April 27, 2020

Joint Statement of the Seven Bay Area Health Officers on Upcoming Extension

Joint Statement of the Seven Bay Area Health Officers on Upcoming Extension and Revisions to the Current Shelter-in-Place Orders
For Immediate Release​

April 27, 2020

Santa Clara County, CA – Later this week, the Public Health Officers of the Counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara as well as the City of Berkeley will issue revised shelter-in-place orders that largely keep the current restrictions in place and extend them through May. The new order will include limited easing of specific restrictions for a small number of lower-risk activities.

The shelter-in-place orders in effect across the seven jurisdictions are set to expire on May 3, 2020. Thanks to the collective effort and sacrifice of the 7 million residents across our jurisdictions, we have made substantial progress in slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, ensuring our local hospitals are not overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases, and saving lives. At this stage of the pandemic, however, it is critical that our collective efforts continue so that we do not lose the progress we have achieved together. Hospitalizations have leveled, but more work is needed to safely re-open our communities. Prematurely lifting restrictions could easily lead to a large surge in cases.

The Health Officers will also release a set of broad indicators that will be used to track progress in preparedness and response to COVID-19, in alignment with the framework being used by the State of California. Future easing of restrictions requires that each jurisdiction and various sectors continue to rapidly build critical infrastructure and systems to respond to and control the spread of coronavirus infections and to ensure the health care system’s ability to meet demand.

This global pandemic of COVID-19 is still in its early stages. The virus spreads easily, testing capacity is limited and expanding slowly, and vaccine development is just beginning. We expect to be responding to COVID-19 in our communities for a long time. As effective as our efforts have been, if we move too fast to ease restrictions, the potential of exponential spread could have grave impacts to health and wellness of our residents as well as the economy.

The Health Officers of these seven jurisdictions have been working closely together in leading a unified, regional approach, to protect the health and safety of our residents. Details regarding this next phase will be shared later in the week, along with the updated order.

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Follow our Twitter for updates: @HealthySCC
Public Health Facebook: www.facebook.com/sccpublichealth
Dashboard: https://www.sccgov.org/sites/covid19/Pages/dashboard.aspx​

 

Gilroy Chamber President Sends Letter to Governor Newsom

 

What to Know as PPP Round Two Opens for Applications Today

By Silicon Valley Business Journal

Are you ready for round two of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s effort to provide billions more in loans for businesses? Starting today at 7:30 a.m. PST, the federal agency will be accepting new applications for the next phase of the Paycheck Protection Program.

The SBA has been preparing its system to handle a deluge of applications — many of the larger banks saw tens of thousands of applications during the program’s quickly depleted first round, and some have continued to prepare applications in the days since the funding ran out. The program was established to help companies affected by Covid-19 closures stay in business and pay their employees.

The first round of forgivable loans through the PPP sent $342.3 billion to about 1.6 million businesses nationwide, which critics point out was a small slice of the estimated 30 million small businesses operating in the United States. Launched April 2, the initial funding was gone in about 14 days. The second round of PPP has $320 billion available.

All told 4,975 lenders participated in the first round. The SBA has published a list of financial institutions offering loans this round. In California, 112,967 loans were approved for a total of nearly $33.41 billion.

This round has some changes in store — $30 billion will be earmarked for financial institutions under $10 billion with assets, and another $30 billion for institutions between $10 billion and $50 billion.

Congress has discussed the potential for a third round, given how quickly the first round was exhausted. But political considerations are likely to play a much larger role going forward, making prospects uncertain for another batch of small business help to happen soon.

To apply for a PPP loan, here’s what you need:

  • Find a bank that’s taking part. Check with the SBA to determine if a specific bank is taking part in PPP.
  • Read up on all the SBA’s guidelines for PPP: The agency issued a FAQ for borrowers (and lenders too). Get it here.
  • Make sure your need is real: One of the storylines that evolved after the first batch of PPP funds were distributed was that big businesses and large public companies were awarded financial aid, with some of them stepping forward to return the funds. Watch for a more stringent approach this time, according to a fact sheet from the Treasury Department.

 

Want to take advantage of phase two? Douglas Buchanan, the editor-in-chief at SVBJ-sibling Columbus Business First, offered a few tips gathered from a roundtable the publication did with bankers:

  • Have everything you need ready to go: With banks overwhelmed by the onslaught of businesses wanting to get into the program, it’s triage for the staff trying to get applications in order. The worse thing you can do is not be ready with everything on the checklist, because that effectively would send you to the back of the line.
  • If you didn’t get approved in Round 1, think hard about starting over: You want to keep your place in line. Even if you were unsuccessful in the first round of PPP funding, it might make it worse to try to start over with a new bank.
  • Remember that relationships matter: One of the issues many potential borrowers have had so far is inconsistent communication from their banks. While some bank employees are trying to stay in touch with all their customers, it’s been difficult considering the workload. So it behooves borrowers to fall back on established relationships and lines of communication to see where they stand. It helps if applicants had in-person relationships with the bankers at their institution.
  • Understand that bankers are overwhelmed: Banks are simply not staffed to deal with this level of loan volume in such a short period of time. One banker Columbus Business First spoke to said “We made it through 9/11. We made it through Y2K. And we made it through 2007-2008. And I have never experienced anything like what we’ve been through in this pandemic.”

 

Frequently Asked Questions for California Small Businesses

QUESTION: Is there a single location that updates all relevant information for businesses pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic?
ANSWER: Yes, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) is working around the clock to ensure that all Californians have the most up-to-date information and resources to provide to businesses during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, and at all times. Please use our GO-Biz site for the latest guidance: https://business.ca.gov/coronavirus-2019/. Additionally, you can find more health information and state guidance by clicking this resource page: https://covid19.ca.gov/.

 

QUESTION: Is GO-Biz the department where small business owners should look to for financial assistance?
ANSWER: Yes, GO-Biz is maintaining a site with all available business assistance, which can be found on our website. The Office of the Small Business Advocate maintains information on GO-Biz’s site as well as customized COVID-19 resources, which you can find here. There you will find a list of capital and technical assistance resources (also below).

 

QUESTION: Does the state have to submit certain information to the federal government in order for small businesses to apply for SBA loans?
ANSWER: Following California’s fast-out-of-the-gate and immediate response to Presidential Emergency Declaration, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to California small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of COVID-19.

 

QUESTION: What resources are available for small businesses?
ANSWER: GO-Biz continues to work hard to open-up more resource opportunities. Below is a list of capital and technical assistance resources. Government-backed loan programs are available, including special disaster assistance at the state and federal levels:

  • California IBank has a Small Business Loan Guarantee Program for guarantees up to $1 million and a micro lending program for loans up to $10,000 with accommodations for disasters. The program is run through local mission based lenders, the Financial Development Corporations: Small Business Finance Center
  • California Treasurer’s Office has a small business loan program with special disaster assistance that is used extensively by the CDFI
    community: CalCAP
  • U.S. SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program: The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering low-interest loans of up to $2 million for both for-profit and non-profit businesses that are impacted by the coronavirus.

For more Information about SBA disaster assistance programs, and to apply directly online, go to: www.sba.gov/disasterOr, contact SBA’s Customer Service Center at: 1-800-659-2955 / 1- 800-877-8339 (TTY) Or by email at: disastercustomerservice@sba.gov

 

QUESTION: How can small businesses learn more from their network of support centers?
ANSWER: California’s network of small business support centers help businesses figure out which loans are best for them, develop resiliency strategies, and find other resources. Please click this link to learn more.

QUESTION: Is there any relief for small business owners who pay rent for their space but have had to close due to the coronavirus?
ANSWER: Gov ernor Newsom’s executive order suspends all state laws that would prevent local governments from enacting policies to protect you as a resident or business owner from eviction because of nonpayment of rent due to COVID-19. As a resident or business owner, a financial institution holding your home or commercial mortgage is requested to implement an immediate moratorium on a foreclosure involving you, when the foreclosure or foreclosure-related eviction arises from economic hardship caused by COVID-19 conditions. In order to protect renters, homeowners and commercial tenants during this pandemic, Governor Newsom’s executive order has removed state-law limitations on local governments to halt evictions in the midst of the outbreak.

