With many working from home for the foreseeable future – several for the first time – it’s more important than ever for everyone to practice cyber safety, especially those who are not used to working remotely. By being vigilant, employees can take steps that will not only help protect their devices and home network but their company’s and colleagues’ devices and networks as well.
We all must be especially wary about questionable emails, links and text messages related to COVID-19. There has been a rise in the number of cyber scams exploiting the coronavirus, many specifically targeting those working from home. Always verify by phone any requests or links – even if the sender is familiar.
CompTIA has put together several cyber safety tips to help people stay safe while they work remotely. They include:
The Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) has also created a dedicated forum, covid19.comptia.org, with more information on working remotely during the Coronavirus pandemic.
With the right information and a few extra simple steps, everyone can practice cyber safety.
Today, Bell County amended the Stay Home Stay Safe Order and issued Directive #4. The directive is in effect through April 6, 2020.
Find the amended directive here.
Directive #4 added Gun Shops to the list of Essential Businesses and provided clarity on "Essential Businesses". The second change in the order regards the ability of churches to have members gather in groups of 10 or more:
For purposes of this Order, “Essential Businesses” means:
i. Essential Healthcare Operations.
Healthcare is the maintenance or improvement of health via the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, recovery, or cure of disease, illness, injury, and other physical and mental impairments in people and pets. Health care is delivered by health professionals in allied health fields. It includes work and locations done in providing primary care, secondary care, and tertiary care, as well as in public health. Physicians and physician associates are a part of these health professionals. Example of healthcare operations include: a. Dentistry
h. Occupational therapy
i. Physical therapy
j. Biotechnology companies
k. Mental health care providers
l. Healthcare suppliers
m. Substance abuse service providers
n. Blood banks
o. Medical research
p. Laboratory services
q. Home-based and residential-based care for seniors, adults, or children
r. Veterinary care.
ii. Essential Government Functions.
An essential governmental function is a function provided by a political subdivision of the State, such as a city, county, or a school district. Essential governmental functions and activities are those that are needed to ensure the continuing operation of those agencies to provide for the health, safety, education, and welfare of the public.
a. Further, nothing in this order shall prohibit any individual from performing or accessing Essential Government Functions, such as voting in an a duly called and authorized election. All Essential Government Functions shall be performed, to the extent possible, in compliance with social distancing requirements.
iii. Essential Critical Infrastructure & Activities.
Essential Critical Infrastructure & Activities is work that is necessary to the operations and maintenance of the critical infrastructure sectors as identified by the National Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), Memorandum dated March 19, 2020 (attached to this Directive). Example of essential critical infrastructure work and activities includes:
a. public works construction
b. residential and commercial construction
c. airport operations
d. water, sewer, gas, & electrical
e. oil refining
f. public transportation
g. solid waste collection removal and disposal
h. internet and telecommunications systems (including the provision of essential global, national, and local infrastructure for computing services, business infrastructure, communications, and web-based services)
i. financial institutions, including pay day lenders and pawn shops
j. defense and national security-related operations and business that support such
k. manufacturing operations
l. distribution and logistics operations
m. media, including newspaper, television, and radio
n. childcare and daycare
iv. Essential Retail.
Essential retail is the sale of consumer goods and services during a time of national, state and/or local disaster that is necessary to maintain a residence and/or essential business and/or a business supporting an essential business. Example of essential retail include:
a. grocery stores
b. warehouse stores
c. liquor stores
d. gas stations
e. convenience stores
f. farmers’ markets
g. food cultivation, including farming, fishing, and livestock
h. food delivery services
i. Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for pickup, delivery or carry out. In-room dining must be closed. The restriction of pickup, delivery, or carry out does not apply to cafes and restaurants located within hospital and medical facilities
j. Any entity that typically provide free services to students or members of the public on a pick-up and take-away basis only.
l. Dry cleaners
m. Laundry service
n. Automobile & motorcycle sales
p. Automobile, motorcycle and bicycle repair
q. hardware stores
r. Construction supply stores
s. Gun stores
t. Businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home.
v. Providers of Basic Necessities to Economically Disadvantaged Populations.
Businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals.
vi. Businesses that Support Essential Businesses and Services Necessary to Maintain Essential Operations of Residences or Other Essential Businesses.
Businesses that Support Essential Business and Services are ones that are necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operations of residences and Essential Businesses. Examples of businesses that support residences and essential businesses are:
a. mail and shipping services
b. residential and business cleaning and maintenance
c. warehouse/distribution and fulfillment
d. storage for essential businesses
e. funeral homes and services relating thereto like crematoriums and cemeteries
i. Lawn care services
j. Law offices
k. Real estate offices, not to include site visits for the purpose of showing a property
l. Title offices
m. Mortgage offices
n. Accounting offices
o. Office supply stores
The Senate and the House have just passed the third Coronavirus emergency spending package, known as the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act), passed as the amended H.R. 748.
