COVID-19 Relief Bill

Our friends at NAPEO are always keeping us up to date with pertinent information impacting PEOs and Small Businesses. They released the following yesterday related to the COVID-19 Relief Bill.

COVID-19 Relief Bill: What It Means for PEOs & Small Business

Yesterday, the House passed an omnibus spending bill that included $1.4 trillion to fund the federal government and $900 billion of additional COVID relief by a vote of 399-53. The Senate then passed the legislation by a vote of 92-6. The bill now heads to the White House, where President Trump is expected to sign it.

Tax Provisions

The omnibus spending bill – which is almost 5,600 pages long – contained many tax provisions that impact PEOs. Randy Hardock and Courtney Zinter of Davis & Harman (NAPEO’s outside tax counsel) have prepared a document containing the details of these provisions and how they apply to PEOs.

Specific tax provisions of interest to PEOs include:

  • Paid Sick and Family Leave Credits
    • Extends the paid sick and family leave credits against employment taxes from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) for three additional months to March 31, 2021.
    • The bill does not extend the FFCRA’s mandate to provide paid sick leave or paid family and medical leave beyond December 31, 2020.
  • Changes to the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC)
    • Repeals the provision denying the ERTC to employers receiving a PPP loan. Instead, mechanisms would be created to prevent the same wages from being used for both PPP loan forgiveness and the ERTC.
    • Extends the ERTC to apply to wages paid before July 1, 2021 (instead of January 1, 2021).
    • Increases the credit percentage from 50 percent to 70 percent of applicable wages.
    • Increases the per-employee limitation on applicable wages from $10,000 total to $10,000 per calendar quarter. In combination with the increased credit percentage, this would increase the maximum credit per employee from $5,000 to $7,000 per quarter (up to $14,000 for the first two quarters in 2021).
    • The following language was added to the ERTC provisions that specifically addresses PEOs: Any forms, instructions, regulations, or guidance described in paragraph (2) shall require the customer to be responsible for the accounting of the credit and for any liability for improperly claimed credits and shall require the certified professional employer organization or other third-party payor to accurately report such tax credits based on the information provided by the customer. [Emphasis added.]
      It is not clear whether this provision applies retroactively or just to new credits taken in 2021.
    • Makes the ERTC available if the business experienced a decline of at least 20 percent in gross receipts (instead of a 50 percent decline) as compared to the same calendar quarter in the prior year.
    • Modifies the small employer definition of qualified wages to apply to employers that have 500 or fewer employees (instead of 100 of fewer employees).
  • Creates a temporary employee retention credit of 40 percent of qualified wages up to $6,000 (maximum credit of $2,400 per eligible employee) for eligible employers affected by certain qualified disasters. This credit is retroactive and does not apply to COVID-related disasters.
  • The bill also extends the Work Opportunity Tax Credit for five years.

Paycheck Protection Program and Other Small Business Assistance

In addition to the tax provisions, the COVID-19 relief portion of this legislation contains additional assistance for small businesses, which NAPEO has been lobbying Congress in support of. Specifically, it contains the following provisions designed to assist small businesses:

  • Creates a second loan from the Paycheck Protection Program, called a “PPP second draw” loan for smaller and harder-hit businesses, with a maximum amount of $2 million.
  • Creates a simplified application process for loans under $150,000.
  • Expands the expenses that can be covered by a PPP loan.
  • Makes 501(c)6 organizations that do not lobby eligible for PPP loans.
  • Makes the expenses covered by PPP loans tax deductible.

Details on these provisions can be found on this document provided by the Community Banker’s Association.

Unemployment Insurance

The COVID-19 relief provisions also make the following changes to unemployment insurance:

  • Unemployed individuals get an additional $300 per week from December 26, 2020 to March 14, 2021.
  • Extends and phases out Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), a temporary federal program covering self-employed and gig workers, to March 14, 2021 and extends benefits from 39 to 50 weeks with all benefits ending April 5, 2021.
  • Extends and phases out Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) which provides additional weeks when state unemployment runs out, to March 14, 2021 (after which no new applications) through April 5, 2021.
  • Extends provisions to March 14, 2021, including interest-free loans to the states.

