Interesting Tidbits for Your Week!

Expecting the Unexpected for Your Small Business. Common insurance types for small businesses.

For better or worse is generally a term related to marriage vows, but in business its just as important! Luckily for business owners there are ways to mitigate the risks associated with the “worse.” Pie Insurance recently released an article covering the types of common insurance for small businesses as well as some not so common options like a business owner’s policy (BOP); I thought it was worth sharing.

A Business Owner’s policy can include professional liability insurance (errors and omissions insurance), a commercial umbrella policy, employment practices liability insurance, directors and offices liability insurance and terrorism insurance. You can check out the full article here. The key to insurance is never needing it, but having it in place when you do. It can make the difference in saving your company when the unexpected happens. Contact us at Libertate Insurance, we can help.

1st Qtr 2021 Small Business Data

NAPEO issued small business snapshot data on Q1 of 2021. Check out the full review here.

High points from the data include:

Percentage change of Daily Small Business Revenue from January 2020 to January 2021 showing 50% decrease in revenues at April 1, 2020 with slowing increase about 31% overall increase at January 1, 2021. Small businesses are slowly pulling back.

Job losses in the United States are reported at 9.6 million; with the expected hardest hit industry of Leisure and Hospitality accounting for nearly 40% of all loss reported.

On a state by state analysis the numbers are showing more increase than decrease with the average unemployment rate reporting at 5.6% at the close of February 2021. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics). Overall jobless rates are down in 23 states as of March and higher in only 4.

US Small Business Administration (SBA) Updates

If your business previously received the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advance from the SBA for less than $10,000, the SBA is allowing applicants to re-apply to receive the full amount of the advance up to $10,000.

If your business was also a recipient of the EIDL these loans were previously limited to six months of economic injury up to a maximum of $150,000; the SBA has announced a change that will allow loan limits up to 24 months of economic injury with a maximum loan amount of $500,000. Be advised and proceed with caution, as the SBA takes security interest in the business assets for loan amounts over $25,000.

The SBA is also sending out emails to the EIDL loan recipients extending the first payment due on the EIDL loans to 2022 for loans issued in 2020. The first payment due date is extended 24 months from the date on the note. They have indicated that 2021 loans will have initial payments due 18 months from the note date. Interest continues to accrue during the deferment period.

Follow these instructions if you wish to request a loan increase:

  • Send email to CovidEIDLIncreaseRequests@sba.gov
  • Use subject line “EIDL Increase Request for [insert your 10-digit application number]”
  • Be sure to include in the body of your email identifying information for your current loan including application number, loan number, business name, business address, business owner name(s), and phone number.

Important: Do not include any financial documents or tax records with your initial request. You will receive a follow up email notification if we need additional documents.

You can check out all of the updates for offerings available from the SBA here.

History of Workers’ Compensation

AND last but not least, for those insurance nerds, another very interesting release from Pie Insurance is a history of workers’ compensation insurance. Covering where the laws stand today, where it started and how it has changed the benefits to workers in the United States. Interesting and educational read, check it out here.

Be sure to check out our continual updates here, on PEO Compass, regarding Florida’s House Bill 1305 and its impact on workers’ compensation and the PEO industry.

Post Update! Overview of the Passed $1.9 Trillion Stimulus, the American Rescue Plan

We posted earlier this week the highlights on the Proposed Stimulus Package, we just received updates on what was passed! Check out the overview below.

The $1.9 trillion relief bill, known as the American Rescue Plan, has passed Congress and will head to the President for a signature. Highlights of the bill include extended unemployment benefits, direct checks to individuals and more.

While some of the bill was changed during its time in the Senate, it’s largely similar to the initial version passed by the House. However, some key provisions, such as a higher minimum wage, were scrapped amid efforts to pass the bill swiftly.

This article outlines the most relevant provisions included in the bill.

Small Business Assistance

The bill invests billions toward small business assistance. Here is the current funding breakdown:

  • Economic Injury Disaster Loan program: $15 billion
  • New grant program for bars and restaurants, specifically: $28 billion
  • Paycheck Protection Program: $7.25 billion

Direct Payments

Just like the two other COVID-19 relief bills passed during the pandemic, this version also features direct payments to Americans. This time around, eligible recipients can expect $1,400 per person ($2,800 for couples), including adult dependents—a family of four could receive up to $5,600.

However, payment parameters are stricter this time around than with the previous direct payment. The full amount will go to individuals earning under $75,000 (or $150,000 for couples), with payments cut off entirely for individuals earning over $80,000 (or $160,000 for couples). Individuals earning an amount between those figures will receive a reduced sum.

