenSafely.la.gov for guidance and updates from the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Louisiana Department of Health. Business owners can register with this site which will allow you to receive updated communication, notifications, and helpful guidance via email specific to your business type. You can also download documents for guidance related to your specific type of business here.

For a guide listing businesses that can be open at any given time, visit gov.louisiana.gov/page/can-this-business-open.

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LOUISIANA STATEWIDE MASK MANDATE

Effective July 13, 2020, Governor Edwards is requiring all Louisiana residents to wear a mask or face covering when they are in public, including when they are at a business, both indoors and outdoors. The mask requirement does not apply to customers eating and drinking in a restaurant.

As a service to our members, LSBA has designed a generic mask poster for our members to notify customers and employees that masks or face coverings are required to be worn inside their business.

You can print LSBA's "Masks Required" poster here in English and here in Spanish.

This statewide mask mandate applies in all parishes, although parishes with a very low incidence of Covid-19 for the most recent two-week period can choose to opt-out of the mandate.

The Governor’s order requires face coverings for everyone ages 8 and older with a few exceptions. Click here for details.

­Both OSHA and the CDC recommend the use of masks or face coverings to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

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CDC GUIDANCE FOR EMPLOYERS WITH SUSPECTED OR CONFIRMED COVID CASES

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued guidance for employers that have a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 at their workplace. This e-Alert is a summary of the CDC’s information. Details can be found at the CDC’s website.

What should I do if an employee comes to work with COVID-19 symptoms?

Employees who have symptoms when they arrive at work or become sick during the day should immediately be separated from other employees, customers, and visitors and sent home. Employees who develop symptoms outside of work should notify their supervisor and stay home.

Sick employees should follow the CDC recommended steps. Employees should not return to work until they have met the criteria to stop home isolation and have consulted with a healthcare provider.

Employers should not require sick employees to provide a COVID-19 test result or healthcare provider’s note to validate their illness, qualify for sick leave, or return to work. Healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely manner.

What should I do if an employee is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19?

In most cases, you do not need to shut down your workplace. But you should close off any areas that the sick person used for prolonged periods of time.

In addition to cleaning and disinfecting, you should determine which employees may have been exposed to the virus and need to take additional precautions:

  • If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform the other employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but should maintain confidentiality by not revealing the name of the employee who tested positive.
  • Employees who test positive for COVID-19 should not come to work and should isolate at home if they do not need to be hospitalized and follow the CDC recommended steps.
  • Workplaces should follow the CDC’s recommended precautions for people exposed to COVID and tell potentially exposed employees to stay home for 14 days and self-monitor for symptoms.

Employees should not return to work until they have met the criteria to stop home isolation and have consulted with a healthcare provider.

If employees have been exposed but are not showing symptoms, should I allow them to work?

Employees may have been exposed if they have been within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 for a prolonged period of time.

Exposed employees who do not have symptoms should remain at home and practice social distancing for 14 days.

All other employees should self-monitor for symptoms and wear cloth face coverings when in public. If they develop symptoms, they should notify their supervisor and stay home.

What should I do if I find out several days later, after an employee worked, that they were diagnosed with COVID?

If it has been less than 7 days since the sick employee was in the workplace, you should clean and disinfect all areas used by the sick employee following the CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations.

If it has been 7 or more days since the sick employee was in the workplace, additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary. Continue routinely cleaning and disinfecting all high-touch surfaces in the workplace.

Other employees may have been exposed if they were in within 6 feet of the sick employee for a prolonged period of time (longer than 15 minutes):

  • If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, you should inform the other employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality by not revealing the name of the employee who tested positive.­
  • Employees who have symptoms should self-isolate and follow the CDC recommended steps.
  • Employees who were potentially exposed but have no symptoms should remain at home or in a comparable setting and practice social distancing for 14 days.
  • Employees not considered exposed should self-monitor for symptoms. If they develop symptoms, they should notify their supervisor and stay home.

