Please note that as our nation and state take the necessary steps to address COVID-19 in Louisiana, LABI will do the same. All scheduled meetings are on hold, and our staff will be working remotely as much as possible as we all work together to prevent the spread of the virus.
While our staff may be operating from different locations than usual, rest assured that we will continue to keep you informed of resources and information to support your operations. We stand ready to aid our local, state and federal partners in helping Louisiana's employers and workers during this difficult time.
House Passes CARES Act, President Signs Bill Into Law
After a bipartisan voice vote today in the US House of Representatives, President Donald Trump signed the CARES Act, the bill known as "Phase III" of Congress' Coronavirus recovery package, into law.
"The passage of the CARES Act gives businesses of all sizes access to the crucial lifeline they need in this time of crisis," said LABI President Stephen Waguespack. "Every employer in Louisiana has felt the economic impact of COVID-19, and this bill gives them the tools that will help keep their companies afloat. We appreciate the hard work of our entire Congressional delegation, who ensured that this bill provides rapid relief to both businesses and their employees."
The CARES Act seeks to provide nearly $2 trillion in aid for American workers and employers. As adopted, the bill:
- Provides direct financial assistance through "recovery checks" to American households.
- Provides relief to small businesses through the "Paycheck Protection Program" - an SBA 7(a) loan program primarily intended for payroll for workers.
- Makes small changes to the paid sick leave program implemented under the "Phase II" legislation, including capping the maximum amount of payments and clarifying that workers who are re-hired are eligible for paid leave.
- Expands unemployment benefits to the self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers and others.
- Provides more support for hospitals and front-line health care workers to address supply shortages, speed vaccine development and encourage telehealth.
For a full summary of the bill from LABI's partners at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, click HERE. For a high-level summary of the bill from U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy's office, click HERE. To read the entire text of the bill, click HERE.
More Information on Forgivable Loans is Coming Soon
One of the most important components of the CARES Act is the "Paycheck Protection Program" whereby companies with fewer than 500 workers can access forgivable loans from the SBA through their existing lenders.
Businesses, self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and 501(c)(3)s that were in operation on February 15 - and paid salaries and payroll taxes for their employees - are eligible. The new loan will be able to fund employee salaries or compensation; the continuation of group health benefits and insurance premiums; rent or payments of interest on mortgages; utilities; and interest on debt obligations incurred before February 15, 2020. The maximum amount of the loan will be the lesser of $10 million or 2.5 times the average monthly payroll based on the prior year's payroll.
Lenders will have delegated authority to allow the bank to process, close and service a loan without SBA review. All borrower and lender fees will be waived, along with collateral and personal guarantee requirements. Principal, interest, and fees will be automatically deferred for six months.
Businesses that maintain payroll continuity from February 15 through June 30 can request forgiveness on a Paycheck Protection loan. The program provides flexibility for businesses that re-hire workers that were previously laid off. To receive forgiveness, a business will have to work with a lender to document the maintenance of their payroll.
A business can obtain a new Paycheck Protection loan AND an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan so long as they cover different items.
More information will be coming next week on this new "Paycheck Protection" SBA 7(a) loan program, as the Department of the Treasury and SBA begin to advise lenders. We will share all information as we receive it, but all interested businesses are urged to contact their existing lender for details.
Click HERE for a more detailed explanation from Postlethwaite & Netterville, a LABI member company.
Applications Open for SBA Disaster Loans
In addition to the Paycheck Protection loans described above, the SBA has already begun taking applications from Louisiana businesses for Economic Injury Disaster Loans to address revenue losses related to COVID-19. Low-interest loans with long-term repayment programs are available up to $2 million at a fixed interest rate of 2.75% for non-profits and 3.75% for businesses with specific terms based on your situation.
SBA staff advise the process will take approximately 30-45 days to begin receiving funds and are encouraging applications immediately. Apply online by clicking HERE. While all SBA applications MUST be completed ONLINE, you can access paper copies of the forms HERE, along with instructions, in order to gather information beforehand and streamline the online process.
