The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted “normal life” here in the United States and across the world on a large scale. While there was a strict quarantine at first, things started to look better, and restrictions started to lighten. Local governments reminded citizens to practice “social distancing” and avoid large crowds. But now, there’s a new wave of COVID-19 cases slowly building. This only means there will be new restrictions imposed.
Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York are leading the charge when it comes to imposing new restrictions.
And while all businesses throughout the country are dealing with the ramifications of the coronavirus and the steps to curb its spread, small businesses are the ones that are getting the short end of the stick.
If small businesses aren’t open—especially those in the service industry—they can’t make money. And without that steady cash flow, many business owners wonder how they’re going to pay the bills, pay their employees, and weather the storm (again).
One way to keep the cash flowing is to get external financing. But there are other steps you should take, too, to prepare for a closure—if it hasn’t happened already—as well as things to do if you’re forced to quarantine.
Quarantine vs. State of Emergency
|The phrases “quarantine” and “state of emergency” have been discussed a lot during the coronavirus outbreak, but they are two very different things.
You must understand them both to know how each one can affect your small business.
State of emergency
A government can declare a statement of emergency during several different situations, including natural disasters such as hurricanes or blizzards or medical pandemics/epidemics. By declaring a state of emergency, a government can perform actions and impose policies it wouldn’t usually be permitted to undertake.
During a state of emergency, a government can tell citizens to alter their normal behavior while also putting into action emergency plans from specific agencies.
A quarantine, meanwhile, would take that one step further. Designed to prevent the spread of disease, it’s an official restriction on the movement of people and goods. From an individual standpoint, this could mean forcing people to stay indoors. From a business standpoint, it could mean requiring non-essential business industries to close their doors.
Under the Public Health Service Act, the federal government in the United States has the power to impose a quarantine to prevent the spread of disease into the U.S. or between states.
The situation in America
Quarantines are, usually, last-resort actions. But they are proven to help reduce the number of cases of COVID. But while governments in other countries, like Italy and China, have imposed very strict quarantines, neither the federal nor state governments in America have the power to impose such strict standards here.
State governments in the US have quarantine powers, and some have already decided to impose them to stop the spread of the coronavirus in their region. Laws vary from state to state, though, as to what each government can do specifically and how far they can reach.
This interactive map by the NY Times can help you keep up to date with coronavirus restrictions and mask mandates in your state.
What can we learn from the first quarantines and states of emergency back in March?
Many states announced wide-ranging moves to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but it took them quite a bit to impose official quarantines. But by being under a state of emergency, governments can put restrictions on the size of gatherings allowed to happen as well as what businesses were allowed to stay open.
What to Do if Your Business has Been Restricted?
Regardless of what the government’s official powers may be concerning a broad-stroke state of emergency or quarantine, it is possible, if not likely, that your small business will be significantly affected by any decree that prohibits you from remaining open. Keep reading to find ways to help your small business stay strong depending on what restrictions are imposed in your locality.
If your business is being affected by these restrictions, what are you to do?
It is challenging for any business, regardless of size, to prepare for a large-scale mandated shutdown like the ones we have experienced. Fortunately, you already know the game’s name, which can help you know what to expect and will allow you to better prepare yourself.
Work from home?
Companies that don’t rely on an office setting or welcoming customers could prepare by putting a work-from-home policy in place. Hopefully, by now, you and your employees know how to work from home and won’t have the problems many had adjusting to this setting at the beginning of the year.
If you’re in this situation and don’t already have a plan in place, start working on it ASAP. If you don’t have such a plan and need to close your store, you’ll be left scrambling to figure out how to mitigate your losses.
If you sell products
If you do have a store, you could open an eCommerce and start selling online to soften the blow. While this process could be a bit complicated if you’re not tech-savvy, it could be a lifesaver (consider hiring a freelance to help you with this step, that way, you’ll help someone that might need the work during this time while keeping your store -virtually- open).
If you already have an eCommerce, take advantage of the holidays to create sales and offers to improve your profits.
If you sell services
For service-related businesses—such as barbers and others—the only thing you may be able to do to prepare for a forced shutdown is to have enough cash on hand to weather the storm, as it would be tough to operate these businesses out of your home.
Although, you could consider offering home services. For example, if you’re a barber, you could book appointments go to people’s houses to cut their hair—unless that’s specifically prohibited by the state of emergency in your locality.
The food industry
If you own a restaurant or bar, you will have to ensure the quarantine or state of emergency will allow for any home delivery services to work. If so, you can stay open during this time and keep money incoming. Make sure to have a trustworthy method of delivering your goods; it could either be an employee or a food delivery app.
So, what can you do if your business needs to close temporarily?
Precisely what help will be available to you from the federal government isn’t entirely clear at this time, as Congress is still debating on what the second stimulus package will look like. They know they need to inject much-needed money into the economy; they just can’t get to agree how much it’s needed, though.
While president-elect Joe Biden has asked Congress to agree on a new stimulus round ASAP, it seems likely that we won’t see anything until January 2021.
So, at the moment, there is no personal (like the stimulus check) nor business aid (like the PPP or EIDL) from the government.
If you need to have cash on hand to strengthen your cash flows and prepare for what’s to come, a business loan is always a great option.
In the meantime, make sure to review the “Opening Up America Again” Guidelines, they can help you refresh your memory on what are the best practices to follow depending on the restrictions in your state.
Also, the U.S. Department of Labor has many resources directly related to coronavirus that can help guide employers on what to do. This includes everything from ensuring workplace safety if you’re allowed to remain open to information about common issues both employers and workers may face when responding to the coronavirus.
On a local level, your state should also have a department similar to the federal Department of Labor that can provide assistance. Check your specific state’s employment department to find out what resources might be available to you.
We can also help you with educational resources that will allow you to prepare, face head-on, and win this fight against COVID and any future quarantines. We created one of the largest (if not the largest) bilingual information hub for small business owners.
Difficult times are not only ahead for many small businesses in America, but they may already be here. With the nation’s response to the new wave of coronavirus cases escalating by the day, you could find yourself in the precarious position of having to deal with a government-mandated quarantine once again.
If you do, you could find yourself needing some financial assistance to help you pay bills, meet payroll, or fund other business initiatives. We can help you during these difficult times to finance your business.
We are here to help you every day, and we live up to our motto of “No Business Left Behind” by making sure that our customers get the help they need when they need it.
If you are lucky enough not to have been affected by these new restrictions just yet, start planning now for how you can respond if, in fact, you need to close because of a quarantine.