When should an employee suspected or confirmed with having COVID-19 return to work?

Employers do not need to require a sick employee to provide a negative COVID-19 test result or healthcare provider’s note to return to work. Employees with COVID-19 who have stayed home can stop home isolation and return to work when they have met one of the following criteria:

Persons with COVID-19 who have symptoms may return to work if:

  • They have gone at least 3 days (72 hours) without a fever and have improvement in respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath); and
  • At least 10 days have passed since their symptoms first appeared.

OR

  • They have no fever and
  • They have improvement in respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath), and
  • They have negative results from at least two consecutive COVID tests done at least 24 hours apart.

People who test positive for COVID-19 but don’t have symptoms may return to work if:

  • At least 10 days have passed since the date of their first positive COVID-19 test assuming they have not subsequently developed symptoms since then.

OR

They have negative results from at least two consecutive COVID tests done at least 24 hours apart.

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PAYCHECK PROTECTION PROGRAM (PPP) LOANS & FORGIVENESS

In response to concerns over the strict PPP forgiveness rules, Congress approved the PPP Flexibility Act in early June. This new law relaxes the requirements for PPP loan forgiveness in favor of small businesses.­ This article is updated with those changes.­

Small businesses needing financial assistance due to the coronavirus can apply for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.­ PPP loans provide cash to cover payroll, rent, utilities, and mortgage interest. To apply for a PPP loan, contact your local banker.­ ­To find a lender in your area that is authorized to issue PPP loans, click here.­ The PPP application form can be downloaded here.

If you are thinking of applying for a PPP loan, the deadline to apply is August 8, 2020.

If your business receives a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program, you can apply to have your loan forgiven (which means you don’t have ro pay it back) if you spend the money on certain expenses within 24 weeks of receiving the loan.­

The updated PPP loan forgiveness application [Form 3508] is available from the US Small Business Administration. The detailed instructions for this form are available here. For Spanish, click here.

There is a simplified application [Form 3508EZ] available for employers who have not reduced their number of employees or their employees’ wages by more than 25%.

To be eligible for loan forgiveness, you must spend at least 60% of the loan on payroll for employees (salary/wages, health insurance, retirement, paid leave, and state unemployment taxes) and no more than 40% of the loan on rent, utilities (including phone and internet bills), and mortgage interest.

Any amount of your PPP loan that is not forgiven will be converted to a traditional loan with a 1% interest rate. If your PPP loan was approved prior to June 5, 2020, your loan term is 2 years, but you can negotiate with your bank for a longer term.­ If your PPP loan was approved after June 5, 2020, your loan term is automatically 5 years.­

The amount of your PPP loan forgiveness can be reduced if you have fewer employees or lower employee salaries after receiving your loan than you did before the pandemic. If you hire furloughed employees back or restore their pre-coronavirus salaries by December 31, 2020, your forgiveness will not be penalized.

You won’t be penalized for reducing your employees if you have made a good faith written offer to rehire a laid-off employee who refuses to return to work. If you try to re-hire a furloughed employee and they refuse to come back to work, this will not count against you as long as you document your rehire offer in writing (email is fine) and document the employee’s response so you can prove that you tried to rehire them but they refused your offer.

Employees who were fired for cause, voluntarily resigned, or who voluntarily requested a reduction in their hours don’t count against you for loan forgiveness. Again, make sure to make to document these decisions in writing (email is fine). And if you can document that you are unable to re-hire employees who were on your payroll as of February 15, 2020 and you can’t hire similarly-qualified individuals to fill their positions by December 31, 2020, you can still get full loan forgiveness.

Also, if you can’t go back to your pre-pandemic staffing levels because your business is complying with worker or customer social distancing measures, your loan forgiveness will not be penalized.

