COVID-19 Resources for Businesses
Return to Earn Update- NO MATCH NEEDED
The Return to Earn program now offers eligible small businesses the $500 employee hiring incentive award without requiring a match from the company.
Earlier This Year
Governor Northam Lifts Mask Mandate to Align with CDC Guidance, Announces Virginia to End COVID-19 Mitigation Measures on May 28
RICHMOND - Governor Ralph Northam lifted Virginia’s universal indoor mask mandate to align with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Governor Northam also announced that Virginia will ease all distancing and capacity restrictions on Friday, May 28, two weeks earlier than planned. The updates to Virginia’s mask policy are reflected in amendments to Executive Order Seventy-Two and will become effective at midnight tonight along with previously announced changes to mitigation measures.
The CDC guidelines state that fully-vaccinated individuals do not have to wear masks in most indoor settings, except on public transit, in health care facilities, and in congregate settings. Businesses retain the ability to require masks in their establishments. Employees who work in certain business sectors—including restaurants, retail, fitness, personal care, and entertainment—must continue to wear masks unless fully vaccinated, per CDC guidance. Those who are unvaccinated or not fully-vaccinated are strongly encouraged to wear masks in all settings.
Virginia Invests Over $203.6 Million to Expand Access to Child Care, Increase Support for Providers
Families with household income of up to 85 percent of the state median income with children five and younger now eligible to receive subsidies
RICHMOND - Governor Ralph Northam announced that an additional $203.6 million in federal stimulus funds and expanded eligibility criteria for the Child Care Subsidy Program will help further stabilize Virginia’s early childhood care and education system, provide child care assistance to additional families as they seek stable employment or return to work, and deliver critical operational and technical resources to new and returning child care providers.
What's the American Rescue Plan Act and what does it mean for business owners?
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides $1.9 trillion in relief and economic stimulus for those affected by the coronavirus. The new law includes:
- Additional funds are allocated for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, and now allows businesses to apply for both a PPP loan after Dec. 27, 2020, and the SVOG. Friendly reminder! Looking to apply for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant? You will need to be registered in the U.S. government’s System for Award Management, SAM.gov.
- $15 billion additional for Targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance (EIDL) payments, including NEW $5 billion for Supplemental Targeted EIDL Advance payments for those hardest hit
- NEW: $28.6 billion for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund for industry-focused grants
- NEW: $100 million to establish a Community Navigator pilot program; grants will go to eligible organizations supporting efforts to improve access to COVID–19 pandemic assistance programs and resources.
Note: The following information is courtesy of economic development colleagues, Business Oregon.
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Operational Planning During Crisis
- First off, DO NOT panic; you are not alone. Seek the advice of people you trust and then think things through carefully.
- Be proactive and respond, do not be reactive. Deal with what is in front of you and that which you have control over. Let the rest go. Worry and fear never solves the problems and can actually exacerbate them.
- Nobody wins if your business fails, so involve your partners and employees in the solution.
- No one will manage your business like you do. It is important that you stay active in the day-to-day management. The outcome of your business is dependent on the decisions you make.
- Preserve thy capital. Living to fight another day is priority #1.
- You don’t have to come up with all of the solutions. Seeking the advice of others and holding a brainstorm meeting can be very helpful. Work with your CPA, Small Business Development Center, financial institution, key employees and even other business owners to come up with ideas. In turn, share with others what is working…and what is not working.
- Who are your key employees? Do they know the plan? Now is not the time to hide or to go silent; it is the time to communicate, communicate and communicate some more.
- Work with key employees and involve them in implementing the plan. Many of them will have sound solutions that you might not have thought of. Some of the best solutions can be developed and implemented by those closest to the problem and who have a vested interest in a positive outcome.
Financing a Business During Crisis
- Cash flow modeling is the critical tool. Work with your CPA and or Small Business Development Center in putting together a cash flow plan. Stress test it for a 25% and 50% reduction in revenue. Develop a weekly cash flow model going out a minimum of three months, possibly six. Longer is less useful and not as critical. Not that you shouldn’t look out further, but first focus on what is immediately in front of you. Use the cash flow projections to help develop your survival strategy.
- Pay attention to your financials. They are neither good nor bad, just a tool to show you where you are. They are like indicators on your vehicle. Pay attention to them. Manage your business based on what you are seeing. Work with your CPA or financial professional to better understand them and to understand what actions can impact them.
- Work with your partners to get through this. It should not be a surprise to anyone that companies may be starved for cash. Talk to you bank/credit union, suppliers, customers and start working on solutions driven by your cash flow modeling. For instance, if through your modeling it looks like a key to your survival is getting extended terms from say 45 to 90 days that may become a specific request of your vendors to extend their terms to you. Conversely, get your big customers to expedite payments.
- Do an honest assessment of how long your business can stay viable with little or no revenue.
- Build up an emergency cash reserve fund and keep it as strong as possible. Cash is king.
- Increase and speed up cash inflows. Manage your accounts receivable and inventory diligently. Expect a slowing down in the collection of accounts receivable. Slow or late payments may indicate that a customer is in trouble. You may be competing with other vendors to get paid. Get to the front of the line by being the squeaky wheel. Be respectful and professional and at the same time understand that the survival of your business is dependent upon getting paid.
