The worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 can’t be ignored or denied. It’s safe to say that most of us did not expect an outbreak to develop so quickly or the dramatic changes a pandemic brings to our communities, workplaces, and lives. As we stay home, stay away from others, and cope as best we can with this health and economic crisis, here are a few things to keep in mind.
As individuals, we can put ourselves in a better position to cope with life events. As business owners, we need to pay close attention to changes in state and federal laws and to what may be available for assistance.
For all of us, now more than ever it’s a good time to make sure estate planning documents are in place and up-to-date. A complete estate plan includes a health care directive (HCD), power-of-attorney (POA), will, and often a trust.
The HCD and POA are very important to have in place during an unexpected health event. The HCD and POA allow a family member or trusted individual to assist you, make decisions for you, and take care of personal and business matters, if you need help during your lifetime. The HCD and POA can head off the need for a court-appointed guardian or court-appoint conservator. They are simple yet powerful documents that are very important for everyone to have in place.
For business owners and their employees, there are changes in state and federal laws going into effect right now that need to be followed and understood.
On March 16th, by executive order, Minnesota’s Governor Tim Walz modified and expanded the state’s unemployment insurance program to help workers impacted by COVID-19. There is no longer a one-week waiting period. Qualification rules have been modified and clarified, so that a person who is not working due to COVID-19 illness or exposure concerns will qualify for unemployment benefits, and so will a person who must stay home to care for children because school or child care has been shut down. Employers will get a break on future tax liability for payment of COVID-19 unemployment benefits.
As I began to write this article on March 18th, Congress passed the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” or “FFCRA” (H.R. 6201). Generally, the Act requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide up two-weeks paid sick leave to employees who are being tested, treated, or diagnosed with the coronavirus. Paid family leave (at a partial rate) is available for employees who need to stay home to take care of children whose school or day care has been closed. These paid leave provisions are subject to caps and some exceptions, and tax credits will be available. Smaller businesses with fewer than 50 employees may apply for a hardship waiver with regard to the family leave.
Just how the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act impacts you or your business will require further review and analysis of the Act’s provisions. All of us should watch for additional aid and stimulus packages to be passed by Congress; they are currently being debated in Congress right now.
As we now know, the COVID-19 pandemic is a fluid and rapidly changing situation. It’s very important to seek out reliable sources of information. Resources for individuals and business owners are available on government and other websites, such as the Center for Disease Control, Minnesota Department of Health, U.S. Department of Labor, and Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).
Your professional service providers such as attorneys, financial advisors, accounting firms, insurance agents, real estate brokers, lenders, closing companies and the like can also assist you over the phone and via email. Our offices remain open whether actually or remotely, and we are ready to answer your questions.
Any requests for topic suggestions may be sent to email@example.com. Although we cannot give you legal advice through the column, we can provide some general information that may be helpful for you to know. Our purpose is to educate and we hope that you can take something new away from this column each time you read it.