 

Qualified Disaster Relief Payments

 

Trial of Gilead

Trial of Gilead’s Potential Coronavirus Treatment Running Ahead of Schedule, Researcher Says

By Deeana Bearsley and Michael Erman, Reuters

(Reuters) – A key U.S. government trial of Gilead Sciences Inc’s experimental coronavirus treatment may yield results as early as mid-May, according to the study’s lead investigator, after doctors clamored to enroll their patients in the study.

Preliminary findings from the randomized trial of the antiviral drug remdesivir, begun in February by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), could come even sooner, lead researcher Dr. Andre Kalil told Reuters in an interview. There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new virus that has killed over 190,000 people globally, according to a Reuters tally.

Remdesivir has drawn tremendous attention as a therapy with the potential to alter the course of the disease, based on anecdotal reports that it may have helped some patients.

Those hopes were dampened somewhat on Thursday, when details from a Chinese remdesivir trial in patients with severe COVID-19 inadvertently released by the World Health Organization suggested it provided no benefit.

Gilead pushed back on that interpretation saying the study, which was stopped early due to low patient enrollment, cannot provide meaningful conclusions.

Other reports have provided reason for optimism.

Doctors at Houston Methodist Hospital told Reuters that since March 23, they have treated 41 mostly severely ill COVID-19 patients with the drug. None have died and half are back home. But they and other doctors contacted by Reuters said they need much more information than the few details available from the Chinese trial and anecdotal reports on its emergency use in the United States to form a view on remdesivir.

They emphasized a need to see how patients on remdesivir fare compared to those who do not receive the therapy in a rigorous clinical trial at different stages of illness to know whether and under what circumstances it may provide benefit.

The NIAID trial “has all the necessary scientific standards that are really going to help us define if this drug works or not,” said Dr. Kalil, a professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. It is a randomized, double-blind study in which half the patients were given the drug and the other half a placebo. Enrollment in the trial closed on Sunday, but has far exceeded initial goals of 400 to 500 patients, he said. The investigator would not disclose total enrollment, but the latest public update says trial size may exceed 800 patients. The NIAID trial is designed to show whether remdesivir, when given to patients with a range of disease severity, improves outcomes such as length of hospitalization, need for mechanical ventilation and survival. Dr. Kalil declined to comment on precisely how much of an improvement on those metrics is needed to deem the trial a success and the drug a viable treatment. “We are looking for not only a statistical difference, but also for a meaningful clinical improvement,” he said. “We expect to have results sometime from mid- to late May.”

Gilead on Thursday said it expected results from the NIAID trial in late May. The company’s shares, up more than 20% so far this year due largely to remdesivir prospects, were 1.7% higher at $79.10 on Friday.

A lack of hard evidence has given U.S. medical associations, as well as the National Institutes of Health, pause. They have not recommended remdesivir to treat COVID-19.

The Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA), which represents more than 12,000 U.S. specialists, said it will make a formal recommendation once the entire body of evidence for remdesivir is available.

Dr. Rajesh Gandhi, an infectious disease physician at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston who helped draft the IDSA guidelines, explained that most patients with COVID-19 will recover with little or no medical care. He is awaiting more clinical trial data before remdesivir can be deemed a useful therapy. EARLY INTERVENTION?

In general, doctors say they would expect remdesivir to work better if given early in the course of the disease. The drug, which previously failed as a treatment for Ebola, is designed to keep a virus from replicating in the body and overwhelming a patient’s immune system.

“You can put out a campfire, but once it becomes a wildfire it’s hard to control,” said Dr. Kevin Grimes, an infectious disease specialist at Houston Methodist, which is participating in Gilead studies.

Gilead is leading its own trials of remdesivir, which is given to hospitalized patients as an intravenous infusion: One in patients with severe disease and the other in patients with more moderate symptoms.

The company expanded the number of patients it would enroll in the severe disease trial to 6,000 from 2,400, and expects results at the end of April. But that study does not compare remdesivir to another treatment or placebo.

The medical news website STAT last week reported that nearly all participants in Gilead-sponsored studies at a University of Chicago hospital saw rapid recoveries in fever and respiratory symptoms, and many were discharged in less than a week. The New England Journal of Medicine previously published an analysis showing that two-thirds of a small group of severely ill COVID-19 patients improved after treatment with remdesivir.

But it is impossible to know whether those outcomes can be attributed to the drug in the absence of a control group that did not far as well, since so much is still unknown about this new virus.

Still, these reports provide reason for hope given the desperate need as the virus rampages around the globe.

“We were asked to participate in this trial and we jumped at it,” said Grimes. “We see people that are getting sicker and then they get better.”

Reporting By Deena Beasley in Los Angeles; Addional reporting by Michael Erman 

At California Capitol, Lawmakers Want Info; Protestors Want to End Coronavirus Stat-at-Home

By Laurel Resenhall and Emily Hoeven, CalMatters

Californians pushed back at Gov. Gavin Newsom’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic on Monday, with protesters demanding that stay-at-home restrictions be eased and state lawmakers arguing for more transparency and a bigger role in decisions.

The action at the Capitol — staid inside an Assembly hearing room, rowdy on the streets outside — followed a weekend of similar demonstrations around the country and mounting frustration from some California cities and counties that want to resume some sense of normalcy five weeks after Newsom issued the nation’s first order for everyone to stay home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Protests erupted in San Diego, San Clemente, Newport Beach, and Huntington Beach while Ventura County began to ease restrictions and numerous communities — including the Sierra foothills town of Placerville and the coastal county of San Luis Obispo — pleaded with Newsom to allow businesses to reopen.

“Our freedoms are being stripped,” said Natalie Hutchison, 55, one of the protestors outside the Capitol.

“They tell you, like, ‘Oh, we don’t know when we’re going to let you out.’ What do you mean you’re not going to let me out? I’m not a rat in a cage.”

Demonstrators largely flouted public health recommendations to wear face masks in public and keep six feet of personal space. They waved American flags and hoisted signs saying “Open California now,” “This shutdown will kill more people than the virus,” “Let us work,” and “Fear God, not COVID-19.” Many marched around the Capitol on foot, while others formed a convoy of honking cars.

Hutchison — who said she heard about the protest on social media and brought her family with her from Manteca to attend — said she thinks people who are immunocompromised should stay home, but everyone else should be able to go out. She opposes vaccines — despite widespread medical consensus that they have helped rid society of many brutal illnesses — and said she instead believes “in a God-given immune system.”

The protest was organized by Freedom Angels, an activist group that last year opposed a new California law that makes it more difficult for people to exempt their children from mandatory vaccines. The group tried to put a referendum on the ballot to overturn the law but failed to gather enough signatures.

Rick Turner, Monday’s public information officer for the California Highway Patrol’s Capitol Protection Section, said the CHP issued a permit for the protest with the understanding it would follow the state’s public health guidance.

“This is not what occurred today, so the CHP will take this experience into account when considering permits for this or any other group,” Turner said.

Officers were on the scene in large numbers, but the protest was peaceful, and no arrests or citations were made, Turner said. Only some officers wore face masks, and Turner said CHP recommends but does not require officers to wear face masks.

The scene was very different inside the Capitol, where nine Assembly members gathered in a large hearing room to examine how Newsom’s administration has spent money on California’s response to the coronavirus. About half of them covered their faces with masks, and all spoke into microphones topped with protective covers.

Though the tone was cordial, three themes emerged as areas where lawmakers feel irritated that Newsom has left them out of the loop:

Lawmakers want more information from the governor’s aides

“We often, as legislators, hear maybe five minutes before an executive order comes out, or watching live the governor’s daily updates to get information,” said Assemblyman Jim Wood, a Democrat from Healdsburg.

“That’s a challenge,” he said, adding that he often doesn’t have the necessary information to pass onto local officials in his community.