- Assess your inventory level. Is there stale or slow turning inventory that can be sold, even at a discount, to produce cash? Do you have inventory that can be returned that is not needed?
- Are there other assets, such as none essential equipment or supplies, that can be sold and turned into cash?
- Are there incentives that can be developed for customers? A bundled buy, bulk buy, etc. Be creative. Sales are good, profit is better, but cash is king.
- Keep your existing customers and look for opportunities to pick up other profitable ones. Double down on your best customers. Review your customers to see who the most profitable ones are and look at offloading those that aren’t.
- Focus on providing the best customer service possible. Right now, they are your lifeline.
- Double check with customers before sending out a large order to make sure they still want it and are able to pay for it.
- Review receivables and contact larger customers to make sure they will be able to pay on time. This sounds scary, but it is better to know if you will not be paid or paid in a timely manner.
- For retail establishments that have limited hours or are forced to close, promote gift card sales with specials as a way to attract customers as soon as business allows and build cash at the same time. Use social media, such as Facebook or LinkedIn to get the word out.
- Pause and step back to look at your business from the customer’s perspective. Now that the environment is changing, what can you do to adapt your business to continue to meet your customer’s needs? For example, a restaurant may not serve patrons inside, but they can do curbside pickup.
- If you do not currently sell online, explore if this will work for your business and what it would take to accomplish it. Do a breakeven cost analysis.
- Talk to your financial institution about renegotiating terms and interest rates to lower monthly payments. Also check with them about possible payment deferment options; short term, interest-free loans; and possible SBA and/or USDA emergency loans.
- If your company faces a shutdown or severe cash shortage and you lease the building you are in, work with your landlord to see if they are willing to lower the rent or even defer it.
- Discuss with your vendors the impact to your sales and cash cycle. Negotiate short term, realistic repayment terms. See if they will give discounts for paying with cash.
- Review upcoming expenses (payables) and ask for adjustments or postponements for 30/60/90 days.
- Reduce and slow down outflows of cash. Determine essential expenses. Determine your essential expenses. What expenses can be cut that will not negatively impact your business? Can some purchases be delayed? Are there ways to cut your utility costs? Even small expenses add up.
- Keep any non-essential travel and office supplies to a minimum.
- Use accumulated airline miles and reward points to purchase essential travel and office supplies.
- Prepare a list of all outside service providers and determine which services could be fully eliminated if necessary, and/or performed for a period of time by re-assigned staff.
- Cut expenses Now! Waiting for things to get better often leads to failure.
- Check with your local utility companies to see if they are offering any financial assistance. Some may enact price reductions or payment deferrals.
Other Crisis Considerations
- Are you properly insured? Review your business insurance policy, understand your coverage and exclusions, especially business interruption. There may be a number of relatively low cost insurance options to address business interruption and closures due the state and federal disasters.
- Are they up-to-date? Are there ways to reduce the cost and yet maintain adequate insurance coverage?
- Perform a critical staff analysis. Who are the key employees needed to maintain minimal levels of operation in “survival” mode?
- Talk with your employees about them modeling a reduction in hours themselves. What is the minimum hours they can work and still survive? Cutting hours is often better than cutting staff. When you have these figures, strongly consider restructuring the way you create your weekly schedule to strike a carefully tailored balance between employees’ needs and workforce productivity.
- If you have to lay off employees to save your business, do it fairly and tactfully, but do it.
- Remind employees of their value and that it is your last resort to consider layoffs or decreases in their hours below their minimum. This will help employees know their importance to you and understand that you’re doing everything possible to protect them. This will create a long-lasting bond and will make them “brand ambassadors” of your company--creating passion and a direct connection to the sales process. Remember, everyone that you employ is a salesperson for your company in some capacity.
- Individuals who cannot work may be eligible for unemployment insurance. Information from the Virginia Employment Commission can be found at http://www.vec.virginia.gov/node/11699 or by calling 1-866-832-2363.
- Sometimes a crisis forces us to make decisions we should have made anyway. The key is to not go broke!
- If part of your business is doomed. Cut it off. Don’t let it kill the rest of your business. If a business line is on the margins, close it!
- Consider strategic partnerships with competitors or suppliers. Perhaps now is a time to re-evaluate your exit strategy?
- Go back to when you first started the business. What steps/actions did you take to make yourself successful and survive those first five years? What can you implement again to stay afloat?
- Develop a plan, implement the plan, execute the plan and monitor progress of the plan. With new information, make a new decision. Be flexible to pivot.
- Owning a business involves risk. Entrepreneurs can be very stubborn and refuse to give up. Most of the time this is great, but sometimes you just need to throw in the towel. In our panic we can make a move like putting more money in, mortgaging the house, taking out additional loans etc. that may not be the best idea. Is there a reasonable path to survival and success or are you better off ending the enterprise? It is tough both emotionally and financially, but may still be the best course. Know what your cutoff level is and where you are willing to draw the line. Make a cognitive decision of what you are willing to loose.