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Programs to Help Small Businesses During COVID 19

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

 

Government Programs:

Federal Programs:

The Small Business Administration (SBA) continues as the wellspring for small business. Indeed, the pandemic has rendered the SBA even more important to the small business community. The SBA has branches in every state. Also look for Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs).

Small Business Development Centers provide free counseling to local entrepreneurs. These centers generally receive funding partially through the SBA and are administrated by local colleges and universities. SBDCs are an important go-to resource for entrepreneurs, providing diverse training and consulting resources.

CARES Act:

The CARES Act, passed in March 2020, remains a source of relief for small businesses. This legislation provided for a variety of relief programs in the wake of the Pandemic.

FEMA:

The FEMA National Business Emergency Operations Center can help any businesses with urgent concerns about continuity or delivery of goods. This office is available 24/7. The latest administration has partnered with FEMA to provide expanded services. These services include. vaccine support and information about best practices. A quick look at this website could provide you a myriad survival tools. See fema.gov for more details.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program:

The Small  Business Administration or SBA administers many programs, often in partnerships with other organizations. This program provides small loans up to $2 million. The amount of the loan must cover expenses due to the pandemic. These loans have extremely generous terms, with 30-year repayment Interest rates are 3.75% for businesses and 2.87% for nonprofits.

Express Bridge Loan Pilot Program:

Another SBA program streamlines paperwork for businesses with an SBA Express Lender. These lenders are generally banks and financial institutions. These institutions contract with the SBA to facilitate services on the SBA’s behalf.

SBA Government Contracting:

Many small businesses have contracts with the federal government. Contracts with the government in the past have not given much negotiating power to private-sector businesses. However, current circumstances have provided a degree of wiggle-room. The SBA’s Procurement Center Representatives are the go-to resource in this circumstance. The SBA website actually has a directory of procurement Center Representatives.

Useful Websites:

SBA Access to Capital:

All businesses need capital. This site provides numerous resources to keep your company running.

https://www.sbc.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/accesstocapital

Reimbursement of Medical Leave Costs for SMBs:

Inevitably, more employees have taken leave during the coronavirus pandemic. The IRS has tried to adjust. The following site provides guidelines for reimbursement of resulting tax expenses.

https://irs.gov/newsroom/covid-19-related-tax-credits-for-required-paid-leave-provided-by-small-and-midsize-businesses-faqs

State Programs:

Most states have individual websites to connect entrepreneurs with additional local COVID small business resources. Many states have multiple such resources from several organizations. A google search can provide varieties of additional resources in each state.

Private Organizations:

SCORE is a private educational organization for small businesses. Their website, www.score.org provides access to the largest network of small business mentors.

US Chamber of Commerce has been working with the US and various governments to provide businesses with up-to-date information about the pandemic.

Where to Get Help:

The SBA provides innumerable resources for veteran owned small businesses. However, opportunities do not stop with the SBA. Local organizations, public and private, can prove amazing resources. In everyone’s interest is keeping your business alive during this unexpected crisis. The show must go on. Often, the trick lies in recognizing the public and private resources available. These resources are wide and varied.  Keep an open mind, recognizing that better times come soon.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hopes that this article has been helpful.   We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful and timely information and are the “go to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

 

Tips for Positive Pandemic Mental Health

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

 

  • Consider Your Anxiety about Controlling Your Circumstances:

The pandemic is not your fault. Others will understand this in retrospect. Stay gracious for the gifts the universe gave you. Recognize any blessings that may surround you. Do not howl at the moon about whatever someone could do differently.   Find joy whenever and wherever you can.

  • Open Your Mind to New Methods of Outreach:

We are lucky to have the Internet, given pandemic restrictions about meeting in person. As many have discovered in the past few years, several online outlets provide avenues for connection. Google chat, Zoom and Facetime are among them.

