March 20, 2020

Many clients have been reaching out as they work to address the many business and legal challenges that have been created by COVID-19. Croke Fairchild Morgan & Beres has prepared the following to help our clients understand how to address some of the most common challenges and remains committed to our clients’ success in these challenging times. Please reach out to any of us if you have any questions.

Summary of Families First Coronavirus Response Act

On March 18, the President signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the “Act”). The Act requires paid leave for many employees, provides for COVID-19 testing, and provides tax credits for employers required to pay the sick leave referred to above.

Significant Requirements of the Act. Employers with fewer than 500 employees must provide each employee with two weeks’ paid sick leave to address COVID-19-related absences. For full-time employees, employers must provide 80 hours of paid leave, and for part-time employees, employers must provide leave equivalent to the average number of hours worked in a two-week period. This is required if:

  • the employee is subject to a quarantine or isolation order or has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19;
  • the employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  • the employee is caring for an individual who is quarantined due to concerns related to COVID-19; or
  • the employee is caring for a son or daughter whose school is closed or whose child-care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions.

Tax Credits. Employers will receive tax credits for wages paid pursuant to the requirements of the Act.

Best Practices for Employers – Summary of “Essential Services”

  • Know How to Handle Shelter in Place: o Understand whether you are considered essential. Many governments are relying on guidance put out in the Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency’s March 19, 2020 Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response (https://www.cisa.gov/publication/guidance-essential-critical-infrastructure-workforce).
  • On March 20, 2020, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker issued an executive order in response to COVID-19 requiring all non-essential businesses and operations to cease starting at 5:00 PM on Saturday, March 21, 2020 through April 7, 2020. This does not include businesses or operations that an employee or a contractor can perform at their own residence (i.e., working from home).

If your business is located in a jurisdiction with a shelter in place order:

  • If your business is essential and will remain open:
  • document the reasons for that decision,
  • consider what protocols you will put in place to protect any employees who will be reporting to work during the shutdown, including smaller workforces, social distancing, hygiene, washing hands, avoiding travel, reporting illness, and other guidance provided by state and local governments and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
  • determine what coverage is provided by company insurance policies and if additional coverage should be sought.
  • If your business is not essential, have all employees work from home and consider how best to have employees work remotely.

Even in jurisdictions without a shelter in place order, it is recommended that businesses begin to consider the points above to be prepared should they become subject to a shelter in place order.

  • Have a Plan: As with any business disruptions, it is important that every company has a plan for how it will address the potential issues that may arise, and communicate that plan to all employees in the same way to avoid confusion and avoid treating different employees differently without justification.
  • Share Information: Regardless of whether employees are coming into a business location, make sure that employees know the symptoms of COVID-19 and that they understand the guidance from state and local governments and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including ways to prevent contracting the illness (e.g., handwashing, social distancing, avoiding travel).
  • Employee Reporting: Make sure that all employees know that they should report any illness to the company, and allow employees with identified associated symptoms to stay home so that they do not risk other employees being exposed to illness. Note that certain state labor laws are implicated by sending an employee home (https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/2019-Novel-Coronavirus.htm).
  • State Definitions of Essential Services: o We have been getting many questions from clients regarding whether their businesses constitute “Essential Services” for purposes of state- and municipal- mandated lockdowns. In addition to the federal CSISA listing in the link above, California and New York have also published guidance on what constitutes “Essential Services: ▪ California: https://covid19.ca.gov/stay-home-except-for-essential-needs/
  • New York: https://www.wivb.com/news/a-list-of-essential-services-defined-by-new-york-state/

Small Business Financing Options in Light of COVID-19

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has in place a disaster loan program to offer disaster loans to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of COVID-19 (SBA Disaster Loans). This will allow eligible borrowers to access up to $7 billion in low-interest loans.

SBA Disaster Loans:

  • Each state or county must submit a request for disaster loan assistance before businesses located in those areas are eligible to obtain SBA Disaster Loans.
  • On March 19, 2020, the State of Illinois submitted a statewide Economic Injury Declaration to the SBA so that small businesses located throughout Illinois can now apply for the SBA Disaster Loans.
  • The SBA Disaster Loans may be up to $2 million and may be used to pay payroll and cover other expenses that cannot be paid due to the COVID-19 disaster. Interest rates for the SBA Disaster Loans are set at 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for nonprofits. Maturity dates for the loans may be up to 30 years, but will be specific to the borrower’s circumstances. The SBA Disaster Loans are available only to businesses that are otherwise unable to secure other loan funding.
  • In addition to the loans available from the SBA, the Mayor of the City of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, announced on March 19, 2020 the City’s plan to earmark more than $100 million for small business relief due to the impact of COVID-19.
  • The Chicago Small Business Resiliency Loan Fund will be available for “severely impacted” small businesses through low-interest loans and funded through a public-private partnership.
  • We are awaiting additional information from the City of Chicago and will issue another client alert when more information is available.
  • Chicago Small Business Resiliency Loan Fund:

Our firm has the expertise to help business owners with applications for these loan programs, as well as any questions you may have relating to COVID-19. We look forward to your questions and calls.

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