The Louisiana office of SBA plans to host a webinar on Monday, March 30, 11am-12:30pm to explain more about the economic injury disaster loan program. REGISTER HERE for the webinar.
Whether you plan on taking out a disaster loan or a 7(a) loan, if you have a relationship with a bank in your community, you should ask your banker if they are an SBA authorized lender. If so, your banker should be able to discuss the SBA loan options available to you. To see a complete list of SBA lenders in Louisiana, click HERE. Small businesses are also advised to ask your current bank if they are able to offer immediate bridge loan assistance or defer existing loan payments.
The SBA has announced automatic deferments through December 31, 2020, for borrowers still paying back SBA disaster loans from previous disasters such as the 2016 floods and Hurricanes Gustav, Ike, Katrina, or Rita. Borrowers of home and business disaster loans do NOT have to contact SBA to request deferment.
If you have additional questions - or questions specific to your business - you are encouraged to contact the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in your area. While their offices are closed, technical advice is available remotely with SBDC experts. Click HERE to request a consultation and schedule a virtual meeting with SBDC staff in your area and/or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
LABI President Will Join Cong. Garret Graves for Online Discussion of Federal Relief
LABI President Stephen Waguespack will join Congressman Garret Graves Thursday, April 2, 2020 at 8:30 a.m. for a webcast discussion of how the CARES Act and other federal legislation will provide relief to businesses amid the Coronavirus crisis.
The webcast will be moderated by Baton Rouge Business Report's executive editor, JR Ball. Questions may be submitted during the live webinar using Zoom's Q&A.
Click HERE to register for the webcast.
U.S. Department of Labor Issues Additional Guidance on Paid Leave Program
The U.S. Department of Labor issued a new guidance Thursday on the new paid leave program mandated by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the "Phase II" legislation in Congress' COVID-19 relief package.
The FFCRA requires employers with fewer than 500 workers to provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. In general, employers must provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave at the regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work due to quarantine or illness or up to 80 hours of paid sick leave at 2/3 the regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because of caregiving. Most employers must also provide up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at 2/3 the employee's regular rate of pay for caregiving.
To see the USDOL guidance on the paid leave program issued for employers earlier in the week, click HERE.
The new guidance includes criteria for the USDOL to grant amnesty to businesses that wrongly deny their employees time off in the first weeks after the statute takes effect on April 1. The US Department of Labor said it will not take action against employers that violate the Families First Coronavirus Response Act if:
- the violation was unintentional,
- the employer shows it made “reasonable, good faith efforts to comply with the act,”
- the employer quickly corrects its mistake, and
- the employer pledges in writing not to violate the act again.
However, the USDOL added that this non-enforcement policy will only apply until April 17. To access a copy of the full guidance from the Labor Department, click HERE.
COVID-19 Resources from NFIB
To provide assistance during the COVID-19 crisis, the National Federation of Independent Business has developed a variety of specific resources for small businesses.
- To see NFIB's answers to frequently asked questions about the Coronavirus for small business, click HERE.
- To see information from NFIB's Legal Center about COVID-19, click HERE.
- To see financial information and guidance from NFIB, click HERE.
This Monday, March 30 at 11:00am, NFIB will host a national webinar on COVID-19: Financial Resources and Updates for Small Businesses. Click HERE to register.
Louisiana Economic Development Launches Help Desk for Business
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Louisiana Economic Development has launched a new help desk to better assist the state's business community.
The LED help desk can be reached via email at LEDbiz@la.gov or by phone at (833) 457-0531. The hotline is toll-free and will be staffed Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. - LED asks that callers please be aware that high call volumes might result in delays, but to please keep trying the line or contact via email.
Louisiana Department of Revenue Launches New Tax Information Webpage
Having delayed multiple state tax filing and payment deadlines due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Louisiana Department of Revenue has launched a new webpage with a complete breakdown of extended deadlines. LDR will continuously update the page with more information as it becomes available. You can access the webpage HERE.