Time with friends and family salves frayed nerves and depressed feelings. Circumstances with the pandemic seem to throw a wrench into our normal outlets. However, online interactions still provide meaning. Even day-to-day, a simple message may provide connection even for those not immediately living with friends or family.

  • Stay Productive:

The lack of a routine confounds many stuck at home. Remember the routine of waking up, eating breakfast, and commuting to the salt mines? Furloughed workers may relish these memories. Same for work-from-home employees. As many times as you may have pounded that snooze button, at least you had somewhere to go. The trip to work provided a new adventure every day.

The unexpected pandemic disrupted our workplace lives. Our sense of validation often comes from our accomplishments. During the crisis, we often must squeeze water from a rock. However, many of us have lists of projects that can fill our day. Consider the pandemic an opportunity to explore new horizons.

Learn an instrument. Practice a language. Redecorate your house. People need to feel useful. Small business owners should get creative about using down-time productively.

  • Do Not Compare Yourself to Others:

The Age of Social Media has brought new strains of peer pressure upon all of us. Now that so many spend so much time at home, the pandemic has exacerbated this stress. Social media is often the only outlet.

Remember, your friends on social media post what they find worthy to post. In the end, we all do. More power to all of us. And many of us not even on social media.

In an age when so many of us have “our own brand,” always remember that the online presences of others does not define us. We should stay confident of our own identity while respecting those of others.

  • Stay Mindful by Journaling:

Keeping a journal is healthy. You have likely developed some new routines during this period. Record your thoughts. Take the time to write down new recipes, insights, and feelings. Mindfulness keeps us aware of our ongoing mental states. Journaling can help with mindfulness. Day-to-day, records of your mental state could well prove benefits to your mental well-being.

  • Get Out of the House and Exercise:

The virus is weakest outdoors. Rather than going stir-crazy in the stuffy confines of our claustrophobic domiciles, simple walks outside do wonders for our mental health. Hikes, jogging, bicycling, and any number of activities can leave us with a new outlook and bring home a sense of relief. Just remember not to “share air,” as the new pandemic saying goes.

A few additional hints from Debbie Gregory, VAMBOA’s founder & CEO:

A few things that help me:   I make sure to acknowledge gratitude for the people in my life and all that I am grateful for each day.  It is nice to add it to your journal too.   This is a good way to begin your daily entry.   Almost every day, even if I am not going anywhere, I still shower, groom, dress nicely if only for me.   This helps me to be positive and when we look nice, we feel better, at least I do.    Once in a while, I do have a pajama day, but it is rare.  For me, it is better to make sure my clothes fit than to hang out in PJs or sweats.   I also go out of my way to make nice, healthy meals and exercise even when I cannot go outside with online classes, an elliptical or exercise bike.  Walking is the best.   The love, affection and devotion from our fur children is priceless too.    I also try to meditate at least once a day and find the joy where I can and often.  I am a glass is half full girl too.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hopes that this article has been helpful.   We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful and timely information and are the “go to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Rightsizing Your Business During Tough Times

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

The pandemic’s disruption on the economy has been epic and continues. There are many businesses that are able not only to survive but can also thrive in such conditions. Others, not so much. Huge swaths of the economy are struggling. Unfortunately, downsizing is an unavoidable necessity for many small business owners.

Depending on the circumstances and nature of the recession, some businesses seem nearly recession-proof. Examples include essential services including the repair industry, online services, food and beverages, information technology, and health care. Such businesses tend to stand up to economic trauma.

Other companies, not so much.  In this current recession, restaurants, entertainment venues, and luxury goods tend to wash out when consumers tighten their belts. As such, widespread downsizing is inevitable. Fortunately, there are right and wrong ways to downsize.

Below are some mistakes to avoid when rightsizing your business:

  • Eliminating Entire Business Functions Unnecessarily:

Before eliminating an entire division or business function, consider the feasibility of across-the-board cuts. That function may well come in handy further down the line. Your business during tough times should become leaner and meaner, while remaining versatile. Use caution before eliminating an entire department or function. Even when the time comes to tighten your belt, a business should stay prepared for whatever challenge awaits and be prepared for the future.

