Coronavirus Resources for 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 email@example.com.
(This information was last updated 9/18/20.)
Louisiana Governor Edwards signed an official order to enter Phase Three of reopening the state for business starting September 11, 2020. This order will remain in effect until October 9, 2020. In Phase Three, many businesses that were previously operating at a 50% capacity in Phase Two are now allowed to operate at a 75% capacity. The 75% 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 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. The statewide mask mandate stays in effect. LSBA members can download a free generic poster to notify customers and employees that masks or face coverings are required to be worn at their business from our website by clicking here.
Businesses that can operate at 75% occupancy in Phase Three (previously at 50%) include:
Bars and breweries without LDH food permits:
Event Centers and Reception Halls
The following businesses remain closed:
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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Governor Edwards has extended the statewide mask mandate in Louisiana until October 9th. 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.
The Governor’s order requires face coverings for everyone ages 8 and older with a few exceptions. Click here for details.
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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:
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):
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:
People who test positive for COVID-19 but don’t have symptoms may return to work if:
They have negative results from at least two consecutive COVID tests done at least 24 hours apart.
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The goal of screening your employees for COVID-19 symptoms is to identify employees who may be sick so you can prevent them from coming to work, which protects your other employees from exposure to the coronavirus. Screening employees for symptoms of COVID-19 is an optional strategy that employers may use; it is not mandatory.
Screening employees is not completely effective at stopping COVID-19 because asymptomatic individuals or individuals with mild non-specific symptoms may not realize they are infected and may pass through screening. Screening is not a replacement for protective measures such as social distancing and face coverings.
If your business decides to screen employees, you can either require employees to self-screen, or you can have an employee conduct the screening. Here is a summary of the CDC recommendations for screening employees:
For self-screening, employees screen themselves for COVID-19 symptoms and should stay home from work if:
*Please note: Symptoms may appear between 2 and 14 days after exposure to the virus and may be mild or severe. This list does not include all possible symptoms.
If you decide to use a member of your staff to screen your employees rather than relying on them to self-screen, consider which symptoms to include in your assessment. Although there are many different symptoms that may be associated with COVID-19 (see partial list above), you may not want to treat every employee with a single non-specific symptom (e.g., a headache) as a suspected case of COVID-19 and send them home.
Consider focusing the screening questions on “new” or “unexpected” symptoms (e.g., a chronic cough would not be a positive screen) such as the following:
Protection of Screeners
Employers can use either social distancing or physical barriers to protect the employee(s) conducting the screening and minimize their contact with an employee who might be contagious.
If screening reveals an employee has symptoms, when can they safely return to work?
The CDC finds that people with mild to moderate COVID-19 stop being infectious 10 days after their symptoms begin, so the CDC guidelines allow people to stop quarantining and return to work if at least 10 days have passed since the employee first started having symptoms and at least 24 hours have passed since they stopped having a fever. People with more severe cases of COVID-19 or who are severely immunocompromised may be contagious up to 20 days after symptom onset, so these employees may need to continue their quarantine for 20 days.
People who test positive for COVID-19 but who never develop symptoms may stop their isolation and other precautions 10 days after the date of their first positive test.
For more information from the CDC about the length of time employees diagnosed with COVID-19 or exposed to COVID-19 should quarantine, click here.
For general guidance for businesses from the CDC, click here.
The CDC has a poster to educate your employees about the symptoms of COVID-19 here.
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The deadline to apply for a PPP loan was August 8, 2020; no new applications are being accepted.If your business received 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.
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%.The instructions for this form are available here.
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.
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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 www.ledbizloan.com.
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.
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.
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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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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:
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.
One of my employees has already used their 2 weeks of paid leave but now they can’t work because they have COVID-19. Do I have to give them another 2 weeks of paid leave?
No. The FFCRA requires employers give employees 2 weeks (80 hours) of paid leave only if the employee cannot work because of one of the four reasons above.
Employers are only required to give the 2 weeks paid leave one time. Once an employee has used their 2 weeks of paid leave, they don’t get another two weeks even if they meet one of the reasons above.
If one of your employees has used their 2 weeks of paid leave and then gets sick with COVID-19 or has to quarantine because they were exposed to someone with COVID-19, you can decide whether to allow the employee to take unpaid leave or to use any vacation/sick time the employee has. But you do not have to provide another 2 weeks of paid leave under the FFCRA.