LFEI Launches "Shifting Gears" Video Testimonials
LABI's Louisiana Free Enterprise Institute will share video testimonials from business owners, telling the story of how businesses large and small are adapting during this COVID-19 response. If you've got a story to share, contact LABI Director of Public Affairs Marie Centanni for details. Watch our third video HERE.
COVID-19 News Update
- The Washington Post: Trump signs $2 trillion coronavirus bill into law as companies and households brace for more economic pain
- The Advocate: Gov. Edwards: Louisiana will get $1.8B in federal stimulus package to combat coronavirus
- The Wall Street Journal: Stocks Drop, But Finish the Week With Big Gains
- The News-Star: Gov. John Bel Edwards: Rural parishes infected with Coronavirus; testing needed
- The Advocate: Louisiana teachers, public school employees can expect full paychecks even if schools remain closed
Louisiana Workforce Commission Needs Your Input
The Louisiana Workforce Commission has developed a brief survey in order to collect information and data that will allow LWC to better support the state's employers during the COVID-19 crisis.
Click HERE for the survey.
Louisiana Tax Commission Suspends Certain Activities
The Louisiana Tax Commission is granting continuances for all appeal hearings in accordance with Governor John Bel Edwards' "Stay at Home" order. However, the Commission has indicated that it will continue to meet by phone in order to consider change order requests, tax sale cancellations, and similar matters.
In addition, while personal property renditions must be filed by April 1 of each year, this deadline is suspended until at least April 13. Similarly, the deadline for public service companies to file annual reports by April 1 of each year is likewise suspended until at least April 13.
Resources from BlueCross BlueShield of Louisiana
BlueCross BlueShield of Louisiana, a LABI member company, has made the following coverage changes in response to the spread of COVID-19:
- $0 telehealth behavioral health services. Members and their dependents can use BCBS BlueCare for behavioral health visits in addition to other telehealth services.
- $0 telehealth doctor visits. Members and their dependents can use BCBS BlueCare for 24/7 online visits with U.S. trained, board-certified doctors at no charge. BlueCareLA.com or the BlueCare mobile app may be used for routine, non-emergency health needs like colds, rashes or upset stomach.
- In addition to BlueCare, BCBS covers members’ telehealth visits from in-network doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, registered dietitians and physical, occupational or speech therapists. In-network providers can deliver telehealth services through online visits or by phone.
For more information, visit BCBS' COVID-19 website.
LCTCS Makes Community Impact Amid COVID-19 Crisis
While the spread of the Coronavirus has made a tremendous impact on all higher education institutions in Louisiana, the Louisiana Community and Technical College System has taken additional steps to hep the state address the crisis.
In addition to moving classes online, LCTCS has done the following:
- Nursing and Allied Health Deans at all LCTCS colleges are focused on graduating more than 2,000 health care students in an accelerated fashion to get them into the workforce.
- LCTCS is working directly with the Louisiana State Lab to fill immediate job openings with recent or soon to be graduates.
- Through its years-long partnership with Ochsner, Nunez Community College is dedicating its newly designed SkillShop to rapidly produce essential parts for face shield manufacturing. Ochsner has approved the face shield prototype, and production at Nunez is currently underway with the goal of producing approximately 3,000 units per week. Nunez is also using its 3D printers and Laser Cutter to produce respirator prototype parts. Once approved, the 3D printers will begin mass production. Nunez is working collaboratively with the other 11 community and technical colleges across the state to share files and design concepts so 3D printing can be brought to scale statewide.
- Northshore Technical Community College has provided Slidell Memorial Hospital with its Mobile STEM Lab to be used as part of the hospital's drive-through testing center. Specifically, the mobile lab is being used by doctors as an emergency response center.
- Delgado Community College is offering online workshops for small businesses applying for Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loans. As of today, more than 100 small businesses are participating.