No federal money was provided to shore up the short falls in state unemployment funds.

Miscellaneous Provisions

The omnibus spending bill contained so-called “tax extenders,” which are temporary provisions in the tax code that are designed to support specific economic activities. There are two provisions of interest to PEOs that have been extended for five years. They are: 

  • The employer credit under section 45S for paid family and medical leave, originally enacted as part of tax reform in 2017.
  • The expanded exclusion for employer-provided educational assistance, including student loan repayment benefits as enacted as part of the CARES Act. NAPEO has lobbied in support of this provision.

For more information visit NAPEO’s COVID-19 Resource Center or contact Thom Stohler.

NAPEO is offering a webinar on this bill and the impacts for PEOs and their clients on January 8th at 2pm EST. Not a Member of NAPEO? Find out how to join here.

Looking for a PEO or have questions on whether or not a PEO is right for you; visit our site at Libertate Insurance and get the questions you have answered.

Q4 2020 Cyber Risks & Liabilities Update

Some important trends that are threatening our businesses and ways to protect yourself.

How to Avoid Electronic Signing Service Scams

Although utilizing an electronic signing service can be a convenient way for your organization to digitally sign and exchange important documents (e.g., contracts, tax documents and legal materials) with stakeholders, doing so also carries significant cybersecurity risks.

Cybercriminals can utilize a variety of scamming techniques to trick electronic signing service users into sharing sensitive information, such as their signature, financial information and other personal data. From there, the criminals can use that information for a range of destructive purposes—including identity theft and other costly forms of fraud. These scams have become an increasingly prevalent threat in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as many organizations have transitioned to fully remote operations.

In fact, DocuSign—a popular electronic signing service provider—recently released a statement regarding several new phishing scams that cybercriminals have implemented to fool victims into thinking they are using DocuSign’s services. These scams entail the victim receiving a fraudulent email that appears to be from DocuSign, urging them to either click on a malicious link (which then downloads malware on the individual’s device) or provide their personal information (which scammers then access to commit fraud).

Whether your organization uses DocuSign or a different electronic signing service, it’s important to educate yourself and your stakeholders—including employees, investors, customers and suppliers—on how to detect and avoid falling victim to these phishing scams. That being said, consider the following cybersecurity tips:

  • Be wary of responding to emails that claim to be an electronic signature request—especially if you weren’t expecting a request or don’t recognize the name of the individual or organization sending the request. Trusted senders would let you know they are sending a signature request before doing so.
  • Never click on links from electronic signature emails that appear suspicious—especially if the URLs for those links redirect to websites that aren’t secure or recognizable.
  • Review electronic signature emails for generic wording, grammatical errors and misspellings (both in the body of the email and within the sender’s email address). These mistakes are often key indicators of a phishing scam.

Cybersecurity Trends to Prepare for in 2021

This past year saw a wide range of changes and advancements in workplace technology utilization for organizations of varying sectors and sizes. But as digital offerings continue to evolve, so do cybersecurity threats. That’s why it’s crucial to remain up-to-date on the latest technology trends and adjust your cyber risk management strategies accordingly. As your organization starts to prepare for 2021, keep the following emerging cybersecurity concerns in mind:

  • Remote work issues—While remote working is a valuable method for protecting staff from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this practice can also lead to increased cybersecurity vulnerabilities for your organization. After all, many employees may not have the same security capabilities in their work-from-home arrangements as they do in the workplace. As such, make sure your organization provides remote staff with appropriate cybersecurity training and resources, as well as implements effective workplace policies and procedures regarding cybersecurity.   
  • Cloud hijacking concerns—Especially with more employees working from home than ever before, maintaining cloud security is crucial. Cloud breaches have become more common in the past year, as cybercriminals have developed a method for hijacking cloud infrastructures via credential-stealing malware. To avoid this concern, utilize trusted anti-malware software and update this software regularly.   
  • Elevated ransomware threats—Cybercriminals continue to create new and improved ransomware attack methods each year. According to recent research from Cybersecurity Ventures, ransomware attacks are expected to cost organizations more than $20 billion in 2021, with an attack estimated to take place every 11 seconds. To help protect your organization from ransomware attacks, use a virtual private network, place security filters on your email server and educate staff on ransomware prevention.
  • Data privacy expectations—As more and more organizations start storing sensitive information on digital platforms, data privacy is a growing concern. If your organization stores sensitive information digitally, it’s vital to utilize proper security techniques to protect such data (e.g., encryption) and abide by all relevant data privacy regulations.
  • Skills shortages—Despite ongoing advancements in workplace technology, cybersecurity skills shortages have become a major issue for many organizations—with the demand for cybersecurity professionals exceeding the number of individuals that are qualified for such a role. This shortage emphasizes the importance of investing in effective cybersecurity tools across all workplace devices to help minimize your risks. 

With these trends in mind, it’s important now more than ever for your organization to secure adequate cyber insurance. Otherwise, you run the risk of your organization lacking the appropriate coverage and dealing with hefty out-of-pocket costs in the event of a cyber incident.

Smart Device Security Best Practices

As remote work continues to be a popular offering for many organizations, some employees have begun taking advantage of their own smart devices—such as smartphones or tablets—for work-related purposes.

While this practice can certainly help employees expand their remote work capabilities, utilizing smart devices within a work setting can lead to elevated cybersecurity risks. This is because your employees’ smart devices may not be initially equipped with the security measures necessary to defend against cybercriminals, thus increasing the likelihood of a cyberattack taking place.

Don’t let employees’ smart devices lead to a cybersecurity disaster within your organization. Utilize the following guidance to promote smart device security:

  • Establish a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy that includes standards employees must uphold when using their smart devices for work-related purposes.
  • Have employees create complex passwords for their smart devices. Encourage staff to enable multifactor authentication on their devices, if possible.
  • Restrict employees from connecting to public Wi-Fi networks on their smart devices. Be sure to establish a virtual private network for staff to use to ensure a safe, secure connection.

Have employees conduct routine software updates on their smart devices to prevent potential security gaps.

For additional cybersecurity guidance and coverage, contact Libertate Insurance today, we are offering Cybersecurity Programs.

2021 Employee Benefit Trends

Our friends at NAPEO released trends to watch out for as reported by Employee Benefit News; highlights from the full article below.

Increasing Health Insurance Premiums Employers will likely start shopping and looking for more cost manageable healthcare plans as health insurance premiums are trending 54% increases over the past 11 years as reported by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). SHRM also reported, “Employers expect a moderate health plan cost increase next year of 4.4 percent, on average, compared to this year, according to early results…”. The concern here is that this trend of continued increase is outpacing the consumer price index and wage growth.

Telehealth We have seen a large uptick in the push and use of telehealth with the COVID-19 pandemic. 2021 will continue to grow this field of medical care. Telehealth benefits have been able to provide medical coverage for acute, chronic, primary and specialty care.

Personalized Benefits Packages Companies may start offering more non-medical offerings for a more customized employee benefit packages. Packages will start with the basic health insurance and paid time off benefits and expand to include optional add-ons like pet insurance, short-term disability, access to legal services, whole or term life, hospital stay, accident insurance to mention a few.

Mental Health Employers are waking up to the mental health wellness of their employees and how it can be a direct impact o their organizations. Employers are educating themselves on reducing workplace stress. Many benefits package now include behavioral health with both onsite and virtual medical plans.