Fellow Democrat, Assemblyman Adam Gray of Merced, said he still hasn’t received information he requested from Newsom’s aides about where emergency medical supplies and protective gear are being distributed.

“It is frustrating as can be that I know more about the number of ventilators California is sending to other states than I know about the number of ventilators being sent to my district,” Gray said.

Assemblyman Phil Ting pressed Newsom’s aides about the state’s plan to test more Californians for the coronavirus — to no avail.

“You’re doing 25,000 tests a day May 1st. What’s the number we need to return to some sort of more normalcy?” asked Ting, a San Franciso Democrat. “Is it 100,000? Is it 50,000? Is it a million? What is it?”

The response from Marko Mijic, acting director of the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development:

“We are assessing that right now. I don’t have the exact number for you.”

Lawmakers expect a greater role in non-emergency decisions

The emergency measure lawmakers passed last month with bipartisan support gives Newsom sweeping power to spend up to $1 billion responding to the pandemic. Lawmakers expected that would include things like ventilators, hospital expansions, protective gear for health workers and other direct medical expenses, said GOP Assemblyman Jay Obernolte of Big Bear.

But they didn’t expect — nor did they permit — the governor to spend pandemic money on social safety net programs, Obernolte said, noting that the law specifically says lawmakers want to address the social impacts of the virus through the budget process.

Newsom’s response to the pandemic has included $75 million in taxpayer funds to aid undocumented immigrants and $42 million for foster youth, among other items that some might see as tangential to the emergency response.

“We, the Legislature, would like to partner with the governor in addressing the social impacts of COVID through the budget process,” Obernolte said. “So I feel like the Legislature has been bypassed on this issue.”

Lawmakers remain frustrated by secrecy on Newsom’s $1 billion face masks deal

Newsom made national news nearly two weeks ago when he announced a $1.4 billion deal to buy protective gear for essential workers, including a $990 million contract for hundreds of millions of face masks made by a Chinese company called BYD.

Legislators were immediately frustrated that they got little heads-up about the enormous expenditure, and requested more information from Newsom’s administration. The governor still has not released the contract, and his director of emergency services said Monday it won’t be released until the goods arrive in California because global demand for the equipment has made it very valuable.

“Releasing the contract at this point, we believe, jeopardizes the delivery of the very supplies we need now,” said Mark Ghilarducci. “We are close to getting that flow of commodity in, and we do plan to release the contract as a matter of course when we believe it no longer jeopardizes actually receiving the (personal protective equipment).”

Ghilarducci said California did not seek bids from multiple companies when it turned to BYD. He wouldn’t say how much the state agreed to pay for each mask but assured lawmakers it was a fair price.

GOP Assemblyman Bill Brough of Dana Point didn’t seem persuaded, and said he was disappointed that Newsom didn’t turn to manufacturers who could make the masks in California “and perhaps save taxpayers some money.”

Ting, the committee chair, urged Newsom’s administration to give legislators more information about the contract, even if the whole thing can’t be made public.

“We all understand there are some issues that are sensitive,” he said. “My suggestion: it would be good to have a separate legislative briefing on issues that have particular sensitivity… even if you can’t completely share those with the public.”

Governor Newsom Wants to Train 10,000 Contact Tracers in California

By Rebecca Klar, The Hill

Governor Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that the state is planning to train up to 10,000 contact tracers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Expanding contact tracing and testing is one of six indicators Newsom said last week would drive the state’s decision to gradually modify portions of the stay-at-home order.

Newsom said testing and contact tracing will be expanded, adding that President Trump committed to sending the state 100,000 testing swabs next week and 250,000 swabs the following week.

California is establishing a contact tracing workforce by surveying counties on their capacities, developing a statewide training academy and training 10,000 public health connectors to conduct contact tracing.

Eighty additional community testing sites will be set up, focused on underserved communities, Newsom said.

“We know that communities of color are disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” the governor said in an official announcement.

“We must ensure that we are deploying testing equitably in an effort to reduce the higher death rates we are seeing in African American and Latino communities,” he added.

Newsom also announced plans Wednesday to allow hospitals and health systems to resume delayed medical care, such as heart valve replacements, angioplasty and tumor removals, which were deferred as the health care system prepared for a surge of COVID-19 patients.

“Thanks to the work our health care delivery system has done expanding hospital capacity and reducing the rate of spread of COVID-19, hospitals and health systems can consider resuming medical care that residents have delayed during this crisis … when such care can be delivered safely and with appropriate protections for health care workers,” Newsom said.

“It’s in the best interest of the overall health of our state to allow these procedures to resume when they can be done safely,” he added.

Last week, the California state leader announced a plan with six indicators that would drive the state’s decision on when to modify restrictions.

In addition to increasing testing and contact tracing, the indicators are preventing infection in people most at risk, being able to handle a surge in hospitals, developing therapeutics to meet the demand, ensuring businesses and schools can support physical distancing, and determining when to reinstate certain measures such as a stay-at-home order if need be.

California has reported 35,396 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,354 deaths.

 

April 24, 2020

Back to Business

The Covid-19 Pandemic of March 2020 led to a response that was unforeseen, and for many businesses, largely unplanned. The closing of non-essential businesses coupled with shelter in place orders for most citizens has created a crisis environment for our economic well-being. You must decide now how your business will be able to survive this crisis and remain in business. This is different than a simple business continuity plan as the factors that have caused this crisis were out of your control. In this way, the effect that this has had on our business community is very similar to communities coping with large scale natural disasters! Many businesses in those communities were able to bounce back and recover as a result of good self-evaluation and planning.

Click here to view some suggestions for planning your business recovery.

 

Bracing for a New PPP Funding Round

Article by Mark Mensheha, The Business Journals, The National Observer

The $310B in fresh funding for the PPP might not be enough, experts say.

The $310 billion in additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program approved by the Senate Tuesday might not be enough to meet the overwhelming demand from businesses, experts and small-business advocates say.

Consider the numbers: The first round of funding, $342.3 billion, went to 1.7 million loans nationwide, a small percentage of recipients when compared with the more than 30 million companies the U.S. Small Business Administration designates as small businesses. “It’s not going to be enough,” said Ryan Metcalf, head of policy for Funding Circle, an online lending platform with its U.S. operations based in San Francisco. “I predict it will be gone in three to four days.”

Consider, too, that participants are more familiar with what’s ahead — compared to the chaotic launch of the PPP on April 3. Despite the initial frustrations, funding still was gone in less than two weeks. “I would expect the processing of these to be more efficient than last time, where we were having to go back to the customers multiple times to garner additional information,” said Ameris CEO H. Palmer Proctor. “That would make the process efficient, but that efficiency means that dollars will run out more quickly.”

The new allocation sets aside $60 billion for PPP loans from smaller banks to reach more of the smallest and minority-owned businesses, particularly in underserved communities and rural areas. It also provides for:

• $75 billion for hospital aid
• $25 billion to expand testing
• $60 billion for the SBA’s separate Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, which also exhausted its original funding.

The EIDL money comes as the SBA made available state-by-state data on how the earlier EIDL dollars were distributed.

3 Key Points as Funding Resumes

Article by Mark Mensheha, The Business Journals, The National Observer

Business owners are seeking additional PPP funding from Washington, D.C.

Before new PPP lending can begin, the House of Representatives must pass the legislation approved by the Senate and President Donald Trump must sign it. Given that both approvals are expected, here are three things small-business owners should know before they re-engage with the PPP, according to principals involved in the process.

Q: Do I need to reapply for a loan if I already had an application underway but it hasn’t yet been approved?
A: In most cases, no, according to lenders The Business Journals spoke with — but it’s probably best to double-check with your lender of choice.

Q: If I applied at one bank but am far back in the queue, should I apply at another as well?
A: Here’s the key to this question: Only one loan application per business can be authorized through the SBA’s electronic system, E-Tran. “If a borrower’s current lender feels they are unable to process their application before funds are exhausted, it may be advisable to seek other resources,” said Edward Barry, CEO of Capital Bank of Rockville, Maryland.