  • Failing to use Empathy with Staffing Changes:

When the time comes for layoffs, empathy and kindness counts a great deal. When laying off employees, do so with compassion, and consideration for overall circumstances. The same goes for schedule and salary changes. Downsizing mistakes can affect the employer’s relationship with his or her remaining workers. Any staffing agencies the business uses may also hesitate to work with such a business. Finally, wide repercussions can follow a reputation as a cruel employer.  Makes sure you are following all applicable laws as well.

  • Misreading Economic Circumstances:

An economic downturn is a good time for positive thinking. Employers in a recession need to get down to business. Plan for the worst-case scenario.  Protect your bottom line, and ensure core operations are safe even as opportunities may drive up.

  • Inventory Hoarding:

Inventory can be painful to lose, especially at less than its full value. However, inventory is also expensive to store and maintain.  Business owners should liquidate when necessary and makes good business sense. Cash on-hand serves the company better than depreciating stock in the warehouse that is taking up space and perhaps expiring.

  • Practice What You Preach:

Hardship is a two-way street in an economic downturn. Employers should demonstrate their own willingness to sacrifice. Concrete lifestyle changes show a spirit of togetherness against adverse circumstances. A recession is the wrong time for fancy vacations and glamorous purchases. You and your employees are in the same boat. Show it. You need to work together in order to come out in a positive way.

  • How to Adapt to Rough Times:

Staying realistic can be a challenge when a business’s course takes a painful turn, especially with the current challenges from the pandemic. Sometimes, the best course is to sacrifice, and grin and bear it. An owner should keep the faith while rolling up his or her sleeves. The economy is cyclical, and circumstances will change. A recession is a time to weather the storm. Owners should understand that good proprietorship entails sucking up the bad with the good. Remember that even if the business fails, things will get better.

Even during these challenging times, it is important to stay positive and focused both personally and professionally.   VAMBOA wishes you great success.

We hope that this article has been helpful.   We work hard to bring you important, helpful and timely information and are the “go to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA, the Veteran and Military Business Owners Association is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Should you Allow Your Employees to Work Remotely?

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic there has been a huge surge in both business owners and employees working remotely from home.

Small businesses in the Midwest are the least likely to hire remote workers while small businesses in the Southeast and Northeast are really warming to this trend. Regardless of what region of the United States that you operate your business, should you allow your employees to work remotely?  This is a challenging question to answer. To determine if a remote workforce would be best for your business, you have to consider the employee’s specific job duties, their ability to work effectively from home, and their ability to work securely from home.

Types of Things to Consider:

  • Is the employee safer at home than in your office?
  • Would your business benefit from lower overhead?
  • Does the employee have the equipment and technology at home to work efficiently and effectively? If not, are you willing to provide it?
  • Does the employee work with highly sensitive business data? If so, do you have security practices and solutions in place to safeguard that data when accessed remotely?
  • Does the employee have the tools to provide customer service or customer support?

If you choose to allow your workforce to continue to work remotely, you will need to put in place policies for how they will work, how you will manage them, and how you will deal with the challenges that arise.

What You Need to Work On:

  • Make sure you get your new remote work policies put into writing and distributed to your team so that everyone is on the same page.
  • Schedule and conduct regular check-in calls, video chats, or meetings to ensure everyone is working together.
  • Provide opportunities for remote social interaction. Even though you are not all working in the same location, team building and bonding is still very important. Schedule and conduct virtual happy hours, trivia contests, team luncheons, etc.
  • Make sure to deploy the correct technology to keep your employees connected and collaborative. Things such as video conferencing tools, instant messaging, office productivity technology, security, software, and more.
  • Also, take the time to assess how working remotely is working out for your staff. Schedule one-on-one talks and ask your employees how things are going for them and if they need more support from you.

