As a Firm, we are keeping a close eye on developments and advising clients about ways to handle their specific situation. We are also doing everything we can to maintain normal business operations, just like many of you are doing. We already have web-conferencing set-up for consultations and client meetings. Like many businesses, we are working from home and following social distancing guidelines. To that end, email and web-conferencing will be the best way to reach us during this crisis.
We will continue providing sophisticated legal counsel to serious entrepreneurs. Now more than ever, it’s important that we take care of your legal issues so you can focus on not just doing what you love, but taking care of those you love.
Ohio Minority Micro-Enterprise Grant Program: The Ohio Minority Micro-Enterprise Grant Program provides $10,000 in funding to help these companies through the current crisis and set them up for the future. To be eligible, businesses must have been certified as a Minority Business Enterprise or woman-owned EDGE-certified business as of Feb. 29, 2020; have 10 or fewer employees and up to $500,000 in annual revenue; and have not received funding under the federal CARES Act. To qualify, businesses must be current on all taxes and private or public loans. Grants will be awarded on first-come, first-served basis.
Ohio PPE Retooling and Reshoring Grant Program: The Ohio PPE Retooling and Reshoring Grant Program provides funds to help businesses innovate and create solutions to the PPE shortage. Small and medium-sized manufacturers that retool existing facilities to make PPE or reshore PPE production to Ohio are eligible. The funding provides up to $500,000 per facility. Appalachian Growth Capital Loan Program: The Ohio Development Services Agency and the Governor’s Office of Appalachia will provide $10 million in funding to help these businesses through the crisis. This new loan program provides funding to the Appalachian Growth Capital LLC, which is a U.S. Treasury-Certified Community Development Financial Institution that provides small business financing in the 32-county Appalachian region of eastern and southern Ohio.
Businesses located in the 32-county region with less than $40 million of revenue in the most recently completed tax year are eligible.
Appalachian Growth Capital will offer loans to small businesses at 2 percent interest.
The maximum loan amount is $500,000, and businesses will have the ability to defer payment for up to six months.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: The new federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (or “PUA”) program provides benefits for many individuals ineligible for state unemployment benefits, including self-employed individuals and 1099 tax filers. For more information on the Coronavirus and Unemployment Insurance Benefits: Expanded Eligibility Resource Hub. Responsible RestartOhio: The state has laid out its Responsible RestartOhio plan. As the economy begins to re-open, here are some of the most common questions we are getting from clients:
Do I have to supply facial coverings for my employees? The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and its associated regulations ("OSHA") generally requires employers to provide personal protective equipment ("PPE") to employees when such equipment is necessary to control physical and health hazards. Employers generally must pay for any necessary PPE and cannot require employees to provide their own PPE. However, employers are not responsible for replacing lost or intentionally damaged PPE.
Isn't it illegal to ask an employee about their medical symptoms or conditions? The Responsible RestartOhio plan requires employees to self-assess by checking their temperatures daily and monitoring themselves for symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath. Many employers assume that they are prohibited from giving a temperature test or asking about the results because of privacy concerns. However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") has clarified that the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") does not prevent employers from following CDC guidance. Specifically, testing must be "job related and consistent with business necessity," and test results must be kept strictly confidential and separate from the employee's personnel files. Thus, employers can, for example, maintain a daily temperature log as long as it is kept confidential.
What should I tell my other employees if one employee is diagnosed with COVID-19? If an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19, you should notify other employees of their potential exposure without disclosing the name or medical condition of the diagnosed employee. If the diagnosed employee did not have contact with other employees (possibly because they were working from home for example), then there really is no reason to notify other employees of a COVID-19 diagnosis.
Am I required to allow employees to work from home? The latest order “strongly encourage[s]” employers to permit employees to work from home when possible, “subject to the discretion of the employer.” Once your business is permitted to re-open, you are not required to permit working from home. However, make sure your work from home policies are applied evenly and fairly to all employees.
