The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted “normal life” here in the United States and across the world on a large scale. What started as a suggestion to practice “social distancing” and avoid large crowds has become government-mandated restrictions that have caused the shuttering of everything from professional sports to local businesses.
Businesses throughout the country are dealing with the ramifications of the coronavirus and the steps to curb its spread.
Small businesses are getting struck, especially those in cities such as Philadelphia, ordered that all non-essential businesses need to close starting March 15 at 5 p.m. In Northern California, seven counties even put shelter-in-place orders into effect, basically mandating people to stay in their homes and only go out for essential services.
If small businesses aren’t open—especially those in the service industry—they don’t make money. And without that steady cash flow, many business owners are wondering how they’re going to pay the bills and weather the storm, so to speak.
One way to keep the cash flowing is to apply for 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 talked about a lot during the coronavirus outbreak, but they are two very different things.
State of emergency
A government can declare a statement of emergency during several different situations, including natural disasters such as hurricanes or blizzards or for medical pandemics/epidemics. By declaring a state of emergency, a government is allowed to 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.
Originally, a quarantine would last 40 days, hence its name. But nowadays, the period that it lasts depends on the disease or the virus that can be prevented: this means it can be shorter or longer than 40 days.
The situation in America
Quarantines are, usually, last-resort actions, however, which is one reason why the U.S. federal government has chosen to avoid doing so thus far.
State governments also 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.
While governments in 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.
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.
Even though New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut joined together to announce wide-ranging moves to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, none of those states imposed an official quarantine. Still, all are under a state of emergency, and all put restrictions on the size of gatherings allowed to happen as well as what businesses were allowed to stay open.
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 shut down like the one many experience. Some companies that don’t rely on an office setting or welcoming customers could prepare by putting a work-from-home policy in place.
If you’re in this situation, and if you don’t already have a plan in place, start working on it asap. If you don’t have such a plan and you need to close your store, you’ll be left scrambling to figure out how to mitigate your losses.
If you 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).
Bear in mind that you will have to make sure the quarantine or state of emergency allows for any home delivery services to work.
For service-related businesses—such as barbers, retail stores, 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.
So, what can you do, then, if your business needs to close temporarily?
For starters, you can look towards the government for help.
Precisely what help will be available to you from the federal government isn’t entirely clear at this time, as Congress is still debating a stimulus package to inject much-needed money into the economy.
In fact, reports released the morning of Tuesday the 17th said the Trump administration was asking Congress to approve an $850 billion stimulus package that would help businesses through programs such as a potential payroll tax cut.
In the meantime, 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.
In Washington, for example—a state that has been hit extremely hard by COVID-19—the Employment Security Department has several resources to help both employers and employees.
Check your specific state’s employment department to find out what resources might be available to you.
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 coronavirus pandemic escalating by the day, you could find yourself in the precarious position of having to deal with a government-mandated quarantine.
If you do, you could find yourself in need of 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 to be one of the businesses that haven’t been affected by the coronavirus pandemic just yet, start planning now for how you can respond if, in fact, you need to close because of a quarantine.