Not partnered with a PEO? Connect with us and let us know how we can help! Find out more on our website here.

Small Business Snapshot

Our friends at NAPEO released the 2020 4th Quarter Small Business Snapshot, click on the link for more details.

Source: NAPEO; Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker, Small Business Revenue tracker, revised data, updated November 9,2020.

Some of the interesting data reported and tools noted below:

  • Small business reports 31% lower daily revenue than Q1;
  • 74% of small business are reporting large or moderate negative impact related to the pandemic;
  • The Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index through 2020 Q3 is showing the current trend in line with Q3 2008 as well as future expectations; Check out the Wells Fargo website for Small Business Resources to help with your 2021 Business Plan;
  • The Unemployment rate is showing a 3.3% increase from Q3 2019 with Hawaii, Nevada and New York showing the highest.

Not partnered with a PEO? Connect with us and let us know how we can help! Find out more on our website here.

Ready to Call it a Wrap! Almost, Let’s talk Tax.

Wouldn’t if be great if we could put a pretty little bow, color of your choice, on 2020 and send it off into some small part of our memory banks? With the close of this unforgettable year coming, now is the time to focus on getting things in order for your business if you have not done so already. Once the year closes we spring into full action with closing the books and putting our efforts into making our 2021 projections a reality. We have compiled some important things to consider when meeting with your tax professional so that you can ask the right questions to ensure you are taking advantage of as many new benefits as possible.

Social Security deferral The Cares Act provides allowance for employers to defer paying their share of Social Security tax for the remainder of 2020, installment dates are stipulated as 50% by December 31, 2021 and 50% by December 31, 2022. There can be great value in deferring the deduction until stipulated pay dates, however paying early, if the company is able, can increase NOL for 2020 which can further benefit the refund claims as discussed below. A company’s accounting method, cash basis, accrual, etc can also have an impact on the timing of recognition and cash impact.

Disaster loss refunds The COVID-19 disaster declaration designated all 50 states, district and territories of the US as disaster areas. What this means for businesses is that they may be eligible for covered losses directly attributable to COVID-19; inventory loss, workplace closures, etc. As a disaster related loss in 2020 businesses may also be able to amend 2019 tax returns and claim the losses for quicker refunds.

QIP depreciation The CARES Act fixed a previously standing problem with bonus depreciation. Qualified Improvement Property (QIP) depreciation can now be claimed retroactively back to January 1, 2018 on the 2020 tax filing or through amended 2018 and 2019 tax returns to receive the full benefit of the bonus depreciation.

AMT refunds The CARES Act accelerated the timeline for claiming unused AMT credits into 2018 and 2019 for quicker refunds. There are several different ways to go about filing for this refund.

Refund Claims The CARES Act put into play claims for NOL carrybacks for five years against prior taxes. Businesses can use losses from 2018, 2019 and 2020 against past income and apply for a refund. Consider accelerating deductions into 2020 for larger refund claims; it might be time to think about the benefits of accrual accounting. NOL carryback refunds can not be claimed until the 2020 return is filed; it may be best to file early.

If in planning for your tax year end close you determine that a change in accounting method may suit your business’ needs be sure to consider and understand the impact to you 2021 projections. Pulling or pushing revenue between years requires the same treatment of expenses and vice versa.

Some other tips when considering your personal return.

Charitable contributions The CARES Act has put into play the allowance of up to $300 for cash contributions without the need to itemize deductions. The Tax Code generally limits the claim of charitable contributions to those that file itemized deductions on their personal return. As a reminder itemized deductions include mortgage interest, real estate taxes, medical costs in excess of stated rate above AGI. Prior to the CARES Act if you did not itemize deductions you could not claim charitable deductions; for 2020, you can.

Stimulus check impact The CARES Act also issued stimulus checks of up to $1,200 per taxpayer and $500 per qualified dependent children. These were released by the IRS and structured as a 2020 advance of tax credit. The checks were paid out based on 2018 or 2019 returns filed, if the 2020 credit calculation is less than the stimulus check received, there is no penalty however, if the check received was less than the calculated credit this difference can be claimed as an additional refund.