Q: How long does it typically take between approval and when I see the money?
A: About a week is a good rule of thumb, said Richard Danker, vice president of strategy of Chain Bridge Bank.

April 20, 2020

Governor Taps Business Leaders and Others For New Task Force

Governor Newsom Taps California Business, Labor, Health Care and Community Leaders for New Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery

Governor appoints business and civic leader Tom Steyer Chief Advisor to the Governor on Business and Jobs Recovery

Task Force will be co-chaired by Governor’s Chief of Staff Ann O’Leary and Steyer

Brings together Californians from across diverse range of the state’s economy to develop recommendations for a plan that works for all Californians, with a focus on the regions and communities hardest hit by the pandemic

Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, Disney Executive Chairman Bob Iger, ILWU President Willie Adams, President and CEO of the California Community Foundation Antonia Hernandez, former head of the Small Business Administration Aida Álvarez and Apple CEO Tim Cook will be part of the Task Force stepping up to help California pave the way toward a fast, safe recovery of jobs

All of California’s former governors and California’s legislative leaders across both political parties join the task force

SACRAMENTO – Bringing together leaders across California’s diverse, innovative economic and social sectors to chart a path forward on recovery in the wake of COVID-19, Governor Gavin Newsom today announced the formation of a state Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery. The Task Force will be co-chaired by Governor Newsom’s Chief of Staff Ann O’Leary and philanthropist, environmentalist and businessman Tom Steyer, who was also appointed Chief Advisor to the Governor on Business and Jobs Recovery. He will receive no compensation for his service.

Members of the Task Force include Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Senate Minority Leader Shannon Grove, Assembly Minority Leader Marie Waldron, former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, Walt Disney Company Executive Chairman Bob Iger, former head of the Small Business Administration Aida Álvarez and dozens of prominent leaders in business, labor, health care, academia and philanthropy.

Read the full list of Task Force members here.

“This pandemic has forced millions of Californians out of jobs – with the most vulnerable hit the hardest,” said Governor Newsom.

“While we have made significant progress in flattening the curve and increased preparedness of our health care delivery system, the actions taken have also impacted the economy, poverty and overall health care in California. We will use a gradual, science-based and data-driven framework to guide our re-opening timing while planning our economic recovery. I am honored that dozens of leaders in business, labor, health and philanthropy are stepping up to meet this moment by committing their time and talent to lift up all Californians. Through their leadership, and the leadership of California’s 40 million residents, I have no doubt we will emerge stronger from this crisis.”

The Task Force will work to develop actions government and businesses can take to help Californians recover as fast as safely possible from the COVID-19 induced recession and to shape a fair, green, and prosperous future. They will meet twice a month throughout 2020 to develop options that would work for all Californians, with a particular focus on those hardest hit by the pandemic.

“Governor Newsom has been a steady hand and shining example of how to lead during a crisis, and I am thrilled to help in this critical way,” said Tom Steyer. “In the coming weeks and months, we will bring together the public and private sectors, outside experts, organized labor, environmental groups, and activists to develop recommendations for a recovery plan that works for all Californians, with an emphasis on those communities hardest hit by the pandemic. Our goal is to present Governor Newsom with tangible actions that leverage the task force’s expertise to rebuild California, emphasize smart, green technologies and provide a model for just economic development for our country.”

The Task Force will craft ideas for short, medium, and long-term solutions that reflect communities across the state, and emphasize a fair and equitable recovery. There will be significant emphasis of the state’s strengths, including diversity and innovation. The Task Force will not only focus on our immediate recovery, but on actions to support a cleaner, more equitable and prosperous future for all Californians. It will build on the important work of other groups including the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors, the Higher Education Council and the Commission on the Future of Work. Both co-chairs of the Future of Work Commission, President of SEIU Mary Kay Henry and Senior Partner of McKinsey & Company James Manyika, will serve on the new Task Force.

The Governor formed the Business and Jobs Recovery Task Force just days after he announced a multi-state Task Force with Oregon and Washington to coordinate the reopening of our regional economy. Governor Newsom outlined a road map to recovery with six indicators that should be met before California’s stay-at-home orders are modified.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on California’s economy. The state has seen more than 2.8 million unemployment claims since March 12, 2020 – not including undocumented residents or independent contractors. The impact has been particularly devastating for California’s small businesses.

Changing Prop. 13 Will Generate a Tax Bill That Will Harm Small Business

Changing Prop. 13 Will Generate a Tax Bill That Will Harm Small Business, Especially Those Owned by Minorities
Article by Willie Brown, Special to CalMatters

Many opponents of the original Proposition 13 have never given up.

The same groups that fought the ballot measure more than four decades ago when 65 percent of the state’s electorate passed it have repeatedly tried to destroy the measure’s important property tax protections.

When Prop. 13 was on the ballot in 1978 I opposed it, but the voters approved it. As chair of the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee, I had a responsibility for the legislative implementation of Prop. 13 to make it work.

However, in the decades following Prop. 13’s implementation, I’ve come to recognize the law’s many benefits. For homeowners, small business owners and employers – large and small – Prop. 13 has provided stability, predictability and certainty. This certainty is even more important for the 46 percent of California businesses that are owned by racial minorities including African Americans.

California has a feast-or-famine budget. When economic times are good, large businesses and the well-off fund the vast majority of California’s budget. This funding allows the state to provide generous benefits to Californians who need them most. However, when the state faces an economic downtown, revenues coming into the Capitol crash – and with it, public education and social safety net programs are stretched thin.

This November, many of the same groups that opposed Prop. 13 four decades ago are pushing the largest property tax increase in California history – a shortsighted act made even more myopic given the walloping we’re experiencing with the COVID-19 crisis.

Today, tens of thousands of small businesses across California have shuttered their stores. Still, proponents are proceeding full speed ahead with a proposal that will remove business properties from Prop. 13’s protections and require them to be reassessed at current market value at least every three years.

This unprecedented property tax increase will raise costs to businesses by up to $12.5 billion annually or, if they lease, lead to significant rent increases. Businesses, in turn, will pass these higher costs on to consumers – families and other small businesses – ultimately making everything we buy more expensive.

Proponents of this massive property tax hike attempt to portray their measure as “small business friendly” by claiming small businesses are exempt. This demonstrates a general lack of awareness of how most small businesses operate. Most small businesses rent the property where they operate and have what’s called a “triple net lease,” where property taxes, insurance and maintenance costs are passed directly onto tenants.

Worse still, as a former legislator and leader in California’s African American community, for African American small business owners, the measure’s skyrocketing property tax increases will be devastating. Many of the fore mentioned are my friends and clients.

Look at the facts: According to the 2012 Survey of Business Owners by the U.S. Census Bureau, 46 percent of all businesses in the state are owned by racial minorities including African Americans. They often rent their property and are subject to higher rents when property taxes increase. And, African American-owned small businesses are nearly twice as likely to fail because they have insufficient cash flow or sales to cover their costs than U.S. businesses as a whole.

Even before the unpredictable, tumultuous events of COVID-19, this massive property tax increase demonstrates an insensitivity and lack of awareness about the struggles that small businesses, particularly minority small businesses, face.

If small business owners manage to stay in business – which is no guarantee – adding to their challenges is neither prudent nor advised. Changing course on Prop. 13 will not only be costly to you and me, but it will be costly for California and our economy as a whole.

Willie Brown is a former San Francisco mayor and the longest serving Speaker of the California Assembly, Wlb@williebrowninc.com.

 

April 17, 2020

Save Small Business Fund

To extend a helping hand to small businesses suffering from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation – in partnership with Vistaprint and a coalition of supporting companies, foundations, and philanthropic donors – is working to provide financial relief through the Save Small Business Fund.

The Fund is providing $5,000 in short-term relief to employers across the United States, including chambers of commerce. These one-time supplemental cash grants are for businesses that have between three and 20 employees and operate in an economically vulnerable community (bottom 80% of zip codes in the country).

The grant application will go live on Monday, April 20 at 12:00 PM PT / I:00 PM MT / 9:00 AM Hawaii. To learn more about the Save Small Business Fund and to apply for a grant, visit www.savesmallbusiness.com.