Should I still require a doctor’s note before letting an employee return to work? No. Because of how busy doctor’s offices may be during this time, you should not require a doctor’s note before permitting an employee to return to work. However, you should require employees: (a) be fever free (without the use of medication) for at least 72 hours; (b) be experiencing improvements in their symptoms for at least 72 hours; and (c) wait at least seven (7) days since symptoms first began.
What happens if an employee refuses to return to work? If you had employees who were furloughed because of COVID-19 and they refuse to return to work, they risk losing their unemployment benefits. Ohio law prohibits individuals from receiving unemployment benefits if they refuse to accept offers of suitable work, or quit work, without good cause. ODJFS is asking employer to report these occurrences (click on “Report COVID-19 Work Refusals”). The Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") may complicate some of these cases, but it has yet to be determined whether or in which circumstances, COVID-19 might be considered a disability that requires work from home accommodations.
What else should I be considering as I plan to re-open my business?
Make sure your employment policies (especially sick leave and work from home policies) are up-to-date.
Plan now for potential contingencies (i.e. extensions or renewals of stay-at-home orders, difficulties acquiring cleaning supplies and face masks, new suspensions of business operations, etc.)
Consider ways to limit the number of employees and customers on site at any one time.
Decide whether you will require customers/visitors to wear face masks.
Consider whether a lack of available childcare may impact your employees.
Paycheck Protection Loans for Nonprofits: IFF has been listening to nonprofits about the difficulty applying for the Paycheck Protection Program (P3). They have partnered with Community Reinvestment Fund (CRF) in order to provide greater nonprofit participation in P3. Assuming Congress allocates additional funding to the program IFF and CRF are aiming to deploy $50 million in P3 loans to nonprofit organizations in the midwest. You do not need to be an existing borrower to apply, and they welcome applications from smaller nonprofit organizations.
IRS Updates for Nonprofits: The IRS has extended the deadline for nonprofit organizations to file their annual Form 990 to July 15.
For new organizations seeking tax exempt status, Form 1023 must be submitted electronically now. The IRS will only accept paper submissions if post-marked prior to April 30, 2020.
Trademark Deadlines: The USPTO is not waiving trademark deadlines. Here's a new blog post with important information you need to know to maintain your business or nonprofit brand. Support Local: Are you a local business that offers gift cards? Support Local is a platform built by Gannett, the company that owns USA Today, that allows customers to support their local businesses by purchasing gift cards. If your business is not already listed, you can add your listing here.
SBA Lending Options: We've posted a new blog with detailed information regarding both the SBA's Economic Injury Disaster Loans and the expanded 7(a) loans under the CARES Act. The expanded 7(a) loan application (also known as the Payroll Protection Program) has been released by the SBA. Remember, these applications will be processed by your bank.
Grace Period for Health Insurance Premiums: Ohio is requiring all health insurers to provide the option of deferring premium payments, interest free, for up to 60 days. This is intended to provide employers some relief from the cost of insurance premiums while keeping your employees insured.
Updated CDC Guidance for Employers: The CDC has updated their Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers. This contains important updates to cleaning and disinfection guidance, updated best practices for social distancing, and strategies and recommendations for responding to COVID-19. It's especially important that you understand how to notify impacted employees if there is a positive diagnosis within your business or non-profit.
Support for Ohio Small Businesses and Non-Profit Organizations: As of March 20, 2020, the U.S. Small Business Administration's (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program is accepting applications. This program provides low-interest loans up to $2 million in order to help businesses overcome the temporary loss of revenue during the state of emergency. Non profit organizations in Ohio are also be eligible for low-interest loans through the SBA's Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. Additional information on the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program is available at SBA.gov/Disaster.
Support for Your Employees: The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) has been granted the authority to accept and grant requests for unemployment compensation suspending the normal 1-week waiting period. This will also give relief to applicants who are not offered paid leave through their job, as well as those who have been quarantined by a medical professional, their employer, or whose employers must temporarily close. Those who apply for unemployment under these circumstances will be exempt from the requirement that they be actively seeking work.