Unemployment Aid

The bill extends two previously established pandemic unemployment assistance efforts: the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. Unemployed gig workers, freelancers, contractors and others who previously qualified for aid will continue to be eligible under these programs. The financial assistance provided by these two programs is currently set to expire in mid-March, which pressured legislators to act quickly.

The bill also provides for enhanced unemployment assistance payments of $300 per week. Under the bill, these programs and their financial aid are extended through Sept. 6.

Housing Assistance

The bill sets aside billions in financial aid to homeowners and renters. Here is the funding breakdown:

  • Aid for emergency rental assistance: $22 billion
  • Aid for mortgages, utilities and property taxes: $10 billion
  • Aid to states and localities to help individuals at risk of becoming homeless: $5 billion

Emergency Paid Leave

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), signed into law on March 18, 2020, required certain employers to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. That requirement expired Dec. 31, 2020.

The American Rescue Plan maintains the status quo, in that it does not require employers to offer leave under the FFCRA framework. However, the bill does provide tax credits for employers that voluntarily provide leave under the FFCRA framework through the end of September 2021.

Aid to Schools and Child Care

A significant portion of the relief bill involves aid to states, including schools and child care facilities:

  • Aid for getting K-12 schools ready for in-person learning: $125 billion
    • Money may be used for purchasing protective equipment, improving ventilation systems and hiring support staff, among other things. However, 20% of the money schools receive must be used to address pandemic learning loss—for example, extending learning time into the summer.
    • Aid carved out specifically for private schools: $2.75 billion
  • Aid for colleges: $40 billion
    • Institutions will be required to spend at least 50% of their allocated funds on emergency financial aid grants to students.
  • Child care provider assistance: $39 billion
    • Funds may be used for payroll, rent, protective equipment and other expenses.

Tax Credits

The relief bill provides an overhaul of the child tax credit for the 2021 tax year. The bill increases the amount of the credit to $3,000 for each child under the age of 18 and $3,600 for children under the age of 6. The credit will also become fully refundable, meaning low-income individuals would receive the benefit.

The bill also expands the earned income tax credit for individuals without children. The maximum credit will be nearly tripled, and eligibility will be expanded as well.

Health Insurance

The bill subsidizes private health insurance premiums for unemployed workers through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). The provision allows individuals eligible for COBRA insurance coverage to maintain their employer-sponsored coverage after losing employment without having to pay any portion of the premiums through the end of September 2021.

Additionally, the bill invests nearly $35 billion in premium subsidy increases for those who buy coverage on the ACA Marketplace. The bill increases the subsidies provided to currently eligible individuals, and removes the 400% federal poverty level cap (equal to approximately $51,000 for an individual) on subsidy eligibility.

Aid to states, local governments, tribes and territories

The bill provides billions in financial assistance to states, local governments, tribes and territories. Here is the current funding breakdown:

  • Aid to state and local governments: $325.5 billion
  • Aid to tribes and territories: $24.5 billion
  • Creation of the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund, to carry out capital projects directly enabling work, education and health monitoring: $10 billion

What’s NOT in the Bill

A minimum wage hike to $15 per hour—one of the most discussed provisions from the initial bill—has been removed from the final version due to strict rules governing budget bills in the Senate. Some Democrats have suggested this provision may be considered as a standalone bill, but any movement on that front remains to be seen.

Additionally, the bill does not include an extension of the eviction moratorium, which is set to expire on March 31, or an expansion of mandated paid sick and family and medical leave. While neither were included in the original House bill, these were popular provisions contained within one of the previous bills.

Thank you for being part of our PEO Compass information outlet. Contact us at Libertate Insurance for your PEO and Workers’ Compensation needs.

Highlights of the Proposed $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Package

The House of Representatives has passed its version of the proposed stimulus bill, which includes extended unemployment benefits, direct checks to individuals and more. The bill is now with the Senate, where some provisions will likely change. Democrats hope to pass the $1.9 trillion relief package by mid-March, before existing COVID-19 relief measures, such as enhanced unemployment insurance, expire.

The bill could pass a Senate vote in the coming weeks, but it may face significant challenges amid a 50-50 party split.

It’s important for employers to have an idea of what to expect. To that end, this article outlines the most relevant aspects currently known about the bill—these components are likely to change as Congress hashes out its details.