PPP Hits Empty, Demand Does Not

By Mark Mensheha, The National Observer

Lenders nationwide navigated an unprecedented surge of business over the last two week using around-the-clock work and a substantial commitment of resources. Now, they’re bracing for another storm to hit.

The $349 billion in available Paycheck Protection Program funding expired on Thursday. Lenders pushed through “14 years’ worth of loans in less than 14 days,” according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The agency reports that more than 1.6 million SBA-backed PPP loans were issued since the program launched April 3. But consider that the SBA says there are more than 30 million small businesses nationwide, and it’s clear that demand from pandemic-damaged companies remains.

The funding expiration comes as the nation’s latest weekly unemployment claims figures show that 22 million jobs have been lost over the past four weeks. That’s roughly the same number of jobs that were created over the past decade.

Both the SBA and outside groups called on legislators to end their stalemate and push through an additional $250 billion in PPP funding. And while many banks are no longer accepting PPP applications, some are — in anticipation of additional dollars. “The best we can do is process as much as we can, with our own hands, using our own system, and queue them up to send to the SBA,” said Bob Rivers, CEO of Eastern Bank in Boston.

Lenders have said there are changes to the program they would like to see if it were to continue, including better access for sole proprietors and more compliance guidelines. Others asked whether an already stressed financial system could support additional lending. “If there’s another tranche [of loans] that comes in a few more weeks, and [banks] open up to a different set of customers or maybe not existing customers, that’s going to put another strain on these banks,” said Jeffrey Boswell, a director in West Monroe Partners’ customer experience practice in Dallas.

Also: Fresh off SBA approval, fintechs have given some small-business owners another option for PPP lending.

How 10 Small Businesses are Fighting Coronavirus in Creative Ways

By Lindsay Cates, Associate Manager, Communications and Strategy – US Chamber

Small businesses producing everything from lip gloss to fuel cells have pivoted their entire operations in just days to produce all types of personal protective equipment. Read how these agile companies are creating new products—or turning up the dial on their everyday efforts—to do their part:

Kitsbow, a cycling apparel company in North Carolina, quickly switched their production teams from making cycling jerseys to making PPE. “We have a computer-controlled fabric cutter, and computer-controlled laser cutter, and are able to make all the parts in just a few hours for a thousand face shields,” said Kitsbow CEO David Billstrom, who was a first responder for 38 years. Production of 26,000 face shields and face masks began Monday, and they already have a backlog of orders.

Three years ago, cosmetics company Garb2Art did a one-off product line making hand sanitizer for local hospitals and subscription diabetes kits. Two weeks ago, owner Dawn Andrews was asked if she could make hand sanitizer again. “Customers were begging for it,” Andrews said. She went to work completely changing her production process, expanded her staff from five to 25, and made her $20,000 investment in alcohol and bottles back in one day. Garb2Art sold 50,000 bottles during the first week of production, and this week plans to double that.

Sweaty Bands, known for their no-slip activewear headbands, is taking the materials that once ended up as headbands and making them into face masks. They’ve already sent a bunch to Tennessee hospitals, and although the masks aren’t medical grade, owner Doug Browning believes the same people who buy headbands will want to buy masks to protect themselves in the general public. The brightly colored masks are also washable and reusable.

Emily Walker, plant manager at Brookville Glove Manufacturing in rural Pennsylvania, was prepared to furlough production workers last week when the state closed all non-essential businesses. Then, she got a call from a senior care provider asking if Brookville Glove could make face masks. “They’re doing everything they can to prevent the virus from coming in their doors and they needed protection yesterday,” Walker said. Brookville Glove is now humming with orders for masks that offer front-line health care workers some protection from getting COVID-19.

Last week a hospital in New York City asked Kathlin Argiro, a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology and the chief product officer at Altress, a small dressmaking company, if Altress could make face masks. “The masks themselves are actually pretty easy to make, especially for an experienced sewer, they’re really quite simple,” Argriro said. Altress pivoted, and the company’s seamstresses (all working from home) will churn out 1,000 masks this week.

Last week, Bloom Energy Chief Executive KR Sridhar realized his California fuel-cell business, which repairs old fuel-cell power generators, could help alleviate the state’s shortage of ventilators. After talking with the governor’s office, Bloom Energy picked up 24 old ventilators, stockpiled by the state from the H5N1 outbreak in the mid-2000s, and within 24 hours a small team of employees had refurbished them all. Once certified, the machines will be put to use in hospitals.

In Kentucky, Bullard, a company that makes safety equipment, hard hats, fire helmets, and respiratory protection, is now working around the clock to produce highly sought-after products like face shields for healthcare workers. Based in the county where the state’s first coronavirus patient was detected, the company quickly stepped up to answer the need. “We’ve been ramping up capacity tremendously. We are manufacturing more than five times more than we were previous to this pandemic, and still trying to increase the capacity every day,” said CEO Wells Bullard.

Wyoming Machine, a Minnesota company that produces small metal plates for ventilators, was asked to double their annual production. The company typically makes 5,000 plates per year to send to a ventilator manufacturing company, but has been asked to do 10,000 before April — and that request could grow, said co-President Lori Tapani. Lori and her sister and co-president Traci say they’re up for the challenge and proud to continue their role as critical infrastructure.

In Washington, Jeff Kaas and his team at Kaas Tailored normally manufacture furniture, but last week Kaas began collaborating with Providence St. Joseph to see if he could pivot his factory to making personal protective equipment. Providence came up with a mask blueprint, and Kaas shifted his team from loveseats and lighting to surgical masks. Fifty staff members made 5,600 masks in just two days. “It’s been crazy,” Kaas said. Kaas Tailored then put out a 100 million mask challenge, sending a play-by-play video on how to construct the masks to manufacturers in 25 other states.

Several central Kentucky and Louisville distilleries have shifted their operations to making hand sanitizer. Brown-Forman distilleries Woodford Reserve and Old Forester in Louisville delivered 6,000 bottles last Friday to local medical teams and emergency responders – and will continue to produce as they have the supplies. “We consider this a donation to those on the front lines of this pandemic and a small token of our appreciation,” said Elizabeth Conway, a spokeswoman for Brown-Forman.

Quarantine gotcha’ down?

Quarantine gotcha’ down? Here’s some fun stuff to keep you occupied in isolation this weekend.
By the Hustle

FOR WORKIN’ UP A SWEAT: Barry’s Bootcamp
Your favorite bougie fitness class has gone virtual to keep you moving through the ‘tine. You can reserve a paid spot in a virtual class, or just follow along for free on Instagram Live.

FOR KILLING TIME ALONE: Sporcle
Did you, too, forget about Sporcle, the greatest online quiz platform in all the kingdoms? Then let us rejoice, for it’s still here — and this Harry Potter Logic Puzzle is a magical treat.

FOR USING YOUR LEFTOVERS: Supercook
Don’t know what to do with the weird mix of sh*t in your fridge rn? Us either. But if you enter whatever’s in there into Supercook, it’ll spit out a recipe for you.

FOR CHALLENGING A ROOMMATE: The Wiki Game
You know this game: Start on a Wikipedia page and see who can find a specific-yet-entirely-unrelated page fastest. Yes, The Hustle’s productivity did decrease by about 3000% this week, thank you for asking.

FOR PRETTY PUZZLIN’: Inner Peace
1) Fantastic puzzle pun, Inner Piece. 2) These are literally the most beautiful puzzles we’ve ever seen. 3) They’re still in stock. Ya’ welcome.

Calming the Scared Voices in Your Head

By Jeffrey M Orth, ChFC, CASL

At our team meeting this morning, we reflected on how different the world seemed a few short weeks ago, before we were faced with the impact of Covid-19. And while the specifics of the current crisis may be different than those we have seen in the past the principles of sound money management remain the same.

As you might guess, I have been on the phone frequently over the past few weeks, and the recurring themes revolve around market timing, drastic investment changes and fear. In every case, the person I was speaking with knew they were supposed to maintain a long-term focus and try to ignore the current crisis, but the constant bombardment of media pessimism can fuel fears and thoughts of panic.