The $2 trillion dollar bill includes $367 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses; $150 billion for hospitals and health supplies; $500 billion for state and local governments and specific industries particularly impacted; extended unemployment benefits; direct payments and tax relief for individuals, as well as tax relief for businesses and assistance for financial markets.
The CARES Act expands the use of telehealth and rushes resources to hospitals, doctors, and other frontline providers. It also allows regulatory relief, so banks can grant loan forbearance for otherwise healthy businesses struggling while business is shut down. Further, it reduces the amount of capital community banks must hold in reserve, so that our community banks can step in to provide access to capital. It also provides a number of grants and loans to small businesses.
Businesses with between 500 and 10,000 employees may seek loans at 2% APR and no payments on interest or principal for the first six months for retention of 90% of workforce at full compensation through September 2020.
The CARES Act also includes consumer protection and relief measures, protecting borrowers from negative credit reporting as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and implementing a 60-day moratorium on foreclosures and evictions, as well as multifamily loan forbearance while borrowers have restricted ability to evict or penalize.
Immediate Small Business Help
Paycheck Protection Program: The legislation includes $350 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program offering 100% federally-guaranteed loans for eight weeks of assistance to small businesses and 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(19) veterans’ organizations. S-Corp, C-Corp, sole proprietors, independent contractors, and other self-employed individuals are all eligible for these loans. Businesses in the restaurant and hotel industries with more than one physical location employing no more than 500 employees per physical location are eligible.
Loans can be forgiven when used for payroll costs, interest on mortgage obligations, rent and utilities. Eligible payroll costs do not include compensation above $100,000 in wages. The amount forgiven will be reduced proportionally by any reduction in employees retained.
You may use a Paycheck Protection loan to rehire employees you have already laid off and still have the loans forgiven.
This program waives the “credit elsewhere” test for funds provided, the collateral and personal guarantee requirements, and the borrower and lender fees for participating.
SBA Express Loans, require less documentation and paperwork, have been increased from $350,000 to $1 million, through December 31, 2020. These loans are approved or denied within 36 hours and funds are typically available within 90 days. Acceptable uses of SBA Express Loans are for providing business continuity and working short- and long- term working capital to cover accounts payable, purchasing inventory, construction financing, purchasing supplies and more.
Further, all SBA loan products will have automatic deferral for six months where the SBA pays principal, interest and all fees.
Small Business Interruption Loans: The legislation included $299 billion for business interruption loans for businesses of 500 employees or less to receive SBA 7(a) loans for up to $10 million from March to December 2020. Businesses with 7(a) loans guaranteed between March 1 and June 30 will be eligible for loan forgiveness equal to the amount of maintaining payroll continuity during that time period. The maximum loan amount will be four times the business's average monthly expenses (payroll, mortgage, rent, payments on debt obligations) for the preceding year, or $10 million, whichever is less.
Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Grants expedite access to capital for small businesses that have applied for an SBA EIDL. Businesses can now request an advance of $10,000 on the loan to provide covered leave, maintain payroll, and pay debt obligations. Learn more here.
Tax Relief for Individuals & Corporations
The CARES Act has multiple tax relief provisions, such as:
The CARES Act also creates a new tax credit to incentivize retaining employees, which is available through the end of the year. This provision provides employers with a refundable tax credit equal to 50% of employee compensation (including health insurance), up to $10,000 per employee. Employers with more than 100 employees are eligible to receive the credit if they have been closed due to the Coronavirus. Employers with less than 100 employees may receive the credit whether they are closed or not.
Note: If you receive a Small Business Interruption Loan, designated for payroll, you may not receive this credit.
Further, the CARES Act accelerates access to future refundable tax credits attributable to the repealed corporate alternative minimum tax.
Seek guidance from your CPA on availing your business of these tools.
Expanded Charitable Deductions: Non-profits are on the frontlines offering assistance to members of our community in need. This bill aims to support charitable giving an additional $300 deduction for charitable giving, whether an individual itemizes or not. Further, it suspends recent limitations on charitable donations by individuals, such as the 50% adjusted gross income limitation, and by corporations, by increasing the limitation from 10% to 25% of taxable income.
Net Operating Loss Deductions: The bill relaxes requirements from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act limiting the use of net operating losses from prior years. Under the bill, companies would be able to amend their returns to claim losses from 2018, 2019, and 2020 carried back five years, and the bill would temporarily remove the taxable income limitation ensuring that the net operating loss could be used to fully offset taxable income. Additionally, the bill modifies the rules applicable to pass-through companies and sole proprietors to also be able to benefit from the foregoing rules.
Further, it allows companies to claim a deduction for interest expense up to 50% of their adjusted taxable income. It also allows for immediate write-off of certain improvement costs from the current year. Businesses may amend their prior tax year returns to receive refunds and reduce their tax liability. Visit with your CPA for further assistance on availing yourself of these tools which are aimed at increasing cash flow for businesses.