Penalties This word alone makes me nervous, but with all of the financial and cash flow upset experienced this year it would be wise to understand where your withholding is before the close of the year. Review your taxable earnings and tax bracket to ensure that you have paid in enough withholding through the year to penalty proof yourself. You can remit estimated tax payments if your withholding is not sufficient. Did you pick up 1099 jobs to supplement your income from lost hours or wages with your employer? 1099 income would not have had the proper withholding and may put you in a position to where you have not paid enough taxes during the year.

We wish you luck in preparing for your year end tax planning. It is strongly recommended that with all of the changes and benefits made available to businesses this year that you seek out and find well versed and experienced tax professionals to guide you through your tax filings. Working through some of these challenging tax matters may provide a little sigh of relief after a tough year.

Friday the 13th! Weekly Round Up

Did you know that Friday the 13th occurs in any month that begins on a Sunday? Quite simple math but I never really thought about it! The fear of Friday the 13th affects an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States, according to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute. However, studies on accident trends show that fewer accidents are reported on this day, as people are likely more cautious and limit travel and activities. You can find more interesting tidbits on the history of Friday the 13th at Earthsky.org

Here are our highlights from the week

Veteran’s Day 2020

The United States just honored its Veterans with the observance of Veteran’s Day. The anniversary of Veteran’s Day marks the end of World War I back in 1918. Originally coined as Armistice Day, to reflect the signing of the armistice between the Allies of World War I and Germany, was renamed Veteran’s Day in 1954 to honor all those that have served in the U.S. Military. November 11th is also celebrated by other countries as Armistice Day and Remembrance Day. While times have certainly changed for our Country since the early 1900’s, I thought sharing the below quote from President Woodrow Wilson, on the first anniversary of such an important day, was fitting for the times.

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service, and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations.” You can find more on the History of Veteran’s Day, here at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is also always accepting donations and volunteers. Learn more on how you can show thanks and give back, year-round, to those whom have given us so much.

MilitaryBenefits.info has put together a listing of the 2020 Veteran’s Day Free Meals and Deals for those of our Veterans reading this post, many of them throughout the week and month of November.

To all Veterans, We thank you for your sacrifice, your bravery, and our freedom.

Hot for PEOs and Small Business

AllRisks is pushing their Self-Storage Facility Program in light of non-renewal trends related to program administrators losing their markets. AllRisks has been providing solutions for storage-related exposures including products for boat/RV storage operators, self-storage facilities and converted buildings. They have 2 exclusive Self-Storage Programs with National Capabilities. AllRisks offers over 30 National Specialty Insurance Programs ranging from Amusement Insurance to Tattoo Shops. Contact Libertate Insurance today for more information.

PIE Insurance released updates of important need to know facts about workers compensation claims fraud and how to protect your business. Types of workers’ comp insurance fraud fall into three categories:

1- Employees committing claim-related fraud by fabricating details surrounding an injury. Injury claim indicates injury happened at work in the warehouse, when it really happened on a ski trip over the weekend

2- Employers may engage in policy-related fraud by falsely reporting employees as contractors or by improper employee classification; i.e. admin desk position is reported when employee is actually a warehouse worker performing manual labor

3- Healthcare professionals can commit medical provider fraud by performing unnecessary services to collect insurance payments, fraudulent billing or partaking in kick-back programs

Workers’ comp fraud has historically cost between $6 and $7 billion dollars each year based on estimates from CAIF (Coalition Against Insurance Fraud) and the NICB (National Insurance Crime Bureau). Insurance fraud is a white-collar crime and can lead to fines and imprisonment, and increased premiums and penalties for small businesses. The Claims Journal issued an article in August of 2020, indicating that with COVID-19 the California Workers Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau is estimating annual losses in the state of $1.2 billion, extrapolated nationally approximating $5 billion. The plan to combat fraud? Data! Insurers are accessing cross-payer, multi-year claims data to identify repeat claimants, attorneys and medical providers.