Paycheck Protection Program FAQ’s for Small Businesses

https://sbecouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Paycheck-Protection-Program-FAQs-for-Small-Businesses.pdf

The Small Business Owner’s Guide to the CARES Act

https://www.sbc.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/9/7/97ac840c-28b7-4e49-b872-d30a995d8dae/F2CF1DD78E6D6C8C8C3BF58C6D1DDB2B.small-business-owner-s-guide-to-the-cares-act-final-.pdf

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OTHER LOANS & FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR BUSINESSES

Louisiana Loan Portfolio Guaranty Program (LPGP)

The Louisiana Loan Portfolio Guaranty Program (LPGP) is a new state program that will offer loans of up to $100,000 to Louisiana small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Loans can be used for normal business operations, such as payroll, rent or mortgages, utilities, and other expenses.­ ­­­

The loan repayment period is at least one year but no more than 5 years. The interest rate would be fixed up to 3.5% (lower rates subject to lending institution).

No payment will be due and interest will not accrue during the first six months of the loan.

Ineligible businesses are those solely engaged in gaming, non-profit organizations, real estate developers, pawn shops, pay-day loans, lending and investment concerns, or speculative activities.­ Periodic reporting including, but not limited to, compliance with the borrower’s obligations, will be required on the loan.

Loan details can be found at OpportunityLouisiana.com/covid19.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLS)

The US Small Business Administration (SBA) offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) to small businesses unable to pay their operating expenses due to loss of revenue from the coronavirus. EIDL loans have a 3.75% interest rate, a 30-year maturity, and automatic deferment of payments for one year. To download an application for an EIDL loan, go to covid19relief.sba.gov

Update:­ As of July 12, 2020, the SBA has discontinued their free EIDL grants of $1,000 per employee (up to $10,000) that don’t have to be paid back.­ Businesses needing cash can apply for a traditional EIDL loan, but not the cash advance.­

Main Street Lending Program

The Main Street Lending Program will offer 5-year loans to eligible small businesses that were in good financial standing before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Principal and interest payments on the loans will be deferred for one year. Businesses that have applied for a PPP loan may also take out a loan under the Main Street Program.

Unlike loans under the PPP, Main Street Program loans are not forgivable and borrowers will be responsible for paying the loan back plus interest charges.­

To apply for a Main Street loan, contact your local banker. For more information, please click here.

For information on Louisiana Business Financial Aid

https://gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/newsroom/detail/2419

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BUSINESSES CAN DEFER PART OF THEIR PAYROLL TAX UNTIL NEXT YEAR

Employers are responsible for withholding Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes from their employees’ paychecks and paying these taxes along with the employer’s share to the IRS each month.­ The Social Security tax is 12.4% total, with 6.2% withheld from the employee’s wages and the employer paying 6.2%.­ The Medicare tax is 2.9%, with 1.45% withheld from the employee’s wages and the employer paying 1.45%.

As part of aid to businesses provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), employers can defer depositing the employer’s share of Social Security taxes until December 2021. For payroll periods starting March 27th through the end of this year, employers may defer their share of the Social Security tax (6.2%) and not deposit it with the IRS. Instead of depositing the usual amount of payroll tax, employers can simply hold back their portion of the Social Security tax each month and use it for other operating expenses.­ *Please note this only applies to the employer’s portion of the Social Security tax.­ Employers may not defer the employee’s part of the Social Security tax, and employers must still deposit both the employee’s and the employer’s portion of the Medicare tax each month.

Employers who decide to defer their part of the Social Security tax have until the end of next year to start depositing the amount they deferred. Half of the deferred payroll tax amount must be deposited with the IRS on December 31, 2021, with the other half due by December 31, 2022.­

All employers may take advantage of this payroll tax deferral, including employers who have received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.

For more information from the IRS about payroll tax deferral, please click here.

This payroll tax deferral is not the same as the payroll tax credits that employers may take for providing paid leave to employees or the employee retention credit. The IRS has detailed information about these credits here.

