The Coronavirus and Small Business
|Chris Crum writes for Small Business Resources about what's new for small business. Chris was a featured writer with the iEntry Network of B2B Publications where hundreds of publications linked to his articles including the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, LA Times and the New York Times.|
The Coronavirus and Small Business
The coronavirus outbreak has spread across many countries and the U.S, with a frequently increasing death toll. Along the way, economic turmoil and market instability have become part of the day-to-day conversation. Many small business owners have been left having to make difficult decisions that will impact their livelihoods in the foreseeable future.
As consumers who haven't already been quarantined continue to rush to stock up on household necessities, medicine, and cleaning products, companies both big and small are dealing with reduced sales. Some are being left shorthanded, as employees call in sick out of an abundance of caution, if the business has remained open at all.
If you’re a small business owner, it’s essential to remain informed, as news surrounding the virus and its impact pours out 24/7.
If your staff can work from home, this should be the go-to option. If not, talk to your staff about the importance of social distancing in the workplace, keeping everyone at least six-feet apart from one another as much as possible in order to prevent spreading of the virus. Cancel any travel that isn't vital.
One of the best ways to help your employees--and by extension, your business--is to make cleaning and sanitizing a priority. Ensure all employees are utilizing safe handwashing practices, provide soap and hand sanitizer, and make sure all areas that are touched daily--keyboards, doorknobs, and breakroom appliances, for instance--are wiped down with disinfectant often, if supplies are available.
One of your best resources is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, which provides up-to-date information. The CDC recommends the following strategies for employers: (1)
Be sure to read this resource for detailed information surrounding each of these points.
It’s also important to talk to your employees about the facts surrounding the coronavirus outbreak, and make sure they understand the symptoms and what their options are where healthcare is concerned, especially if they are of advanced age or living with a compromised immune system or a pre-existing condition like diabetes. COVID-19 is largely an upper respiratory disease that can cause a fever and cough and is highly contagious.
Again, cancel travel plans if not absolutely necessary. Depending on your means of travel and destination, there may already be restrictions put into effect that will impede your ability to do so, and most large events have already been canceled.
Because there is so much about the coronavirus that is unknown, it’s imperative for small business owners to take into consideration how it will affect their bottom line in the future. Experts believe that this is only the beginning of a long road, and that the virus could very easily spread across the country well into 2021.
“As the trajectory of the outbreak continues, many people in the U.S. will at some point, either this year or next, get exposed to this virus. And there’s a good chance many will become sick,” said Nancy Messonnier of the CDC. (2)
At the time of this writing, Congress is taking action to address some of the concerns of business owners and their employees, with legislation meant to bring some relief by mandating paid sick leave and free testing for COVID-19. The bi-partisan bill provides tax credits to businesses that provide benefits. For updates on the federal legislation impacting small business and the coronavirus, you can go to the National Federation of Independent Business website.
The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) is also helping small businesses impacted by COVID-19. It announced it will work with state Governors to provide targeted, low-interest disaster assistance loans, while at the same time continuing to assist small businesses with counseling and navigating their own preparedness plans via the SBA's network of 68 district offices and resource partners throughout the country. The Administration also said it will continue to provide "every small business with the most effective and customer-focused response possible during these times of uncertainty." (3)
Get the latest information by visiting the SBA's coronavirus website at www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19, or calling the SBA's national disaster relief line at 1-800-659-2955. Once familiar with the details, contact your state SBA district office to talk to them about your specific case and get advice on filling out the right SBA disaster assistance loan application.
Small business owners can also turn to technology for help with connecting with customers. Many small businesses have been impacted by event cancellations and postponements, leading to some ingenuity when it comes to getting their product out there. “If we put ourselves out there virtually, we can educate, and we can interact with them still. We can still feel connected to our community, because our community is important to us. It's what supports our business," says business owner Chrysalyn Huff. (4)
The best things businesses can do in response to COVID-19 right now are to try to minimize unnecessary human contact and stay on top of all of the latest information from sources like the CDC and the SBA. Stay informed, and do everything in your power to keep staff and customers healthy.