How do we protect ourselves and our businesses? Educate and Document!

  • Be forthcoming about physical requirements and hazards of the job
  • Educate employees as to the proper way to lift, pull, and carry objects
  • Provide training on work-related hazards, exposure risks, and safety equipment
  • Inform employees and new hires about a zero-tolerance policy for false claims
  • Teach employees how workers’ comp works and how to correctly report injuries
  • Provide a safe way for employees to report suspicious workers’ comp activity
  • Maintain and report accurate records regarding employee roles and numbers

This is great HR information to help support businesses and mitigate risk. If you have questions or are limited in your HR resources contact Libertate Insurance today, we can help.

NAPEO released its November 2020 edition of PEO Insider, for members. Interesting Featured Articles in this month’s release include Q&A on State Legislative and Regulatory Trends, Non-COVID-19 Developments in the States, What PEOs Need to Know About the SECURE (Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement) Act, and so much more. Take a few minutes and dive into some of these interesting and useful articles. NAPEO is a great organization for all things PEO.

NAPEO also hosted an online webinar last night, for members, going over the 2020 Election and what’s next! Georgia and Washington are in recount and lawsuits have been filed in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada as well as Pennsylvania.

Notable key dates in the upcoming months:

December 8th – states are required to settle all disputes

December 14th – Electoral College meets at state level and votes for President

January 6th – Joint Session of Congress counts electoral votes and declares a winner

January 21st – President is sworn in

If you are not currently a member of NAPEO, visit their site here and learn how to join.

Weekend in Sports

There are a ton of football events continuing this weekend with football seemingly back in full swing. South Alabama vs Louisiana, Notre Dame vs. Boston College, Miami vs. Virginia Tech, USC vs. Arizona, Florida State vs. NC State and the list continues, hope you have the opportunity to catch your favorite team. For our NFL roster Kansas City comes in the first ranking spot for week 10, they have a bye week so we won’t be able to watch them play this weekend. The next highest ranking teams are Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Pittsburgh squares off against Cincinnati 4:25pm ET catch them on FOX and Baltimore will battle New England at 8:20pm (ET) available on NBC. Find more on your favorites here at ESPN.com

Have a Great Weekend Everyone!

Hurricane Zeta – Tips

Another hurricane in the Gulf; Re-circulating reminders of how to handle the claims.   Be Safe and let us know if we can help!

National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) – for those with an NFIP policy, here is a direct link to their site fema.gov/flood-insurance. Here you can find Claim Forms, Disaster Relief Fund: Monthly Reports, by State, for the progress of Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance being offered. You can also apply for Emergency Assistance.

Tips from Ready.gov.  Ready.gov is a great place to go in preparing for hurricanes but also has tips to support the aftermath.

Returning Home After a Hurricane

  • Listen to local officials for information and special instructions.
  • Be careful during clean-up. Wear protective clothing and work with someone else.
  • Do not touch electrical equipment if it is wet or if you are standing in water. If it is safe to do so, turn off electricity at the main breaker or fuse box to prevent electric shock.
  • Avoid wading in flood water, which can contain dangerous debris. Underground or downed power lines can also electrically charge the water.
  • Save phone calls for emergencies. Phone systems are often down or busy after a disaster. Use text messages or social media to communicate with family and friends.
  • Document any property damage with photographs. Contact your insurance company for assistance.