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PAID LEAVE REQUIRED BY THE FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT (FFCRA)

Effective April 1, 2020, small businesses are required by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to give their employees paid leave in certain circumstances relating to the coronavirus. Employees who cannot work due to one of the reasons listed below are entitled to two weeks of paid leave, with an additional 10 weeks of paid leave if they have to care for a son or daughter whose school or daycare has been closed due to the coronavirus.­

How do employees qualify for paid leave?

Employees receive two weeks of paid leave if you have work for them to do but they cannot come to work (or work from home) because:

  1. The employee has been quarantined by a health care provider or by government order.
  2. The employee has COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a diagnosis.
  3. The employee must stay home to care for someone who has been quarantined by a health care provider or by government order.
  4. The employee must stay home to care for a child under 18 whose school or childcare is unavailable due to COVID-19. These employees are also eligible for an additional 10 weeks of paid leave, for a total of 12 weeks’ total paid leave.

Employees taking leave­ for reasons 1 and 2 above must be paid their regular rate of pay, up to $511 per day.

Employees taking paid leave for reasons 3 and 4 above must be paid two-thirds their regular rate of pay, up to $200 per day.

Can my employees choose to stay at home and take paid leave?

No. Employees cannot decide on their own to self-quarantine and be entitled to receive paid leave.­ To qualify for paid leave under reason #1 above, the employee must be advised by a doctor or other health care provider to self-quarantine.

Do my employees qualify for paid leave if they have to stay home with their children because school is closed for summer vacation?­

No. Paid leave is not available in this situation because the school is closed for summer, not because of COVID-19. To qualify for paid leave, the school must be closed for reasons due to COVID-19, which is not very common now that school has closed for the summer. However, if the child’s summer daycare – a camp or other program in which the employee’s child is enrolled – is closed or unavailable for a COVID-19 related reason, the employee may be entitled to paid leave.

Do employees working from home qualify for paid leave?

Employees working from home are not entitled to paid leave because they are still working.

What documentation do I need to get from employees who request paid leave?

Employees must provide appropriate documentation to request paid leave which must include the following:

  1. The employee’s name and the dates leave is requested
  2. A statement of the COVID-19 related reason the employee is requesting leave
  3. A statement that the employee is unable to work or telework for this reason
  4. Documentation supporting the reason for leave
  • For leave related to quarantine, the employee’s statement should include the name of the health care provider advising self-quarantine. If the employee is requesting leave to stay home to take care of someone in quarantine, the employee must give the name of this person and their relation to the employee.
    ­
  • For leave based on a school closure or childcare unavailability, the employee’s statement should include the name and age of the child to be cared for, the name of the school or daycare that has closed, and a representation that no other person will be providing care for the child during the time the employee is receiving paid leave. If the child is older than 14, the employee must show that special circumstances require them to stay home with the child during daylight hours.

One of my employees says they are tired, have a cough, or have other symptoms of COVID-19 and is taking leave to seek a medical diagnosis. What documentation may I require from the employee to document their efforts to obtain a diagnosis?

You may require the employee to identify their symptoms and provide you with a date for a test or doctor’s appointment. You may not, however, require the employee to provide further documentation before allowing them to use paid leave for COVID-19 related symptoms. The minimal documentation required is intentional so that employees with COVID-19 symptoms may easily take leavey and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Are there tax credits for this paid leave?

Yes. Employers can offset the cost of leave by keeping a portion of the quarterly federal employment taxes they would otherwise deposit with the IRS.­ If the cost of the leave is more than your federal employment tax bill, you can request an advance refund from the IRS using form 7200.­ To claim a payroll tax credit, you must retain the documentation described above and comply with any IRS procedures for claiming the tax credit.­ For more information about how to claim these payroll tax credits and what documentation is required, click here.­ For more information about form 7200, click here.

Is there an exemption for small businesses?

Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees can be exempt from providing paid leave if it would jeopardize the viability of the business. The exemption only applies to requests for paid leave due to school closure or unavailability of childcare due to COVID-19. If an employee requests paid leave for any of the other qualifying reasons (such as the employee is told to self-quarantine by a doctor or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19), the employer must comply with the requirements of the FFCRA and provide the paid leave regardless of the financial hardship it may cause the employer. ­

For more information about the small business exemption, click here.

Is this paid leave a permanent requirement?

No. The paid leave required under the FFCRA expires December 31, 2020.

New Poster Required

The paid leave law requires all employers to provide a notice to their employees explaining the new paid time off that they may be eligible for because of COVID-19.

Click here for the poster in English.

Click here for the poster in Spanish.

Additional Resources

For more information from the US Department of Labor, click here.

Here is a one-page summary of when employees can request paid leave.

The US Department of Labor has published a summary of this law here and a very detailed set of questions and answers here.

Click here for a Fact Sheet on this leave from the US Department of Labor in English.

Click here for a Fact Sheet on this leave from the US Department of Labor in Spanish

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SPECIAL COVID-19 EMPLOYMENT CERTIFICATES FOR MINORS TO WORK

Businesses who hire an employee under the age of 18 must get an employment certificate from the minor’s school (or a parent/legal guardian if the student is in home study). Because the schools are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) is now issuing blanket Employment Certificates for employers who want to employ school-aged minors.

These Employment Certificates will expire 60 days from the date of issuance. Upon expiration, employers will be required to obtain Employment Certificates as required under Louisiana law.

Employers desiring to obtain an Employment Certificate must submit a completed and signed “Application to Employ Minors under 18” along with proof of age to laborprograms@lwc.la.gov.

The application is available from the LWC at: laworks.net/Downloads/WFD/MinorApplicationToEmployForm.pdf.­

Employers will receive an email from the LWC with the names of those minors who are approved to work under the Employment Certificate. This email should be kept on file. Blanket Employment Certificates are not transferrable.

Any questions regarding employment certificates should be directed to laborprograms@lwc.la.gov.

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RESOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

CDC Recommendations for Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Workplace­

ww.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/reopen-guidance.html

CDC Workplace Considerations for Reopening

www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/workplace-decision-tool.html?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery&mc_cid=b7cb52ae17&mc_eid=0485dc1c18

OSHA Guidelines on Preparing Your Workplace for Covid-19:

www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf

OSHA’s 7 Steps to Wearing a Mask at Work:

English: www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA4015.pdf

Spanish: www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA4016.pdf

OSHA Guidance for Restaurants:

English: www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA4017.pdf

Spanish: www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA4018.pdf

OSHA Guidance for the Construction Industry:

English: www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA4000.pdf

Spanish: www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA4001.pdf

Information from the Internal Revenue Service regarding extended filing deadlines, as well as new Employee Retention Credit to assist employers with their payroll taxes

www.irs.gov/coronavirus

Guidance on the CARES Act from the US Treasury

home.treasury.gov/cares

Wage and Hour Issues During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Many businesses are being affected by forced closures or alternative operations to stop the spread of COVID-19, which is especially true in the entertainment and dining industry. The US Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division provides information on common issues employers face when responding to pandemics or other public health emergencies, and their effects on wages and hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic­

For Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease

www.revenue.louisiana.gov/Miscellaneous/COVID-19_BusinessGuidance%20(03.04.2020).pdf

For business Information on Covid 19 from the Louisiana Small Business Development Center

www.lsbdc.org/blog/

Louisiana Economic­ Development Launches­ Business Hotline

Louisiana Economic Development has launched a hotline to answer questions from the state's business community during the Coronavirus crisis. LED staff will be answering the phones and will be able­field inquiries from businesses and stakeholders from across the state.

The current hotline number is­ (225) 342-4321. A toll-free hotline number is coming soon.­ For more information, you can visit LED's ­COVID-19 webpage.

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