The struggle is real — for our health, of course, but also our bank accounts. Millions will be unemployed, and businesses are shutting down — a recession is looming. We don’t know how deep we’ll go, but we do know the abruptness of the decline is unprecedented.

“Smaller companies will be hit harder than large ones because of their limited access to credit and less cash in the bank,” wrote Nelson D. Schwartz in the New York Times. “There will be a swath of small businesses that simply won’t be able to survive this,” he quoted Ellen Zentner, chief US economist at Morgan Stanley.

We all know that the backbone of our economy is small businesses — but also freelancers (certainly the backbone of BEAHIVE’s membership; the remainder are remote workers).

“More than one-third of the American workforce works independently — more than 50 million people — and they contribute an estimated $1 trillion to the country’s GDP,” says Freelancers Union executive director Rafael Espinal. “Our numbers are growing, and government must recognize freelancers as members of this country’s thriving small business community.”

In fact, as I’ve written about, the majority of the US workforce will be freelancers by 2027.

But much of the coronavirus aid being bandied about in Washington and Albany will directly support employees and corporations. Small businesses and self-employed freelancers are left to mostly fend for ourselves.

So, we’re doing some of the research for what support is available. Here’s a compilation that we’ll update as the situation evolves. (If you have anything to add or edit, let us know.)

Updated April 22 @ 7:48 AM ET

Taxes + Finances

Mortgages + Rent

  • NY State has directed mortgage servicers to provide 90-day relief to impacted borrowers, which includes:
    • Waiving mortgage payments based on financial hardship.
    • No negative reporting to credit bureaus.
    • Grace period for loan modification.
    • No late payment fees or online payment fees.
    • Postponing or suspending foreclosures.
    • It’s unclear if this applies only to residential borrowers or also commercial, though the language says “for any person or entity,” which seems to imply commercial.
  • NY State has also implemented a 90-day moratorium on evictions and foreclosures for both residential and commercial tenants.
  • NY State Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris has proposed a 90-day suspension of residential and commercial rent for impacted tenants and small businesses.

Health Insurance

  • NY State has opened a special enrollment period through May 15 for the uninsured. View health plan choices here. Call 855-355-5777 to sign up.

Business Insurance

  • If you have it, contact your agent to review your policy to understand what you are and are not covered for in the event of extended business interruption.

Small Businesses

  • Check out the $2 trillion stimulus package recently signed into law, named the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. It includes loan forgiveness grants to small businesses (including sole proprietors) to keep their existing workforce and help pay for operating costs like rent, mortgage, and utilities. And includes emergency grants for immediate relief for operating costs.
    • The programs have run out of money, but it’s expected that Congress will pass another stimulus round.
  • Community Capital New York is offering low-interest Emergency Express Loans to small businesses suffering from a drop in cash flow. They can provide up to $10,000 for owners with a credit score of 650-plus.
  • Save Small Business Fund
    Grantmaking initiative from the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation offering short-term relief for small employers (3 – 20 employees) in “an economically vulnerable community.”
  • Salesforce Care Small Business Grants
    For businesses with 2 to 50 employees in operation for 2 full years as of March 2020 and with annual revenues between $250k and $2M.
  • Fundera’s Best Small Business Grants for 2020
    From federal and state options for Coronavirus aid to general grants for women, minorities, and veterans.
  • Facebook Small Business Grants Program
  • Cash grants and ad credits. Taking applications in the coming weeks, but you can sign up to receive more information when it becomes available.
  • Dutchess Business Notification Network
    Great county resource created in response to COVID-19 to share important updates, guidelines, and information. Daily updates.
    • The network has “asked elected officials for consideration to create an unemployment program for small business owners.”
  • SBA Small Business Guidance & Loan Resources
  • NY State Empire State Development FAQ for Businesses
    ESD promotes the state and local economies and encourages business investment and job creation through loans, grants, tax credits, real estate development, marketing, etc.
  • New York Small Business Development Center
    Free confidential counseling, training, and research, including navigating state and federal grant and loan programs.
  • SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors, has set up the Coronavirus Small Business Resource Hub, with “practical advice and insightful tips.”
  • Note from Pursuit, which provides businesses in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania with affordable loans and resources:
    • “It will be tempting to seek out online lenders that can provide fast capital despite their high-cost rates and terms that will be unaffordable in the long run.
    • “Continue to carefully evaluate all loan options before moving forward and consider the long-term impact on your business. Do not make a bad situation worse by taking out a high-cost loan.
    • “Your first option should be to contact your existing creditors to see if they have deferral options or products that can be helpful.
    • “If you can be somewhat patient, it can pay off. Multiple disaster relief loan programs are in the works at the federal, city and state levels. These loans will provide responsible, low-interest funding to businesses that qualify.”
  • Our friends at the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA) and the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) are bringing together business and nonprofit partners across the US to advocate for federal policies. The “Five Steps to Keep American Business Alive” plan aims to “help small and mid-sized local and independent businesses (including farms and fishermen) in all communities across the US survive this crisis.”
    • Provide federal assistance to small and mid-size businesses to cover expanded paid leave at 100%, and 100% of their employees’ health insurance.
    • Maximize unemployment benefits through federal government assistance so that laid-off employees can pay their bills.
    • Restructure and/or defer bank debt and deliver adequate cash into the hands of small and mid-size businesses to cover lost revenue from the shutdown or turn-down of business.
    • Pay insurance companies to cover standard “business interruption insurance” for the pandemic.
    • Institute a moratorium on evictions, foreclosures, utility shut-offs, and auto/equipment repossessions.
    • Join the petion as a business or nonprofit partner, and sign the Change.org petition as an individual here.