From my experience, here are some of the more common scared voices with which people do battle, and some sound thinking to combat them:

“It’s been a good run but it’s time to get out”
“I can’t just stand here and do nothing”
“If I time this just right, I can get out and in at precisely the right time”
“I don’t want to bother my advisor”
“This time it is the end of the world’

Declines have been common and temporary occurrences
Declines can cause imprudent behavior by filling investors with dread and panic. It is important to realize that declines are inevitable, and in the past, have not lasted forever. History has shown that market declines are a natural part of investing and it is important to accept declines as a normal part of the investment cycle.

Proper perspective can help you remain calm.
People place too much emphasis on recent events, disregarding long-term realities. While past performance cannot predict future results, the stock market has a reassuring history of recovery. That is to say, it has recovered and in time continued to new market highs 100% of the time.

Even amid market downturns, remember that stocks have rewarded investors over time. So, keeping a long-term perspective can help you prevail through challenging times.

Don’t try to time the market
I believe we can all agree that losses feel twice as bad as gains feel good. At times like this it is important to remember that the market has shown resilience and that market recoveries have been strong.

Although market recoveries are not guaranteed, taking your money out of the market during declines means that if you don’t get back in at the right time, you will miss the full benefit of market recoveries. The bottom line here is to consider staying invested and don’t try to time the market. Remember what the Rolling Stones said, “Time is on my side, yes, it is”.

Emotions can cloud your judgement
Have you ever heard the adage, “buy low, sell high”? Strong emotions during market swings can tempt you to do the opposite – buy high and sell low. Investors often make poor decisions when they let their emotions take over. So, it is important to stay focused on your long-term goals and carefully consider your options. Avoid making rash decisions based on emotions.

It important to call your financial advisor
Of all the financial planning activities that I perform for my clients, I have found that one of the more valuable ones is behavioral coaching. I remind them that we worked hard together to identify their risk tolerance. I remind them that their portfolio was designed to withstand market downturns and take advantage of recoveries. I remind them that contingencies, and in some cases actual guarantees, have been built into their financial plan. It’s for times like this that investors have financial advisors, so don’t be afraid to call for advice and support.

I understand that investing for the long term can be daunting at times. It reminds me of a Rudyard Kipling poem that started with the following:
“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…”

Now is the time to ‘keep your head’ and stay invested, always keeping your long-term plan in mind.

 

Jeffrey M. Orth is a Chartered Financial Consultant, a Certified Advisor in Senior Living, and an Investment Advisor Representative of Hornor, Townsend and Kent, LLC, with over 20 years experience as a business and personal planning, insurance, and wealth management specialist. Jeff is available for group lectures and private consultations. Visit his website at www.ifitfinancial.com or call 408.842.2716.

This is not an offer recommendation to purchase any product or service; recommendations will only be provided on a personalized basis. HTK does not offer tax or legal advice. Please consult a qualified advisor regarding your individual circumstances.

Investing involves risk, including loss of value. All guarantees are based on the claims paying ability of the issuing company

 

 

April 15, 2020

Help Your Local Businesses Weather COVID-19

Governor Newsom Outlines Six Critical Indicators

Governor Newsom Outlines Six Critical Indicators the State will Consider Before Modifying the Stay-at-Home Order and Other COVID-19 Interventions

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today unveiled six key indicators that will guide California’s thinking for when and how to modify the stay-at-home and other orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Governor noted that the progress in flattening the curve, increased preparedness of our health care delivery system and the effects of other COVID-19 interventions have yielded positive results. However, these actions have also impacted the economy, poverty and overall health care in California. Any consideration of modifying the stay-at-home order must be done using a gradual, science-based and data-driven framework.

“While Californians have stepped up in a big way to flatten the curve and buy us time to prepare to fight the virus, at some point in the future we will need to modify our stay-at-home order,” said Governor Newsom. “As we contemplate reopening parts of our state, we must be guided by science and data, and we must understand that things will look different than before.”

Until we build immunity, our actions will be aligned to achieve the following:

• Ensure our ability to care for the sick within our hospitals;
• Prevent infection in people who are at high risk for severe disease;
• Build the capacity to protect the health and well-being of the public; and
• Reduce social, emotional and economic disruptions

California’s six indicators for modifying the stay-at-home order are:

• The ability to monitor and protect our communities through testing, contact tracing, isolating, and supporting those who are positive or exposed;
• The ability to prevent infection in people who are at risk for more severe COVID-19;
• The ability of the hospital and health systems to handle surges;
• The ability to develop therapeutics to meet the demand;
• The ability for businesses, schools, and child care facilities to support physical distancing; and
• The ability to determine when to reinstitute certain measures, such as the stay-at-home orders, if necessary.

The Governor said there is not a precise timeline for modifying the stay-at-home order, but that these six indicators will serve as the framework for making that decision.

He also noted that things will look different as California makes modifications. For example, restaurants will have fewer tables and classrooms will be reconfigured.

DMV Extends Expiring Driver’s Licenses

DMV extends expiring driver’s licenses due to coronavirus closures

By Patrick McGreevy, Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times

With all field offices closed to the public during the coronavirus outbreak, the California Department of Motor Vehicles announced Tuesday it is extending driver licenses that are expiring for residents younger than 70 until May 31.

The DMV had previously granted 120-day extensions for licenses of drivers age 70 and older, a group that is particularly vulnerable to the virus and is under caution to stay in their homes.

DMV officials also said Tuesday that all commercial driver licenses expiring between March and June are now valid through June 30, a date set by an emergency declaration from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

“The DMV has alerted California law enforcement of the extensions,” said an agency statement.

Creativity in a Coronavirus World

By James C. Kaufmann, PhD. Writing for Psychology Today

Can everyday creativity be a small silver lining during the outbreak?

These are grim and scary times. A tolerance for ambiguity is often considered to be a hallmark of a creative personality, but the complete uncertainty we are facing would daunt even the most open of people. Like many, I have been trying to seek out silver linings.

One of them, I believe, is that we are seeing an increase in everyday creativity. It is important to first note that this benefit is not enjoyed by everyone. The brave workers on the front line—from doctors to people in the supply chain—have less free time, not more. People whose jobs are at risk (or lost) are focused on more immediate needs. But many who are working from home, with no commutes or in-person meetings, find themselves with more time on their hands.

Anyone who spends time on social media has likely noticed that hidden between the political rants and virus fears is a smattering of more interesting posts sharing someone’s latest craftwork, dessert, or quip. People with school-age children are finding some harsh realities, such as that some of the online classes are much shorter than “real” classes (not to mention the absence of play dates, piano lessons, and track meets). Many families are engaged in more activities. Some are enjoyable, such as jigsaw puzzles and board games. Other activities are specifically creative. A few have gone viral (perhaps not the best word to use in these times), such as the family singing a song from Les Misérables or some dance-off videos. Most represent small—but important—moments of creativity.

The examples of everyday imagination you see on your feed or timeline may not strike you as creative-with-a-capital-C. Clever family photos, meme creation, or Zoom singalongs may, indeed, not be the Mona Lisas of our time. It is important, however, to not let such a comparison diminish their value. If creativity is a light, it does not have an on/off switch. It is not helpful to think of things as “Creative” or “Not Creative.” My view is that creativity has a dimmer switch, growing from a tiny bit creative to a little creative to creative enough to light up the whole room.

Consider the Four C Model of Creativity, which I developed with my colleague and friend Dr. Ron Beghetto. In this model, we see creativity starting at mini-c. Mini-c is small, insightful moments of creativity that are meaningful to the creator. These Mini-c bursts may not be important to anyone else (in some cases, they may not even be shared with anyone else), but they still matter. Imagine you’re spreading cream cheese on a toasted bagel and you realize you’re getting bored. You decide to sprinkle a little cinnamon on top. You like the new taste. The next day, you continue to experiment. Are you the first to think of this addition? Of course not. Although we generally agree that creativity is both new and task-appropriate/useful, a creative act can be new to you (much like all of the old movies some of us are watching).

