COVID-19 Business Update – 10 December 2020

States that depend heavily on tourism have suffered greatly during the pandemic, and a few are taking creative steps to diversify their economies by attracting new remote workers. For example, Hawaii’s new “Movers and Shakas” program offers free roundtrip airfare to remote workers willing to spend at least 30 days working in that state and to contribute in some way to the local community. Tulsa is offering grants of $10,000 plus membership at a co-working space to new residents, while two counties in northwest Arkansas are offering $10,000 plus a bicycle.

As the virus spreads across the country, we hope you are continuing to stay safe and healthy!

CARES ACT UPDATES

Another stimulus bill?

After months of uncertainty, lawmakers finally reached a compromise on Sunday, December 6, for a new relief package. The deal includes an additional $300 per week of unemployment benefits, and an extension of the moratorium on evictions. It does not, however, include a second round of $1,200 checks, which may happen after President-elect Biden’s inauguration. Another round of support for small business with the Paycheck Protection Program is also included.

Tax Issues

Even if you won’t be itemizing your deductions for 2020, the CARES Act will allow you to deduct $300 of cash contributions to charities when you file your tax return in 2021. To get this deduction, your contribution must be made in cash to a qualifying charity by December 31, 2020. Be sure to keep records of your donations, which may be in the form of a canceled check, bank records, or an acknowledgment from the charity.

Help for small business

The “fail fast” approach has been used by the startup community as a way to quickly assess whether an idea is viable or not. If a change is successful, it’s retained. Otherwise, a new path is charted, based on data collected from the failed idea. This article in the New York times describes how three very different businesses used that notion to succeed during the pandemic. A center that offered psychotherapy and drop-in classes switched to an online cohort class model. A bagel bakery pivoted to online sales and found ways to ship bagels nationwide. A business that offered photo booths and selfie stations for events switched to selling gift boxes of items particular to different towns.

Fraud Alert

Older Americans have been especially vulnerable to fraud during the pandemic as essential services moved online. Fraudsters find them attractive because they tend to have more money in savings and they may not be digitally astute. These scams can range from fake messages from grandchildren in need of cash to get out of a dire situation to pet adoption scams to messages about a new stimulus program. According to the AARP, seniors have already lost nearly $183 million through these scams, with an average loss of about $320. Simple steps such as being wary of downloading documents from strangers and using unique passwords can ward off many of these attacks.

To stay safe during online holiday shopping, make sure you follow these five practices:

            1. Manage your passwords
        1. Use multi-factor authentication
        2. Beware of phishing
        3. Educate your children
        4. Be diligent

These simple habits will thwart most scams and will help keep more of your money where it belongs.

Working from home

A recent study reported in Fast Company found that the real problem in working from home is not the lack of physical presence in the same location, but a lack of social capital. Social capital is created when teams have ways to create meaningful connections, whether in person or virtually. Companies thriving in the remote world have taken some kind of action to keep people connected. Managers and supervisors who consistently make small, caring gestures help to build social connections. Structured and unstructured meetings for work and non-work purposes also keep everyone happily working together.

Even though just over half of workplaces plan to remain fully or partially remote through the first quarter of 2021, most still have not developed a formal remote workplace policy. That’s according to a recent study discussed in CFO.com. Remote work policies should address any pay differentials based on the location of workers and any additional benefits for remote workers to help them balance work and family life.

Looking for holiday gifts for remote workers? This guide from the Wall Street Journal includes suggestions to make working from home easier and more comfortable.

LIVING WITH AND AFTER THE PANDEMIC

 Work in the post-pandemic world

Leadership tactics that helped teams make it this far during the pandemic won’t work well as we face an uncertain and indefinite future.

Too much agility leads to chaos, while making a few firm commitments for how long remote work will continue gives teams a bit of certainty for the future. Acting strongly and decisively may be tempting, but we are entering uncharted waters, so gathering input and striving for a common understanding is crucial for moving forward. Annual rituals such as the holiday party should be retained, even if in an online format. Showing vulnerability instead of steadfast decisiveness builds trust in teams, which leads to higher levels of engagement and energy and lower stress levels.

GENERAL RESOURCES

We sincerely hope that you and your family are well and remain well. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are all in this together!

Your team at Lepper & Company, LLC

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