Small Business Assistance

The proposed bill intends to invest billions toward small business assistance, and even provides heavily impacted businesses with fewer than 10 employees priority with some of the funds. Here is the current funding breakdown:

  • Emergency Injury Disaster Loan program: $15 billion
  • New grant program for bars and restaurants, specifically: $25 billion
    • Eligible businesses could receive up to $10 million, using the money for payroll, rent, utilities and other expenses.
  • Paycheck Protection Program: $7.25 billion

Stimulus checks

Just like the two other COVID-19 stimulus packages passed during the pandemic, this version will also feature direct payments to Americans. This time around, eligible recipients can expect $1,400 per person ($2,800 for couples), including adult dependents—a family of four could get up to $5,600.

However, payment parameters are stricter this time around than with previous stimulus checks. The full check amount will go to individuals earning under $75,000 (or $150,000 for couples), with payments cut off entirely for individuals earning over $100,000 (or $200,000 for couples). Anyone with income between those figures will receive a reduced check.

Unemployment Aid

The proposed bill seeks to extend two previously established pandemic unemployment assistance efforts: the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. The financial assistance from these programs is currently set to expire in mid-March, pressuring legislators to act quickly.

The bill also seeks to enhance unemployment assistance payments from the current $300 per week to $400 per week. Unemployed gig workers, freelancers, contractors and others who previously qualified for aid will continue to be eligible under these programs.

Under the proposed bill, these programs and their financial aid would be extended through Aug. 29.

Housing Assistance

This proposed stimulus plan intends to set aside billions in financial aid to homeowners and renters. Here is the current funding breakdown:

  • Aid for back rent, rental assistance and utility payments: $19.1 billion
  • Aid for mortgages, utilities and property taxes: $10 billion
  • Aid to states and localities to help individuals at risk of becoming homeless: $5 billion

Paid Sick Leave

Previous stimulus packages guaranteed workers two weeks’ pay if they couldn’t work due to COVID-19-related reasons. The current proposal does not extend these benefits. However, employers that choose to continue offering this paid sick and family leave through Oct. 1 may receive a tax credit.

Minimum Wage

The proposed bill would gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025. It would also mandate that tipped employees, youth workers and workers with disabilities all receive the full federal minimum wage. This change would affect the wages of 27 million Americans. However, this particular proposal is hotly contested, and there has been speculation that it may need to be scrapped in order to secure the requisite number of votes to pass.

Update: Due to congressional rules, this provision will almost certainly not appear in the final bill after going to the Senate.

Aid to Schools and Child Care

A significant portion of the stimulus bill involves aid to states, including schools and child care facilities. Here is the current funding proposal:

  • Aid for getting K-12 schools ready for in-person learning: $130 billion
    • Money could be used for purchasing protective equipment, improving ventilation systems and preventing teacher layoffs. However, 20% of the money schools receive must be used to address pandemic learning loss—for example, extending learning time into the summer.
  • Aid for colleges: $40 billion
    • Institutions would be required to spend at least 50% of their allocated funds on emergency financial aid grants to students.
  • Child care provider assistance: $39 billion
    • Funds may be used for payroll, rent, protective equipment and other expenses.

Tax Credits

The stimulus bill aims to provide child tax credits to more low-income families. The bill proposes $3,000 for parents of children under the age of 18—$3,600 for parents of children under the age of 6. This credit would also become fully refundable.

The bill also seeks to expand the earned income tax credit for individuals without children. The maximum credit would be nearly tripled under the stimulus proposal, and eligibility would be expanded—the childless tax credit eligibility age would be reduced to 19 years of age, down from 25.

Aid to states, local governments, tribes and territories

The proposed bill would provide billions in financial assistance to states, local governments, tribes and territories. It’s currently unclear whether there are specific usage requirements tied to this assistance, or whether funds may be used however the entities deem fit. Here is the current funding breakdown:

  • Aid to state and local governments: $325.5 billion
  • Aid to tribes and territories: $24.5 billion

Summary

Again, these proposed figures are subject to change as Congress continues its debate over specific policy aspects. Some aid amounts are wildly above what some legislators deemed appropriate, signaling a contentious battle ahead.

Thank you for being part of our PEO Compass information outlet. Contact us at Libertate Insurance for your PEO and Workers’ Compensation needs.

Social Media Guidelines for your Employees

With the removal of Representative Marjorie Taylor Greens from government committees and the strength that social media carries in our society, now is the time to address, with your employees, your company’s expectations and guidelines for social media.