While there are a lot of benefits of remote work for both the employee and the business, there are also a lot of concerns and challenges to address. We are all exploring new issues with productivity, boundary setting, and personal relationships. Employers are worried their workers at home are too easily distracted with everything going on in their home life. They worry they do not have as much control over their remote workers and they feel they are harder to effectively manage; even while they feel that the work-life balance for employees is the greatest benefit of remote working.

People were already adopting remote work; the pandemic simply accelerated the popularity of the trend and it seems to be growing significantly. More and more companies are looking to expand the remote team model and shift a large portion of their workforce to remote work for good. Since more employees now have the technology and equipment they need to work remotely, it’s easier for companies to offer that ability going forward.

Your small Veteran or Military Owned Business will need technology to effectively work remotely in this new normal.   VAMBOA members and friends are able to take advantage of end of the year savings from our Dell Technologies of up to 50 percent.  Check out these values here:

https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/

Tax Questions for Small Business Owners

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By Debbie Gregory.

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The year 2020 has been a very shaky on numerous levels.   Many small businesses have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are some that have continued to operate profitably and even experience growth with the help of government loans, tax credits, and payroll deferrals.

All have seen drastic changes to their income, workforce, supply chains, and customers. As we head into the holiday season and New Year it is time to focus on what your potential tax liabilities for 2020 will be. What are the questions you should discuss with your accountant or tax professional to plan appropriately and not be surprised?

Below are five tax related issues that immediately come to mind that you will want to discuss:

1.) Will the government stimulus check impact my taxes?

The answer is both yes and no.  It depends on the programs and assistance you may have taken or not taken.  Below are three of the most popular COVID assistance programs and if they will help or harm your taxes for 2020:

  • If you participated in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) you will not be taxed on any loans you took under that program. However, any expenses incurred that are eligible for forgiveness are not tax deductible that may create a tax liability for you.
  • If you paid any employees for time off under the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act, you will be entitled to a tax credit once this year ends.
  • If you deferred payroll taxes, you will still owe them; you simply delayed when you needed to pay them.

2.) How does working from home impact taxes?

You and your employees who are working from home may be able to deduct expenses incurred from running an office out of your homes.  Some of the expenses may include such items as the space you used, equipment, utilities, etc. However, if your employees are working from home out-of-state you may be liable for higher payroll taxes than your home state charges. It really depends on the makeup of your company and employees if you may be facing any potential tax liabilities or benefits.

3.) Should I be saving more for my retirement?

Most of the current workforce working from home has seen a dramatic decrease in the amount of money they spend on food, going out to restaurants, entertainment and other consumer goods that may translate into building greater savings.   Now is a very good time to put those savings away for the future. Consider contributing more to your 401(k) or IRA accounts.

4.) Is now a good time to invest in capital equipment?

Right now, there are a lot of outstanding deals out there and interest rates are very low too. Lots of businesses are taking advantage of that fact and are buying needed equipment, furniture, technology, and other capital items at steep discounts. A lot of these purchases are deductible and can equal huge tax savings.

5.) Can I estimate my 2020 taxes based on last year?

Candidly, 2020 has been so chaotic and unprecedented that your estimation based on the prior year should be tossed out the window! You may have made way less this year than anticipated, or way more, and your actual tax implication may not even properly reflect the reality of your income. Take a close look at how your business did this year overall to make a better estimation of what your taxes may be.

Taxes are an unavoidable and annual huge expense for all of us. This year taxes are going to be more confusing and difficult than ever before. The earlier you can get together with your accountant or tax professional to go over what your potential tax liability will be, the better it will be, and you can prepare accordingly.   These are questions that you need to address with your account or tax professional.

If you are looking at updating your technology, please check out the very significant discounts being extended to VAMBOA family and friends by Dell Technologies.  Here is a link to check them out:  https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/

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