Resources available to small businesses

In recent weeks, a stream of executive orders enacted to fight COVID-19 have had a mounting impact on businesses, in particular small businesses. From limiting the number of people in a given place to closing restaurants and bars to the order to “suspend activities that are not necessary to sustain or protect life” which went into effect early this morning.

“To suppress the spread of COVID-19, to prevent the state’s health care system from being overwhelmed, to allow time for the production of critical test kits, ventilators, and personal protective equipment, and to avoid needless deaths, it is reasonable and necessary to direct residents to remain at home or in their place of residence to the maximum extent feasible,” reads Executive Order 2020-21

However, a number of state offices and private entities are providing aid and resources to impacted businesses.

On March 12, President Trump announced that the Small Business Administration would offer Disaster Loans to small businesses impacted by COVID-19 closures.

“Now that this step is in motion, the next step is to gather information for Governor Whitmer to request an economic disaster designation for the entire state of Michigan,” said a letter from Tara Arens of the Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce and Jeff Ratcliffe of the Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance that recently circulated. “In order to do this, the request requires, at minimum, one application per county of an adversely affected business.”

In order to be accepted, businesses must be able to prove “loss of sales, increase in payroll due to staff taking sick time, (or incurring) Unplanned expenses to offset public fear or expenses to ensure public safety.”

“The loans are not intended to replace lost sales or profits, rather they are intended to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other expenses that could have been paid had the disaster not occurred,” reads the loan application document. “Analyzing a drop in sales, the length of time the business will be impacted, the type of business and typical business cycle of the industry, provides the SBA with the requisite data needed to determine if the economic injury is considered substantial.”

Since the production of those documents, Michigan has been selected as an Economic Disaster Area, meaning that Michigan small businesses can apply for a disaster loan by visiting sba.gov and selecting the orange COVID-19 banner at the top of the page.

Michigan small businesses were also allowed to postpone their monthly sales, use, and withholding taxes. The payments, which normally would have been due on March 20 are now due on April 30 without additional penalty or interest, according to a Press Release circulated by the State of Michigan Department of the Treasury last week.

“The past week has been hard for small businesses owners across the state as we work to mitigate the spread of coronavirus,” Whitmer said in the release. “Allowing them more time to pay their monthly tax payments will help us provide some much-needed assistance. I will continue doing everything I can to ensure our small businesses have the support they need during this time. We will get through this together.”

Not all small business resources are available through the site. Remote work platform Fiverr launched smbhelp.com. The website includes information and resources to help brick-and-mortar retailers conduct more of their business online in order to maximize staff productivity and minimize losses during store closures.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that businesses around the world are likely to be impacted by the changes imposed because of Coronavirus. More people are being instructed to spend less time in public places and more time at home,” Fiverr CEO and Founder Micha Kauffman said in an email last week. “We’ve been thinking about ways in which we can help our community of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) manage in this new environment and decided to put together a new website dedicated to helping SMBs in these uncertain times.”