FAQ’s – Questions from NKY Chamber Members

FAQ’s

 

What is the NKY Chamber doing to help its members through this crisis?   

The NKY Chamber is working on helping our members through this in several ways.  First, we are committed to providing you with the information you need to navigate your business through this crisis. We are sending out daily e-mail updates, video updates, social media posts and website updates, all in an effort to keep everyone informed.  Please continue to visit http://www.nkychamber.com/news/covid-19/ for the most up-to-date information.  Second, we are advocating on behalf of businesses and communicating with elected officials at all levels, on ideas and suggestions for public policies that will help sustain and promote business AND improve the economy.  We are promoting those businesses that are still open and encouraging everyone to support our local small businesses.  Finally, we are helping businesses “navigate the waters” of getting loans, connecting businesses with the right public officials, and providing advice on “best practices” when it comes to operating during this pandemic.    

 

What can I do to keep myself and my employees safe?  

The CDC website contains information and guidance for businesses as well as cleaning and disinfecting recommendations.  

 

The Northern Kentucky Health Department has created a variety of resources for businesses and employees to use as they return to work.  Click here to view.   

 

What businesses and employees are considered “essential”?  

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released official guidance from the President regarding the Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19. This guidance states that: 

“If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as healthcare services and pharmaceutical and food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.”  

For more information on the Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19, please click here. 

 

Is my business one that must close?  

Gov. Beshear has outlined types of businesses that must close as well as specifying what may stay open. The order outlining the restrictions can be found here 

 

How can I apply for a small business disaster loan? 

The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering designated states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury from COVID-19. These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that a business cannot pay due to COVID-19. Kentucky is working to gain approval to apply for Small Business Administration (SBA) loans. When this is approved, Kentucky businesses can apply at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/ We also encourage you to talk to your local banks to see if they have small business loans. Below are additional resources from the Small Business Administration:  

 

If my company has to lay off employees because of the coronavirus, will they be able to get unemployment benefits? How soon will these benefits begin?  

The Kentucky Cabinet for Education and Workforce Development is extending unemployment insurance benefits to those who are experiencing job loss because of coronavirus or due to quarantine from the coronavirus. They will consider it a temporary job loss, similar to if an employer has to have a shutdown. The state is also waiving the seven day wait period of requesting unemployment benefits and any work search requirementsFor more information and to file for unemployment, please visit http://www.kewes.ky.gov 

Below is information and instructions regarding employer filed Mass Electronic Claim (E-Claims) for unemployment insurance. E-claims are available to (eligible) employers in Kentucky.   Note: per directives from Gov Beshear, employers eligible for e-claim filing now include companies of at least 50 employees laying off at least 15 workers. 

The necessary documents are accessible via these downloadable links: 

Employer Information E-Claim Guide (IMPORTANT: REVIEW FIRST)  

Employer Directions for Submitting an E-Claim File 

 E-Claim Data Error Reporting 

 Example of Claimant Directions 

 The E-Claim Template 

  • This is the actual E-Claim file that the employer will submit to the Office of Unemployment Insurance at UIeclaims@ky.gov to initiate the claim filing.    E-Claim Template . The downloadable Excel file template must be used. 

 Please note that the “return to work date within 4 weeks” requirement is temporarily suspended. Due to the current situation, they are allowing employers to file for the employees even if the layoff may extend beyond that time-period. 

Here is a link to the UI Debit Card Info for employees.   

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Mass Electronic Claim for Unemployment Insurance at 502-564-2369 or UIeclaims@ky.gov . 

 

Does KY allow for partial unemployment benefits for an employee who is still employed by his/her regular employer, but is working less than normal full-time hours due to lack of available work? 

  

Credit to DBL Employment Law Team, partial benefits are provided for by subpart (3) of KRS 341.080. 

  

Per this statute, in order to qualify, normally the employee must perform less than full-time work for at least 7 days, and earn less than 1.25 times the employee’s benefit rate during that 7-day period; however, the 7 day period is now waived due to the current COVID-19 situation. DBL Law attorneys have been advising employer clients to have employees apply if hours are reduced so that unemployment can review all factors.   

  

A calculator for determining an employee’s benefit rate can be found by clicking here. So, if an employee’s hours are reduced and would earn less than 1.25 times the benefit rate determined by the foregoing calculator, then the employee would appear to be eligible for partial benefits. 

 

 

Has Kentucky deferred premium payments for workers’ compensation to June like Ohio recently did? 