Tips for filing an insurance claim after the storm

  1. Contact your insurer as soon as possible, have a copy of your insurance policy handy and in a safe place.
  2. Start documenting loss (property and contents), as soon as it is safe to.  Pictures are a great way to document damage, hopefully you already have pictures of your property from before the storm.
  3. Locate information of emergency services and where they are available in your immediate area. Houston Emergency Operations Center , Louisiana Office of the Governor 
  4. Begin mitigating the damage to your property (temporary repairs), safely, to prevent further damage.  Maintain all receipts related to temporary repairs. Using reputable and licensed/insured contractors for temporary repairs is a good choice for those larger issues that you are unable to address yourself.
  5. Confirm with your insurer before you start discarding of damaged items
  6. Start a claim file, to keep track of calls, damage, and overall progress.  Log contractors that you have spoken with.  You will likely start getting visits from a lot of different service providers; take notes!

Hopefully you have prepared your businesses with a Hurricane Preparedness Plan and are rolling out the phases of such, but if not here is a link for some additional pointers OSHA.gov.

Ready.gov has also prepared an Emergency Financial First Aid kit.

If you have successfully come through this unscathed and want to help here are a few links:

American Red Cross you can make financial donations or sign up to volunteer

Global Giving has set up a Hurricane Laura Relief Fund and also offers a Corporate Giving platform

Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center It’s easy to forget during times of Hurricanes that the simple task of donating blood also helps restock the shelves, so to speak. Those injured from the storm may need blood and this a great way to prevent shortages.  Gulf Coast Regional Blood Centers have information on mobile sites, by day. Locations are already available today.

** As always, with donations, a little due diligence goes a long way.  Make sure you understand the organization that you are contributing to and where your contribution goes.

Be Well, Stay Safe

Scams and Fraud Alerts issued by SBA

The SBA has published information relating to scams and fraud identified surrounding the CARES Act. Read through the article below for tips and links to better protect yourself and your business.

____________________________________________________________________________

SBA Programs – Scams and Fraud Alerts

Effective Jul 14, 2020

By Office of Inspector General


DOWNLOAD .PDFhttps://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/SA2001-1.pdf

Beware of Scams and Fraud Schemes

The Office of Inspector General recognizes that we are facing unprecedented times and is alerting the public about potential fraud schemes related to economic stimulus programs offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration in response to the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19).  The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the largest financial assistance bill to date, includes provisions to help small businesses. Fraudsters have already begun targeting small business owners during these economically difficult times.  Be on the lookout for grant fraud, loan fraud, and phishing.

Scams and Fraud Schemes

Grants

  • SBA does not initiate contact on either 7a or Disaster loans or grants.  If you are proactively contacted by someone claiming to be from the SBA, suspect fraud.

Loans

  • If you are contacted by someone promising to get approval of an SBA loan, but requires any payment up front or offers a high interest bridge loan in the interim, suspect fraud.
  • SBA limits the fees a broker can charge a borrower to 3% for loans $50,000 or less and 2% for loans $50,000 to $1,000,000 with an additional ÂĽ% on amounts over $1,000,000.  Any attempt to charge more than these fees is inappropriate.
  • If you have a question about getting a SBA disaster loan, call 800-659-2955 or send an email to disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.
  • If you have questions about other SBA lending products, call SBA’s Answer Desk at 800-827-5722 or send an email to answerdesk@sba.gov.

Phishing

  • If you are in the process of applying for an SBA loan and receive email correspondence asking for PII, ensure that the referenced application number is consistent with the actual application number.
  • Look out for phishing attacks/scams utilizing the SBA logo.  These may be attempts to obtain your personally identifiable information (PII),to obtain personal banking access, or to install ransomware/malware on your computer.
  • Any email communication from SBA will come from accounts ending with sba.gov.
  • The presence of an SBA logo on a webpage does not guaranty the information is accurate or endorsed by SBA.  Please cross-reference any information you receive with information available at www.sba.gov.

Report Fraud

Report any suspected fraud to OIG’s Hotline at 800-767-0385 or online at, https://www.sba.gov/about-sba/oversight-advocacy/office-inspector-general/office-inspector-general-hotline.