COVID-19 Update (09/16/2020)

As the world becomes more tech-centric, our behaviors have changed in ways that Emily Post could not have envisioned when she first compiled her guidance on etiquette. Fortunately for us, Alex Schmidt at the Wall Street Journal put together a witty list of 21 tech-related rules for this era. For example, number five states “We’re pretty certain that watching a video on your smartphone, at full volume, without headphones, violates the Geneva Convention. If not, start revising, Geneva.” Number 11 reminds us to “Use video doorbells to ward off porch pirates and document cute animals that wandered into your yard—not to spy on your only mildly sinful neighbors.”

If you need a bit of brightness in your day, here’s a farmer in Wisconsin who planted over 2 million sunflowers on his pick-your-own farm to give people respite from the pandemic.

CARES ACT UPDATES

Another stimulus bill?

The continuing impasse between Democrats and Republicans makes it unlikely that we’ll see another stimulus bill of the magnitude of the CARES Act. This summary from CNet lays out the possible elements of a stimulus package and their status in various proposals. For example, the $300 per week authorized by President Trump’s Executive Order was only in place for six weeks and is already ending in some states. Democrats want a return to the generous $600 per week of the CARES Act, but Republicans want to slim the benefit to $300 per week.

Economic Impact Payments (aka Stimulus Checks)

The IRS is in the process of sending letters to approximately nine million people who were entitled to stimulus checks but did not received a payment. These are largely people who did not file a 2018 or 2019 tax return, but who are otherwise eligible. In an effort to reach them, the IRS is sending letters that encourage them to use their online tool by October 15. Otherwise, their only option will be to wait until 2021 when they file their 2020 tax return.

HELP FOR SMALL BUSINESS

Main Street Lending Program

Even though $600 billion was allocated to this program, only $1.2 billion in loans had been completed as of September 3. Of the 118 loans closed by the end of August, only 11 were for less than $1 million, and only one was close to the minimum loan amount of $250,000. In response, the president of the Boston Federal Reserve, Eric Rosengren, is urging Congress to relax the rules so that smaller organizations can participate. Small businesses are finding the rules to be too restrictive for their needs.

WORKING FROM HOME

Building relationships in a remote world is more challenging than in person, so this piece in FM Magazine offers ideas for building employee morale. Sending everyone a recipe, then scheduling a zoom meal meeting can help replace the bonding that occurs over food. Adding fun to meetings with contests and including time for talking about personal issues can help keep teams connected. Technology can also be leveraged, by adding a Slack channel or setting up virtual events, such as painting parties or tea tasting, as this article in Fast Company explains.

Face-to-face connection isn’t the only casualty of remote work: chiropractors report an increase in work-related injuries as workers leave behind their ergonomic work stations to improvise with sofas, laptops, and kitchen tables. Even children are impacted, as they spend hours every day crouched over laptops or phones instead of moving around. Some fixes are easy, such as setting a timer to encourage regular stretching and movement, while others may require buying an external keyboard or changing to a better chair.

LIVING WITH AND AFTER THE PANDEMIC

Work in the post-pandemic world

Companies that have been remote from the beginning have solved many of the problems we’ve seen in the last few months. Tech company GitLab has 1,300 employees spread across 65 countries and, as this article in Harvard Business Review demonstrates, remote work doesn’t mean spending all day in video calls. Because GitLab employees are scattered across time zones, developing methods to work asynchronously has been key to its success. Projects are broken into small tasks which can be completed by a responsible person, and then reviewed by another person. Communicating internally via Slack means that everyone in the company has access to relevant information.

Prior to the pandemic, approximately 40% of workers in wealthy countries had jobs that could be performed remotely. While the trend for remote work had been on the rise for the last several decades, the pandemic forced a radical shift in work habits that will likely change how we work forever. Early reports suggest higher levels of happiness and productivity, but at a cost of longer workdays. We can expect future changes to workplace cultures and government policies designed around having people work in a central office instead of separately and asynchronously.

Back to school

With many universities and colleges either on lockdown or restricted physical access, many students and their families are questioning exactly what their tuition is paying for. With at best a limited on-campus experience, students are wondering whether the cost of their education is really worth the big price tag. Some are asking for discounts or refunds. However, university budgets are also feeling a pinch from loss of state revenue, and need to keep certain fees in place to ensure that programs will continue once pandemic restrictions are lifted.

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!