No.  Ohio’s workers’ compensation program is state run, which is different than Kentucky’s open market system.  Gov. DeWine can defer policy holder’s premium payments into a state-run system, while Gov. Beshear is unable to force private insurance companies to defer payments.   

 

What are the new federal laws/requirements regarding paid leave for employees?   

The new law is the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. It has two substantial provisions that impact employers and employees: (1) Amends the FMLA to apply to people affected by COVID-19; and (2) Provides emergency paid sick leave to people affected by COVID-19.  

Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) 
What Changes: 

  • Covers employers with fewer than 500 employees. This means that small companies that were previously exempt from the FMLA are now obligated to follow these provisions for Coronavirus-related leave but not for other FMLA matters. There are provisions for small employers, healthcare providers and first responders to seek an exemption but it is not immediately clear how that process will work.  
    It applies to individuals employed at least 30 days. 
    New definitions of parent and family members. 
    Up to 12 weeks of leave. (This is not a change.)  
  • Job restoration required for employers with 25 or more employees. 
  • Smaller employers may have flexibility if the position no longer exists. 
    The first 10 days under the EFMLEA are unpaid. After that period, employers must pay 2/3 of the employee’s regular rate for normal hours/schedule. There is a limit of $200/day and $10,000 total per employee. There are calculation methods for part-time employees and employees with irregular hours. 

What Doesn’t Change?  

  • The EFMLEA provisions apply only to individuals affected by COVID-19. The “regular” provisions of the FMLA remain in place. 

When is the EFMLEA Effective?  

  • The EFMLEA amendments are effective 15 days after enactment and remain in effect until 12/31/2020. 

Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) 
What’s Included?  

  • 80 hours of paid sick leave for eligible employees who miss work for COVID-19 related reasons. The list of covered circumstances is broad and includes caring for non-family members. There are reductions in amount of pay an employee receives for certain circumstances. 
  • Applies to Employers with fewer than 500 employees. 
  • There is no length of employment requirement.  
  • Caps on Sick Leave Pay: limited to $511/day (up to $5110 total) per employee for their own use and $200/day (up to $2000 total) to care for others.  
  • This is in addition to any paid sick leave already provided by employers. 
  • The paid sick leave program becomes effective 15 days after enactment and remains in effect until 12/31/2020. 

What are Qualified Family Leave Wages? 
“Qualified family leave wages” means wages and compensation paid by an employer which are required to be paid by the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, including when an employee is unable to work due to the need to leave to care for a child who is unable to go school or a child care provider. 
   
What is the amount of Qualified Sick Leave Wages Taken into Account? 
The amount of “qualified sick leave wages” taken into account in determining the tax credit with respect to any employee generally shall not exceed $200, or $511 (in certain cases when the employee is subject to a quarantine order, has been advised to self-quarantine, or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19) for any day (or partial day) for which the employee is paid qualified sick leave wages.  This is on a per day (or partial day) basis.  Nevertheless, there appears to be a 10 day aggregate limitation on the number of days taken into account with respect to each employee. 
   
What is the amount of Qualified Family Leave Wages Taken into Account? 
The amount of qualified family leave wages taken into account in determining the tax credit with respect to any individual shall not exceed $200 for any day, or partial day, for which the individual is paid qualified family leave wages and, $10,000, in the aggregate with respect to all calendar quarters. 
   
Is there a limitation on the amount of the credit? 
The payroll tax credits discussed above shall not exceed the employer’s portion of social security taxes for such calendar quarter on the wages paid with respect to all employees of the employer.  However, any excess credit amount (i.e., if the credit exceeds the employer’s portion of social security taxes for a calendar quarter) shall be a refundable tax credit to the employer. 
   
Are the wages paid by reason of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act Subject to the 6.2% Excise Tax (the Employer’s Portion of the Social Security Tax Imposed on the Employee’s Wages)? 
No, the Act provides that such wages shall not be considered wages for purposes of IRC § 3111(a). 
   
Are self-employed individuals eligible for the same tax credit? 
Self-employed individuals are able to qualify for a tax credit against income taxes due to sick leave or family leave.  With respect to sick leave, the amount is limited to $200 per day (not to exceed 67% of the average daily self-employment income of such individual) (if the individual is caring for a family member) or $511 per day (if the individual is subject to quarantine or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19).   For sick leave, it appears that the number of eligible days to determine the credit is capped at 10.  With respect to family leave, the amount is limited to $200 per day (not to exceed 67% of the average daily self-employment income of the individual for the taxable year).  For family leave, it appears that the number of eligible days to determine the credit is capped at 50. 