If you continue being interested and are enjoying the creative activity, then you keep practicing and receiving feedback. Maybe your doodling has progressed to the point where you are making cartoons and sharing them online. Perhaps you make your private YouTube channel of punk Sondheim covers public and start getting solid viewer response. In the pre-social-distancing world, you may have reached the stage of playing music at the local coffee shop or bar, displaying your art at nearby fairs, or trying out your new technique for teaching algebra to your classroom. This stage we call Little-c, or everyday creativity.

With enough time, deliberate practice, focus, and improvement, you may advance to Pro-c, or expert-level creativity. You have published your book about kiwi cultivation, received your scientific grant to study how a femur can experience emotion, or recorded your first digital album of ukulele music. You have entered the field and it is not only other local people who can appreciate your efforts but also the experts and gatekeepers. It is important to note that we are describing a typical path; revolutionary creators may never be accepted by a field because their works are so challenging or disquieting.

Sometimes, a creator’s contributions outlive them and continue to influence a field and be enjoyed or used for generations after their death. Instant examples include William Shakespeare, Albert Einstein, or Wolfgang Mozart, but also think of Frida Kahlo, George Washington Carver, Jerome Kern, or Stanley Milgram. You may not know all of their names, but you likely know their life’s work. This creativity is Big-C, or creative genius.

We often think about creativity in comparison with Big-C: “That’s a good melody, but it’s not Gershwin tune,” or “That’s a nice painting, but it’s not Picasso.” This tendency is unfortunate—there are so many positive aspects of creativity for the creator and others, and these beliefs will potentially cause someone to not bother pursuing a creative activity.

In coronavirus times, however, the balance shifts. As I teach my now-online classes in creativity at the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut, I am struck by how many students talk about finding time to return to writing or cooking or drawing.

Yes, they are still doing classwork (and spending time worried and stressed, of course), but more downtime and more constraints on what can and cannot be done means they can choose what to do with their time. Many are choosing creativity, just as people of all generations and groupings are across the world.

The higher-level creativity we see in quarantine times is absolutely vital. Some renowned actors, singers, and comedians are using their gifts to do at-home performances that are lifting people’s spirits. Some accomplished inventors and businesspeople are shifting gears to try to make masks or ventilators using fewer resources. Most essentially, the top doctors and scientists around the globe are working toward treatments and, ideally, a vaccine.

But do not let the existence of possible superstars stifle your own creativity. You don’t have to be working for a cure or entertaining millions for your ideas to have value for yourself, your friends, or the larger community. Creative activities can help you reduce stress, handle trauma, and improve your mood—all of which are particularly helpful at the current moment.

James C. Kaufman, Ph.D., is a creativity researcher and Professor of Educational Psychology at the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut.

 

April 13, 2020

Discussion with CalChamber CEO, Allan Zaremberg

Mark Turner, President of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, will be discussing the impacts of COVID-19 on California businesses with the President of CalChamber, Allan Zaremberg. CalChamber is the state’s largest broad-based advocacy group representing more than 14,000 business members.

Mark is schedule to speak with Allan at 11:00 a.m., Thursday, April 16. Topics will include, COVID-19’s impact to California’s small businesses, the state’s response and assistance to small businesses, the Federal Government’s response and the role CalChamber and local Chambers play in the recovery. Register online for this free webinar today!

 

 

Allan Zaremberg is president and chief executive officer of the CalChamber. He took over the top staff position in 1998 after six years as executive vice president and head of CalChamber’s legislative advocacy program.

Supporting policies that give job creators the certainty and stability they need to make investment and hiring decisions has been a priority for Zaremberg. He has headed statewide ballot campaigns to ensure real taxes require a two-thirds vote, to close the legal loophole that permitted shakedown lawsuits, to assure adequate funding for transportation infrastructure, and to oppose anti-business proposals that would have increased the cost of health care, electricity and public works. He led negotiations culminating in adoption of comprehensive reforms of the state workers’ compensation system, endangered species laws and other key issues.

He also guides the CalChamber’s ongoing effort as the leading employment law expert for California businesses to provide products and services that help employers comply with continually changing state and federal laws.

Before joining CalChamber, Zaremberg served as chief legislative advisor to and advocate for Governors George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson.

Zaremberg served as a captain and flight navigator on a KC-135 jet air refueling tanker while in the U.S. Air Force from 1970 to 1975.

He holds a B.S. in economics from Penn State University and a J.D. from the McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific, where he was a member of the Law Journal.

Letter to Congressional Leaders

Putting California’s Homeless in Hotels

Here’s How Putting California’s Homeless in Hotels Actually Works
Written by Matt Levin, CalMatters

Richard Dobbs was coughing, feverish, and preparing to sleep on the sidewalk again.

Dobbs, 60 and homeless in Sacramento for the past two years, had just been discharged March 28 from Sutter Medical Center’s emergency department, where he was given a test for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and written instructions for how to self-isolate while he awaited the results.

“Separate yourself from other people in your home,” read a bold-faced warning. “Stay home except to get medical care,” read another.

Home for Dobbs most nights was the sidewalk next to the Wells Fargo Pavilion, a theater in downtown Sacramento. Staff at a local food bank saw him in line the next day and scrambled to find him a motel room where he could safely self-quarantine.

Dobbs’ test results came back negative. But with his motel stay scheduled to end on Monday and county caseworkers trying to place him in transitional housing, Dobbs is fearful he’s now even more vulnerable to the virus.

“I would stay (in the motel) for a while now because I’ve always hated going into shelters,” said Dobbs. “Because you get sick going into those places.”

In an unprecedented effort spurred by the pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom and local governments across the state say they are scrambling to find 15,000 hotel rooms for people like Dobbs: homeless and particularly susceptible to or exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus infection.

Richard Dobbs in his Sacramento motel room. Photo courtesy of Ginny Bayly, Loaves and Fishes

As homeless Californians begin to move into these units, new questions have arisen for hoteliers, shelter providers, health care workers and government officials: How much should a room cost, and who should pay for it? How will meals be delivered? How will residents with mental health and addiction issues be handled?

And, when all this ends, will people in these rooms end up back on the street?

Here are some answers:

How many homeless people have been moved into hotels so far, and how many rooms are available?

The data here is sketchy. A spokesperson from Newsom’s office said today 1,813 hotels or motel rooms are now occupied as part of Project Roomkey, a joint effort between the state, counties and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Newsom also said during a press conference that the state had helped procure 8,742 rooms.

State and local housing officials say Newsom’s numbers are underestimates because they don’t capture independent efforts from county governments to set up hotel rooms on their own. San Diego County, praised by Newsom for its quick action, secured 1,300 rooms in mid-March. The number of people actually relocated to hotel rooms is also due to increase significantly this week. Los Angeles County alone plans to have more than 1,069 beds occupied by the end of the week.

But the task ahead is daunting. More than 150,000 people are homeless in California, 108,000 unsheltered; an optimistic count of the number of those moved to hotel rooms so far represents a little over 1% of that total. The effort has already required a great deal of logistical gymnastics and staffing. Even focusing on only the highest-risks populations — seniors, those with underlying health conditions — will be a huge undertaking.

Where are the hotels? And are we talking about the Ritz or Motel 6?

State and local health officials have declined to share a comprehensive listing of hotels that have opened their doors to homeless people. They argue releasing such information risks those individuals homeless showing up at hotels and demanding rooms without referrals from physicians or caseworkers.

More than 1,000 hotels across the state have at least expressed an interest in providing emergency quarantine accommodations, although that includes temporary housing for health care workers and first responders, according to data from the California Hotel & Lodging Association. Hotels in Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange counties alone account for more than 40% of possible rooms in that survey.

While some higher-end boutiques and well-known brands such as Comfort Inn and Radisson are participating, state and county officials are having more success with smaller, independent motels that may already have relationships with local housing authorities.