The concerns and impact of social media are long standing when it comes to the impact on businesses. In previous times that concern was mostly related to the impact of consumer satisfaction or lack thereof. If the company makes a mistake in delivery of service or poor customer service, these experiences can “go viral” and the ripple effect can be damaging.

In recent times, the concern is shifting to the focus on free speech and political choice. Most employees proudly wear the banner of their company’s names on social media platforms, so what happens when they post a personal opinion or position on controversial and sensitive political matters? With so many companies transacting more and more business virtually, reputation is becoming more important. So what options do companies have? We have compiled some information below, dive in to better position your company.

The Harvard Business Review released an article back in February of 2020, “How Do Consumers Feel When Companies Get Political?” It’s an interesting dissection of survey results based on political beliefs, party affiliation and the participants’ views from survey participant baseline opinion to a more in depth perception as information on political positions are released.

Engage PEO has several tools on Social Media policy guidance. Check out their page here. Specifics on policy building, staying away from being too restrictive and how to handle offensive social media.

The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) released this article in 2014 on the Top 10 Do’s and Dont’s for Managing Employee Social Media. It seems as though 2014 would be dated, but the advice given here covers all levels of the National Labor Relations Board and related guidance on the National Labor Relations Acts.

Thank you for being part of our PEO Compass information outlet. Contact us at Libertate Insurance for your PEO and Workers’ Compensation needs.

Have you Registered for the FAPEO PEO CEO Legislative Summit? Join us February 10-11, 2021

Our very own CEO of Libertate Insurance, Paul Hughes, is scheduled to present on Thursday February 11th. Paul along with many other seasoned industry and topic experts will be rolling out information pertaining to Florida’s Unemployment Rates and the Appeals Process as well as What to Expect in Workers’ Compensation & COVID Liability Reform.

FAPEO has put together a great line up on these topics, Summit Agenda below:

FAPEO members please contact Suzanne Hurst, Suzanne@FAPEO.org, for the link to attend.

Non-members, Now is the Perfect Time to Join, become part of the Association that was “formed to protect, enhance, and promote the PEO Industry doing business in the state of Florida,” FAPEO. Contact Suzanne Hurst, Suzanne@FAPEO.org, for membership details.

Data Breach Response Plan

Our business associates at Regions Bank have put together a great article on creating a Data Breach Response Plan. Q1 2019 to Q1 2020 reported a 273% increase in data breach exposing 8.4 billion records, from insurance providers to credit bureaus, 2021 is expected to report higher threats. In the last couple of weeks there has been a lot of noise surrounding cyber security, which brings to light what the projections or expectations for this upcoming year are. IBM identified that it takes companies an average of 280 days to identify and contain a breach/cyber security occurrence.

So What is a Data Breach Response Plan? In short, it is a roadmap for your company to follow should a breach occur. Similar to an Emergency Response Plan but for your data and IT platform. Top points from Regions’ article:

  • Build a Response Team; from Executive level through HR down to customer support and external vendors
  • Include and detail specifics for the following in your plan:
    • Identify breach; triggering events
    • Contain the breach
    • Notify Data Breach Team and initiate plan
    • Investigate
    • Notify internal and external relations of breach; as required by law
    • Safeguard data
    • Conclusion and review meeting; team meets to analyze breach and make adjustments to the existing plan

My personal add on this is to research and obtain a cyber security insurance policy, mitigate your cyber risk. Cyber insurance protects against damages caused by electronic threats to your computer systems or data. Cyber threats can lead to the theft, damage or misuse of sensitive information or other vital technologies and can result in downtime and recovery costs that often include specialized repairs and legal fees

Forbes’ article “The Best Cybersecurity Predictions for 2021 Roundup” gives us some insight as to what we can expect. Here are some of the highlights, click on the article link above for the full article.

  • 2020 reported cyberattacks on healthcare facilities in the U.S. affecting 17.3 million people in 436 breaches tracked by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Breach portal.
  • Amid an expectation of decline to revenues in 2021, 51% of executives plan to increase cybersecurity budgets

Govtech.com has also chimed in on where we need to protect ourselves for 2021 and what is expected to be at greatest risk; high points listed below, click link above for full article (interesting and informative read):

  • Increase attacks expected on home computers and networks; scary seeing as though many of us are still working remotely
  • Dark web expected to allow criminals access to purchase more sensitive corporate information
  • App stores through mobile devices and smartphones are expected to be attacked
  • Cloud base push for storage will likely create gaps in security
  • Application Programming Interfaces (API) threat models are high targets for enterprise breaches

Here at Libertate Insurance, data is a viable part of what allows us to do what we do for our clients. We hold data security at a high level of importance to our brand. We also know that the best reaction is a planned reaction. Putting a plan in place to protect your organization and your clients is important. We offer programs for cyber security that can further protect you, should you fall victim to the latest trends in the world of scams. Please contact us to review program details and understand the benefits of obtaining a cyber security policy.

