As we are learning on the fly, things have evolved rapidly due to COVID-19 and will most likely continue here in the near future. In a series of recent communications focused on the Coronavirus and market volatility, we reiterated the importance of remaining calm and disciplined during these unsettling times and that we are here to help provide investment perspective by closely monitoring the markets while evaluating opportunities to rebalance and/or tax loss harvest.
Our entire team is working closely with many of you, concerned business owners, operators, executives and managers, as you navigate and lead your respective teams through these stressful times. Below are some common issues that we are discussing with our clients:
Federal Legislation (As Of Now)
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 6201) on Saturday, March 14, 2020, and is being debated by the U.S. Senate as we write this letter to expand both the Family Medical Leave Act and Paid Leave Act to support businesses with fewer than 500 employees.
It is expected that H.R. 6201 is the first of several more companion pieces of Federal legislation focused on employer-employee and business relief, which will include disaster relief loan assistance through the Small Business Administration (SBA).
Employers are at the epicenter in adopting policies, practices, and strategies to help curb the spread of Coronavirus.
- Working remotely can tax even well-prepared information technology systems; but, when such a practice is put into place quickly and under duress, data privacy and security become serious issues that can hamper compliance efforts.
- To aid employers in their efforts to aggressively contain Coronavirus without running afoul of applicable laws, the EEOC has released a technical assistance guide for employers. https://www.eeoc.gov/facts/pandemic_flu.html
- Specific time, place, attendance and medical/health operational safety, risks, and questions should be carefully considered as part of a well-thought-out response plan and discussed with your in-house team and outside professionals.
- Be mindful and cautious of HIPAA issues and response plans as set forth in the bulletin by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/february-2020-hipaa-and-novel-coronavirus.pdf
Be focused on all of your business relationships – now is the time to solidify trust, loyalty, and instill much needed peace of mind with your employees, management team, customers, investors, vendors and business partners by overcommunicating, overinvesting your time, and outperforming all others. Time to play offense, not defense!
Be proactive with your bankers and lenders regarding loan payments, structure, covenants and borrowing capacity. Consider whether this is an optimal time to inquire about a loan restructure, modification or refinance of existing debt, a loan paydown, and/or create additional borrowing capacity for both defensive and offensive purposes.
Your bankers will be reviewing and testing your projections and forecasts, so you should be prepared for that conversation as well. If you own a retail or brick-and-mortar business with heavy deposit/withdrawal needs, you should contact your bank’s retail branch to inquire on operating hours and/or limitations and restrictions.
Be empathetic and practical. It is time to reevaluate your marketing plan and budget. Your creative messaging and allocated dollars may no longer be appropriate or applicable. While now is not the time to stop calling on your prospects and customers, these sensitive, chaotic and uncertain times may require a new and different approach.
Use Of Data And Operating Reports
Businesses under stress and duress need more than ever to be making data-driven decisions, as opposed to emotional, reactionary, and/or uninformed decisions. Your businesses CRM and operating systems could be a treasure trove of valuable insights from which you may have overlooked or underappreciated during better times. From scheduling employee shifts to supply chain management, be sure to assemble facts to help you make logical decisions or ramp up/ramp down to mitigate risks.
Be proactive in reviewing your contractual and statutory rights. You may find yourself in the position of being unable to fulfill a contractual obligation as a result of the COVID-19-related developments. Other parties might also claim to not being able to fulfill its contractual obligations to you as a result of the of these same issues. As such, think about consulting your attorney and reviewing these issues and whether or not your contracts contain a “Force Majeure” clause and the impact of that provision.
Be aware on the latest fraud trends as they arise. Recently, fraudsters have begun leveraging concerns about the Coronavirus to target businesses and individuals. These parties send emails that appear to come from the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), or other reputable health organizations. Fraudsters use these deceptive emails to install malware on local computers and ultimately take control of sensitive information and credentials. The CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency) says to exercise caution in handling any email with a “Coronavirus” or “COVID-19”-related subject line, attachment, or hyperlink, and be wary of social media pleas, texts, or calls related to COVID-19.
Don’t Forget Your Network Of Resources
In addition to reaching out to us to talk through strategies and planning needs, you should consider contacting your health care providers, insurance brokers, accountants, attorneys, local, state and federal officials and any trade association(s), relative to your industry.
As we continuously strive to do more and be more for our clients, we hope you may find some of this information helpful as you navigate these unprecedented events for your family and your business . We are honored and humbled to be your trusted adviser in all times, especially today. As always, if you’d like to discuss any of these matters in greater detail, please reach out to us directly.