 

Does my business insurance cover loss of income? 

No.  The Northern Kentucky Chamber has members, along with many other businesses in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the United States of America, that are currently suffering loss of business income from government forced closures due to the coronavirus.  Insurance companies are being asked if their commercial insurance policies cover loss of business income.  Unfortunately, this coverage only applies in the event that there is direct physical loss to the property, such as a fire or tornado. While unemployment payments have been made available to employees of these establishments, the business owners are currently being left out.  During the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the federal government worked with the insurance industry to create terrorism coverage on commercial property policies.  This is a good policy decision to consider in the coming days as the federal government crafts legislation to assist in response to the coronavirus.   

 

What assistance is available to companies in the international trade business?  

The Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) is announcing relief provisions for exporters and financial institutions located throughout the United States that may have been affected by COVID-19 (coronavirus). More information can be found here 

 

Should employees be working from home?  

It is recommended that if your company has the capability to do so, any employees that can work from home should do so for the foreseeable future. This decision is currently being made on a company-by-company basis. It is also recommended to cut the number of people in the office, if possible.  

 

How far in advance should my business cancel an event? 

According to the CDC guidelines, any events scheduled to be held within at least the next eight weeks (as of 3/15/20) should be postponed or cancelled.  

 

How long will these restrictions last?  

We are not sure. But it is important that all businesses take the necessary precautions during this time in order to flatten the curve and move forward as soon as possible.  

 

What advice do you have to share from other organizations and business owners?  

In a recent NKY Chamber survey, we asked our members to share some of their best practices around their organizational response to COVID-19. Below is a sample of the responses we received. Communication is a common theme throughout the responses.  

  • People should be proficient in using technology to contact customers, suppliers, and stakeholders. When face-to-face is impacted, you must be equally influential via phone or video as you are in-person. 
  • I am committed to keeping all my employees staffed at 40 hours in order to best support them through this time, as we are in the food service industry and cannot offer work-from-home arrangements. That being said, I have offered all my staff the option to opt into an additional day off a week for the foreseeable future, should they deem that their time would be better spent elsewhere. Fortunately, none of my employees are dealing with the additional burden of having school aged children at home and no childcare. 
  • Be creative and understanding of employees’ new needs regarding work schedules. Your compassion will be rewarded in the long run with loyal employees. 
  • Major expense reduction, focus on other revenue resources, preserve cash as much possible 
  • Continue to stay plugged in and connected with other business owners and business assistance organizations.  We are not in this alone.  We can learn from each other and help each other get through these challenges. 
  • Take care of your employees first. Be empathetic to their concerns and supply resources to them before the general public. If you have services that can help the community, donate and just do it. 
  • Split breaks and lunch periods to minimize people in common areas. Split up the teams into micro teams for startup or mid-shift meetings. Cancel all large gatherings. Be extremely cautious when working with truck drivers, using gloves, and hand sanitizer. Drivers come into a wide range of contact and can easily transmit the disease. Eliminate all vendor visits that are not driving business continuity. 
  • Help to ease the mind of your employees to let them know that we will get through this. Stay on top of offers that the government will have for small businesses, i.e. loans and tax breaks 
  • Ability to work remotely.  Quarantined incoming client financial information for 24 hours.  More phone meetings vs. in-person.  Met with staff last week to encourage openness, make sure they knew our concerns and vice versa.  Also made sure all staff knew that we were flexing all PTO policies to allow employees to be "Advanced" additional vacation time against future earnings. 
  • Don't stop. Innovate. Stay relevant. Sell. Be productive. 
  • Cash is king. Conserve it however you can right now. 
  • Communicate as much as possible and centralize all of those communications (internal or external) onto one single source that employees or customers can reference frequently. 
  • Keeping employees informed is key.  It’s far better to create and widely share a regularly updated summary of facts and implications so you’re all on the same page. And constantly reframe your understanding of what’s happening. Don’t hold off on disseminating plans just because they might change. Create a living document, with a time-stamped “best current view,” and update it regularly, highlighting critical changes. 
  • Communication, communication, communication. Having a plan in place - whether developed from CDC and governmental guidelines - or from meetings and discussions inside of our company structure. Making sure your employees understand that you have a plan, and what your plan could include in the near future. 

 

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