If you are planning a layoff or shut-down because of the pandemic, you should provide the mass layoff number (2000180) to your employees along with this ODJFS Instruction Sheet to speed up the processing of unemployment benefits. For more from ODJFS, see their press release.
As an alternative to layoffs, employers should also consider Ohio's SharedWork program. Under SharedWork Ohio, employees remain employed, albeit working reduced hours, while still being eligible for unemployment benefits in proportion to their reduced hours. To participate, you must have at least 2 affected employees whose hours have been reduced at least 10% but no more than 50% of their normal weekly hours.
As of March 31, 2020, unemployment benefits have not been extended to independent contractors.
Fraud Alert: Be especially vigilant regarding fraudulent schemes aimed at gaining access to sensitive confidential/personal information. Do not respond to suspicious looking emails from senders you don't know. Do not click on suspicious email attachments, especially those that claim to be related to COVID-19. Do not respond to text or social media messages seeking personal or sensitive information. And be wary of calls from unrecognized phone numbers claiming to be your doctor, health insurance company, or other medical professional.
In addition, we have started to receive reports of hackers targeting Zoom meetings by using random number generators to guess personal meeting IDs or simply crashing Zoom meetings that are shared on social media.. Once in your meeting, the hackers then use screen sharing to display pornographic images. Zoom has more information here on ways to safely use the platform.
Workers' Comp Payments Deferred: To help businesses facing difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ohio BWC announced that insurance premium installment payments due for March, April, and May for the current policy year may be deferred until June 1, 2020. At that time the matter will be reconsidered. BWC will not cancel coverage or assess penalties for amounts not paid because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Workers' Comp Benefits for Employees Who are Working From Home: Injuries suffered by an employee while working from home may be covered by a workers' compensation claim. These claims are very fact specific, but the BWC has given the following examples of what may or may not be a covered claim:
Typically, work from home employees are NOT covered if they:
Trip over their dog and break their wrist while going to the bathroom
Decide to load some dishes in the dishwasher and cut themselves
Go outside their home to go for a walk and fall off their porch
Make lunch and get food poisoning from it
Go out for lunch and get into a car accident
Drive into the office to get work items needed for job, but deviate from the route to stop at the bank for personal reasons and get into an accident
Work from home employees MAY be covered if:
They are at their home workstation and reach for a binder and hurt their shoulder or the chair breaks and they fall and hurt their back
They have a poor ergo arrangement at their workstation and develop wrist tendonitis
They drive into the office to get items needed for job and get into an accident
Opportunities in Child Care: On March 17, 2020, Governor Mike DeWine signed an executive order establishing a temporary pandemic child care license to ensure that parents who work in the health, safety, and essential services field have access to child care. New temporary pandemic child care centers will operate under reduced regulations focused solely on the health and safety of children. Pandemic child care center licenses can be granted to already existing child care centers or new child care centers that may be created in response to community needs. For more information, visit ODJFS.
Beginning Thursday, March 26, 2020, you must have a Temporary Pandemic Childcare License to remain in operation. This requirement will remain in place until at least April 30. The new guidelines include:
There should be no more than six children in a class.
Ratios must be kept at one teacher to no more than six children.
Children whose parents are employed by the same entity should be kept together whenever possible.
The same teachers and children in each room should be maintained whenever possible.
There should be limited use of shared space or mixing of groups.
If shared space is used, a rigorous cleaning schedule must be in place.
Parent interaction should be limited at drop off and pick up.
Placement of children must first be offered to kids with parents who are healthcare workers, first responders, hospital and clinic staff, pharmacy staff, children service workers, adult protection workers, developmental disability aides, mental health counselors, psychiatrists psychologists, nursing home workers, elder care workers, home health care workers, and dentists. Any remaining childcare openings will be open to other families.
The information contained on this website is not legal advice or legal opinion and should not be relied upon. Furthermore, nothing contained in this website is intended to create or establish, and does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.