- LCTCS colleges have arranged for all remaining PPE products to be donated to local hospitals.
LABI Member Marketplace
In an effort to help you through this response, LABI is matching our members' needs with services and products to keep you up and running. We're calling it the Member Marketplace, a virtual "swap meet" of resources within our network of members. We'll share a few new listings each day, along with a lengthier list maintained on our website. Whether it's technology, infrastructure or expertise, let us know if you'd like to join the Marketplace! Contact Membership Director Elena LaCour to share your wares.
Information from the Louisiana Department of Health
With 2,746 cases of the Coronavirus confirmed across 54 parishes, the Louisiana Department of Health has made resources available for the state's business community.
- To see LDH's Guidance for Business and Employers, click HERE
- To see LDH's specific Guidance for Restaurants, click HERE
In addition, LDH has also made printable items available that can be placed around your place of business and company facilities if needed.
- How to Keep Illness from Spreading
- Coronavirus Symptoms and Travel Considerations
- LDH's Guidance for Family Preparedness
For more information, visit LDH's coronavirus website or you can call the Louisiana 211 Network by dialing 211. In addition, you can text the keyword LACOVID to 898-211 for regular text updates from LDH on the coronavirus in our state.
LABI Member Survey Reveals COVID-19 Impact - Tell us How You're Affected, Take the Survey Below
In an effort to understand the affects of COVID-19 on Louisiana's employers, LABI is surveying our members to best relay needs and concerns to decision makers at the state and federal government.
At the end of the first week, results reveal a profound impact in those surveyed with only 7.5% saying it's business as usual with few interruptions. About half have seen a decline in business, some more rapid that others, 60% have canceled or postponed events and conferences, and 6.5% tell us they've paused operation entirely. About 3% say they've actually seen an increase in business, and a quarter of those surveyed says they've sent non-essential personnel home to work remotely.
So how is your business affected? Take the survey HERE and let us know, so we can better advocate for you as we move forward together.
Recommendations for Louisiana Businesses
As you look to pass accurate information to your workers and make important decisions regarding business operations, a good place to start is with the CDC's recommended business strategies, which include:
- Actively encourage sick employees to stay home.
- Separate sick employees.
- Emphasize staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees.
- Perform routine environmental cleaning.
- Advise employees before traveling to take certain steps.
For more information, see below or visit the website of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, for a variety of other resources, fact sheets and fliers regarding COVID-19 including:
Resources from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Given the national scope of the Coronavirus challenge, LABI's partners at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. have made resources, guidance, and information available for American businesses and workers.
- To access the U.S. Chamber's Coronavirus Response Toolkit, click HERE.
- To access the U.S. Chamber's Resilience in a Box portal, offering preparedness tips and information about best practices for small business, click HERE.
- To see the U.S. Chamber's Coronavirus Guidance for Employers, click HERE.
- To see the U.S. Chamber's Workplace Tips for Employees, click HERE.
In addition, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has also created a Disaster Help Desk for Business - an information concierge to assist small businesses with disaster readiness, relief and long-term recovery. You can reach the help desk either ONLINE or by dialing 888-MY-BIZ-HELP or sending a message to BizHelpdesk@uschamber.com.
For additional information, including updates on the U.S. Chamber's Congressional advocacy during this time, visit their Coronavirus website.
Information from the National Association of Manufacturers
With the impacts of the Coronavirus being felt throughout the country, LABI's partners at the National Association of Manufacturers in Washington, D.C. have provided resources and information for companies and their employees.
For more information, including ways to contact NAM's COVID-19 Response Team, visit their Coronavirus website.
About the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry
The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry was organized in 1975 to represent Louisiana businesses, serving as both the state chamber of commerce and state manufacturers association. LABI’s primary goal is to foster a climate for economic growth by championing the principles of the free enterprise system and representing the general interest of the business community through active involvement in the political, legislative, judicial and regulatory processes. Find out more information at www.labi.org.