Freelancers / Self-Employeed

  • The IRS has announced 100% refundable tax credits for paid leave for small and midsize businesses, including the self-employed, to cover employee’s own health needs or to care for family members or child care.
  • Check out the $2 trillion stimulus package recently signed into law, named the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Senator Schumer pushed for expanded unemployment insurance that includes coverage for freelancers and gig workers for the first time. Cuomo has pushed for it at the federal level, while the NY State “pursue[s] long-term statewide reforms.”
    • According to the NY Times: “Benefit amounts would be calculated based on previous income, using a formula from the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program, according to a congressional aide. Self-employed workers would also be eligible for the additional $600 weekly benefit provided by the federal government.”
  • The CARES Act includes the Paycheck Protection Program, forgivable loans to pay employees during the COVID-19 crisis, and this includes sole proprietors, independent contractors and self-employed.
    • Loan amounts will be forgiven as long as proceeds are used to cover payroll costs, and most mortgage interest, rent, and utility costs over the 8-week period after the loan is made; and employee and compensation levels are maintained.
    • The program has run out of money, but it’s expected that Congress will pass another stimulus round.
  • Freelancers Union has created a Freelancers Relief Fund offering up to $1,000 per freelance household to cover lost income and essential expenses not covered by government relief programs, including food/food supplies, utility payments, and cash to cover income loss. Apply or donate to the fund here.
  • COVID-19 Freelance Artist Resources
  • National Association for the Self- Employed (NASE)
  • Freelancers Union continues to fight for freelancers. Rafael Espinal sent a letter to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and other NY State and City elected officials, saying, in part: “Any and all financial safety nets that are implemented in this moment of economic crisis must include freelancers.”

Employees: Unemployment + Benefits

  • Cuomo enacted a law that provides benefits — including sick leave, paid family leave, and disability benefits — to New York employees impacted by mandatory or precautionary orders of quarantine or isolation. More info here or call the COVID-19 Hotline at 1-888-364-3065.
    • The Feds have followed suit, guaranteeing 100% reimbursement to employers, with potential exemptions for companies with fewer than 50 employees.
  • Unemployment insurance: NY State is waiving the 7-day waiting period for benefits for people who are out of work due to closures or quarantines.

General Info

  • Latest NY State news
    A wealth of information for individuals, businesses, and local authorities.
  • Coronavirus news from The River
    Chronogram’s analytic news site is collaborating with other local journalists and news outlets to provide excellent reporting and analysis of the outbreak as it happens. Subscribe to their COVID-19 newsletter to get updates on how it’s affecting daily life in the Hudson Valley and Catskills.

Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

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