Regions Bank Treasury Management sends out information on Emerging COVID-19 Scams

Be aware of Emerging Covid-19 Scams
Author credit: Jeffrey Taylor of Regions Treasury Management Products and Services

Several government agencies have issued a bulletin warning of a new type of COVID-19 scam. Along with the previously reported scams involving personal protective equipment (PPE), COVID-19 testing, and economic stimulus payments, fraudsters are now leveraging the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine. According to the bulletin, victims are being coerced to make an out-of-pocket payment for the vaccine and provide personally identifiable information with a false promise to move their name up on the list of vaccine recipients.

The FBI warns of the following potential indicators of fraudulent activity:

  • Advertisements or offers for early access to the vaccine upon payment of a deposit or fee
  • Requests asking for out-of-pocket payment to obtain the vaccine or be added to the COVID-19 vaccine waiting list
  • Offers to provide additional medical testing or procedures when obtaining the vaccine
  • Marketers offering to sell and/or ship doses of a vaccine, domestically or internationally, in exchange for payment of a deposit or fee
  • Unsolicited emails, telephone calls, or personal contact from someone claiming to be from a medical office, insurance company or COVID-19 vaccine center requesting personal and/or medical information to determine eligibility to participate in clinical vaccine trials or obtain the vaccine
  • Claims of FDA approval for a vaccine that cannot be verified
  • Advertisements for vaccines through social media platforms, email, telephone calls, websites or unsolicited/unknown sources
  • Unsolicited emails, telephone calls, or personal contact from someone claiming to be a government official requiring you to receive a COVID-19 vaccine


Tips to avoid COVID-19 vaccine-related fraud:

  • Consult your state’s health department website for up-to-date information about authorized vaccine distribution channels
  • Check the FDA’s website (fda.gov) for current information about vaccine emergency use authorizations
  • Consult your primary care physician before undergoing any vaccination
  • Don’t share your personal or health information with anyone other than known and trusted medical professionals
  • Check your medical bills and insurance explanation of benefits (EOBs) for any suspicious claims and promptly report such information to your health insurance provider
  • Follow guidance from the CDC and other trusted medical professionals


General techniques for online/cyber fraud prevention:

  • Verify the spelling of web addresses, websites, and email addresses that look trustworthy but may be imitations of legitimate websites
  • Ensure operating systems and applications are updated to the most current versions
  • Update anti-malware and anti-virus software and conduct regular network scans
  • Do not enable macros on documents downloaded from an email unless necessary and only after ensuring the file is not malicious
  • Do not communicate with or open emails, attachments, or links from unknown individuals
  • Never provide personal information of any sort via email. Be aware that many emails requesting your personal information may appear to be legitimate
  • Use strong two-factor authentication, using biometrics, hardware tokens, or authentication apps
  • Disable or remove unnecessary software applications

If you believe you are a victim of a COVID-19 scam, please call Regions Client Services immediately at 1-800-787-3905, and report it to the FBI at www.ic3.gov; wwwtips.fbi.gov; or 1-800-CALL-FBI.

Want more information, or have questions?
For more helpful practices regarding fraud prevention, please visit regions.com/stopfraud and www.regions.com/fraud-prevention.

SBA Issues New PPP Update

On January 6, 2021, the SBA (Small Business Administration) issued guidance on PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) by way of 2 interim final rules (IFR). The SBA will use the consolidated guidance of PP1 and these 2 IFRs to apply to PPP2. Withum, tax and assurance advisors, has put together a summary of the guidance to help us understand. Check out the full article here.

The biggest take-away for me is that borrowers under PPP1 are eligible for loans under PPP2; see article above for eligibility details of visit that SBA website. If you are interested in applying for the second round , the SBA has provided a list of Participating Lenders. Round 2 will be handled similarly through private lenders for management of the loans as well as the forgiveness application process. If you currently have a banking relationship contact your representative for guidance, as I learned with PPP1, each institution handles the program processing differently.

For more detail on the interim rulings you can check out the SBA webpage for PPP here.

Welcome to 2021, I will say it was nice to see that a second round of assistance is being offered up for small business. These days we always need to remember to look for the silver lining, be thankful for what we have, and be strategic in planning for our needs.