The situation surrounding COVID-19 is changing every day, but LSBA is working hard to keep you updated on how it impacts your business. Here are the most important things that Louisiana small business owners need to know. This information is current as of 3:00 pm March 24, 2020; we will send out additional e-alerts as things change.
1. Governor Edwards Issued Stay at Home Order on March 22
To further combat the spread of COVID-19 in Louisiana, Governor Edwards issued a Stay at Home Order that went into effect at 5 p.m. on March 23rd that directed all Louisiana residents to shelter at home and limit their movements outside of their homes to only essential needs like food, medical treatment, and exercise. The Order closes most businesses and limits the operations of others to continue with only essential employees.
Businesses like grocery stores, restaurants, manufacturers, and utilities can continue their operations. In general, the state of Louisiana follows guidance from the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) about what businesses are “critical” during the COVID-19 outbreak. For more information on essential businesses that may remain open, please click here.
The Governor’s Fact Sheet on his Stay At Home Order states that Louisiana residents shall not go to work unless they are providing essential services.
For more information, including the Governor’s Stay at Home Order and a one-page Fact Sheet and Frequently Asked Questions on staying at home, click here
2. Laid-Off Employees Can Apply for Unemployment Compensation
Small business owners who have had to lay employees off due to a business closure or have reduced their employees’ workload because of COVID-19 can advise their employees to apply for unemployment compensation. Currently, out-of-work employees can get up to $247 a week for up to 26 weeks. The United States Congress is currently debating a law that would increase these benefits and also expand who can file for unemployment benefits (i.e., independent contractors). This has not happened yet, but we will keep you updated.
The Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) will try to ensure impacted workers receive the benefits for which they are eligible if any of these situations apply:
When applying, employees need to 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 the claim.
To apply, click here: www.louisianaworks.net/hire/vosnet/Default.aspx You can also click here for more detailed information.
3. New Paid Leave Requirement for Employees Affected by COVID-19
A new federal law that was just approved on March 20, 2020 requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide paid leave for their employees in certain situations. See LSBA’s e-alert from March 20th for details. This new law goes into effect April 2, 2020 and will end on December 31, 2020. This new law was hastily drafted, and there are more questions than answers about some parts of it.
We have been told to expect some type of exemption from this new paid leave requirement for small businesses with fewer than 50 employees, but that has not happened yet (as of March 24, 2020). Most small businesses will not have the cash flow in this uncertain time to pay for this leave, so we are hoping that the federal government exempts small businesses from having to pay for this leave.
There is a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for employers who do provide this paid leave. Employers can claim this tax credit against their next payroll tax deposit. More information about this tax credit will be on our website soon at LouisianaSBA.org under the Small Business Alerts section.
4. If My Business Closes, Do I Still Have to Pay for this Leave?
The new law does not specifically address this, but it does appear that a business is not required to pay this leave to any employee who is terminated prior to April 2, 2020. Employers cannot terminate employees to get out of paying for this leave. If you have to lay employees off or close your business, make sure to document layoffs and closures so you can show that the layoffs/closure were due to the economic viability of the keeping the business open instead of trying to avoid paying for this leave.
5. A New Poster Will be Required for Businesses
The new paid leave law requires all employers to provide a notice/poster to their employees explaining the new paid time off that they may be eligible for as a result of COVID-19. We expect the US Department of Labor to publish this poster very soon. As soon as we get it, we will have them printed and get them in the mail to all LSBA members at no charge. When you receive it, please post it with your other posters we have previously sent to you.
6. United States Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Assistance
The US Small Business Administration’s (SBA) low-interest Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) are now available to small businesses affected by the loss of revenue due to the Coronavirus that are unable to pay ordinary operating expenses. These loans are intended to provide working capital to help small businesses until normal operations resume.
For more information or to apply for a loan, contact the SBA at www.sba.gov/disaster, call SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955, or email them at email@example.com.
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