The only time employees may get additional paid leave is for reason #4 above: if an employee has to stay home to care for a minor child whose school or daycare is closed due to COVID-19, they may be entitled to an additional 10 weeks of paid leave.
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 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:
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.
One of my employees took 4 days of paid leave last month because he had a COVID-19 test and was waiting on the test results. He returned to work when the test was negative, and we paid him for the 4 days he was out. Now we need him to quarantine because his wife has COVID-19 and we do not want him coming to work for 14 days. Can he now use the 6 remaining days of paid leave?
Yes. The employee is entitled to take the remaining hours of paid leave (6 work days in this example). The rest of the leave can either be unpaid or vacation/sick leave at the employer’s discretion.
One of my employees took their 2 weeks (80 hours) of paid leave and then was furloughed. We’ve now rehired her and she’s back at work. Does she get another two weeks of paid leave?
No. Employees are only entitled to 80 total hours of paid sick leave under the FFCRA.
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.
For more information from the US Department of Labor, click here.
Here is a one-page summary of when employees can request paid leave.
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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The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires employers to give employees 2 weeks (80 hours) of paid leave if the employee cannot work because they have been quarantined due to COVID-19, are caring for someone who has been quarantined, have COVID-19 symptoms and are getting tested, or their child’s school or daycare is closed due to COVID-19.
Employees who have children under 18 whose school or daycare is closed due to COVID-19 are also entitled to an additional 10 weeks of paid leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay.
With schools reopening for the fall, the way a school chooses to reopen determines whether your employees qualify for paid leave. The United States Department of Labor has just issued some guidance for employers that discusses when employees are eligible for paid leave.
For example, if a school reopens with online/virtual learning only, the parent would be eligible for paid leave. But if the school gives parents a choice between virtual learning and in-person learning and the parent chooses virtual, the parent is not eligible for paid leave. If a school reopens with only virtual learning, but changes to in-person later on, paid leave might not be available. And if a school alternates between virtual days and in-person days, paid leave is available, but only on remote learning days.
Here is the specific guidance from the United States Department of Labor:
The school my employee’s child attends is operating on an alternate day (or other hybrid-attendance) basis. The school is open each day, but students alternate between days attending school in person and days participating in remote learning. They are permitted to attend school only on their allotted in-person attendance days. Is my employee entitled to take paid leave under the FFCRA?
Yes, your employee is eligible for paid leave under the FFCRA on days when their child is not permitted to attend school in person and must instead engage in remote learning, as long as the employee needs the leave to actually care for their child during that time and only if no other suitable person is available to do so. For purposes of the FFCRA, the school is effectively “closed” to the employee’s child on days that he or she cannot attend in person. The employee can take paid leave under the FFCRA on each of their child’s remote-learning days.
The school my employee’s child attends is giving parents a choice between having their child attend in person or participate in a remote learning program for the fall. My employee signed up for the remote learning alternative because, for example, they are worried that their child might contract COVID-19 and bring it home to the family. Since the employee’s child will be at home, is the employee entitled to take paid leave under the FFCRA?
No, your employee is not eligible for paid leave under the FFCRA because their child’s school is not “closed” due to COVID–19 related reasons; it is open for the employee’s child to attend. FFCRA leave is not available to take care of a child whose school is open for in-person attendance. If the employee’s child is home not because his or her school is closed, but because their parent has chosen for the child to remain home, the employee is not entitled to FFCRA paid leave.
The school my employee’s child attends is beginning the school year under a remote learning program out of concern for COVID-19, but has announced it will continue to evaluate local circumstances and make a decision about reopening for in-person attendance later in the school year. Is my employee entitled to take paid leave under the FFCRA?
Yes, your employee is eligible for paid leave under the FFCRA while their child’s school remains closed. If the school reopens, the availability of paid leave under the FFCRA will depend on the particulars of the school’s operations. See the two questions above.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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CDC Recommendations for Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Workplace
CDC Workplace Considerations for Reopening
OSHA Guidelines on Preparing Your Workplace for Covid-19:
OSHA’s 7 Steps to Wearing a Mask at Work:
OSHA Guidance for Restaurants:
OSHA Guidance for the Construction Industry:
Information from the Internal Revenue Service regarding extended filing deadlines, as well as new Employee Retention Credit to assist employers with their payroll taxes
Guidance on the CARES Act from the US Treasury
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.
For Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease
For business Information on Covid 19 from the Louisiana Small Business Development Center
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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