That’s partly because independent motel owners can act quicker than major corporate chains, and partly because those motels are often already located in neighborhoods with shelters and other homeless service providers, making it easier for counties to get them up and running.

Are enough hotels willing to do this?

Yes, at least so far.

Local health and homelessness officials will tell you finding hotels and motels willing to participate hasn’t been a major bottleneck yet. At least not compared to other logistical hold-ups (see below).

“We have a lot of interest, a lot of receptiveness, from motel operators,” said Cynthia Cavanaugh, director of homeless initiatives for Sacramento County. “We actually have interest from places we never expected, so that part has not been as much of a challenge.”

The major reason hotels and motels are opening their doors so readily is the obvious one: It’s not like demand for hotel rooms is high right now.

“(These are) brutal, unprecedented, extraordinary times,” said Lynn Mohrfeld, president of the California Hotel and Lodging Association. “Anyone that is open right now is losing money,” Mohrfeld said on a typical non-pandemic week, about 70% of hotel rooms across the state are occupied. Now it’s single digits.

Who is paying for the hotels, how much are they paying, and what about insurance?

Newsom said late last week that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will pick up 75% of the tab for rooms that are housing homeless people who have tested positive, are symptomatic, have been exposed to the virus, or are in highly vulnerable populations.

Counties are on the hook for the rest, as well as for services, such as case managers and counselors, that residents may need.

Counties can tap state emergency funds to help pay.

So far, the state has distributed $150 million to counties to help pay for motels and other homelessness services, but the total cost borne to taxpayers will undoubtedly be more.

Lease costs vary from county to county and hotel to hotel. But Mohrfeld said room rates in general are at least in shouting distance of the rates the federal government pays when its employees stay in California hotels. That “standard” rate is about $96 per room per night (higher in most cities), and leases are typically 60 to 90 days with options for extensions. Hotels may also be receiving additional reimbursement for higher insurance rates and associated costs.

While local governments and the state have generally agreed in contracts to pay for any property damage incurred as a result of repurposing hotel room, Mohrfeld said there’s still uncertainty among some hotel owners that their properties will be returned to them in the condition they were in before the quarantine.

“It’s the fear of the unknown,” said Mohrfeld.

Who gets into these hotels?

First priority for state and county health officials are homeless Californians who have tested positive or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

While the process varies from county to county, the general timeline is as follows: Shelter staff identify someone with symptoms and quarantine them within the shelter as quickly as possible. The shelter staff then alert county health and homelessnsess staff that the individual is in need of a motel room where they can self-isolate. That person is then safely transported to an “isolation” motel where an on-site nurse and other medical staff monitor their health. Once the person is free of symptoms and believed not to be contagious anymore, they are discharged back into a shelter or into another housing option, if available.

If their condition worsens, they may be taken to a hospital. These “isolation” motels may include not only people who are homeless, but others who are symptomatic or have tested positive but lack a safe place to self-quarantine (those in senior homes, for example).

Multiple shelters across the state have already reported residents with positive tests, and officials are hoping to avoid outbreaks in congregate shelters. Removing symptomatic patients can also free up more beds for healthy people to come in off the streets. But some advocates still warn that congregate settings and resident turnover puts healthy people at risk of contracting the virus.

Those identified as symptomatic on the street will also be eligible for the hotels.

What about the homeless who don’t have the virus or aren’t symptomatic?

Homeless Californians over 65 or with underlying health conditions will be placed in their own motel rooms, separate from those who have tested positive or are symptomatic. It’s unclear how long this population will be allowed to stay in their rooms, and may vary from county to county.

In recent comments, Newsom has pushed back against any expectation that the state may be able to provide motels for every Californian living on the streets. The hope is that by rapidly expanding emergency shelters (San Diego has converted its convention center to a shelter; Los Angeles has converted city recreation centers), homeless individuals that don’t fit the “high-priority” populations eligible for hotels will still be able to come indoors.

But some homelessness advocates have decried that approach, insisting that hotel rooms be commandeered for anyone without shelter in the midst of a pandemic. A plan to convert San Francisco’s Moscone Center into a temporary shelter has been scaled back after photos emerged of a conference center packed with thin sleeping mats, folding chairs and not much else.

Why the delay between acquiring rooms and getting people inside?

On March 16, Newsom said the state had helped acquire its first two hotels for emergency homeless housing, by the Oakland Airport in Alameda County. But the ink on the lease had been dry for nearly two weeks before people who were homeless actually started to move in. Why the delay?

Staffing. Arranging physicians, nurses, caseworkers, food delivery, security, cleaning and other services has been more of a hurdle than actually acquiring the hotels. For hotels isolating those who are symptomatic, personal protective equipment is needed for county, nonprofit and hotel staff.

Transportation has also proved a challenging issue as counties grapple with how to safely move symptomatic homeless people with pets and belongings while protecting transit workers.

“Our population is not just getting on a bus with a suitcase,” said Cavanaugh. “The need to have specialized transportation to handle all of those things is large.”

Who is working at the hotels?

Staffing will vary from hotel to hotel and county to county, and will depend on whether hotels are intended for isolating homeless people suspected of having the virus or simply vulnerable because of age or underlying health conditions.

A hotel in downtown Los Angeles has 23 people who have COVID-19 symptoms or have tested positive, including several who are homeless. Eventually, the goal is to have 284 of the hotel’s 300 rooms occupied with people who are self-isolating.

There’s a nurse on site at that hotel 24 hours a day. Physicians conduct telephone and video check-ins with residents. Private security monitors each floor, and private cleaning crews in personal protective equipment clean rooms when needed.

Either Stephen Fiechter or someone else from PATH, a nonprofit homeless service provider, is there all day to check-in with homeless residents on the phone, drop off meals at their door, and connect residents with shelter and other housing options once their stay is over.

Fiechter said that while organizations like PATH are happy to assist with the motel initiative, it’s been difficult to maintain their other homeless operations at the same time, which include operating shelters.

“It’s the staffing piece that’s really challenging,” said Fietcher. “Bringing on experienced folks, but not stripping our other programs.”

While not the case at the downtown Los Angeles hotel, staff may also be deputized to assist in cleaning up rooms or common spaces.

Mohrfeld, head of the statewide California hotel association, said that while some custodial workers may be hesitant to help, others are eager for the work and feel a sense of civil mission.

“Some are okay with it, some are fearful — it kind of runs the gamut,” said Mohrfeld, who said some hotels are negotiating with counties to ensure their staff receive protective gear.

What happens after the virus threat subsides?

While hotel owners, state and local officials, and homelessness advocates are understandably focused on the public health crisis at hand, the question of what will happen to the homeless after the virus threat subsides lingers.

Newsom has said many of the leases the state is negotiating include an option to purchase the entire property for more permanent housing, But Mohrfeld said that most hotels and motels he’s been in contact with haven’t agreed to such options.

While the optics of eventually forcing homeless people out of a hotel room may be a public relations nightmare, Mohrfeld said he’s more concerned with possible future litigation from advocates preventing such action if better housing options don’t materialize.

“What happens when they don’t have anywhere to go and… (advocates) sue the state and say they can’t move them and then the state’s hands are tied?” said Mohrfeld. “The litigation aspect concerns me a lot.”

Homeless service providers are still trying to connect residents in shelters, motel rooms, and on the street to more permanent housing solutions.

“None of this is stopping our attention from what really resolves homelessness, and we think we will have an opportunity to move folks into permanent housing,” said Emily Halcon, homelessness services coordinator with the city of Sacramento.

What about neighbors of these hotels?

How do neighbors feel about nearby hotels housing dozens of homeless people, some with COVID-19 symptoms? In Orange County, a senior community next to a 138-bed hotel slated to house the homeless protested the arrangement until the county agreed to find another site.

But other than that high-profile example, Mohrfeld said complaints from neighbors have been relatively rare and haven’t interfered much with motels agreeing to leases.

How Small Business Owners Survived the Great Recession

As COVID-19 rattles small businesses around the country, inspiration can be drawn from the stories of those who survived the last financial crisis.

By Zachary Crockett, the Hustle

“Worst since 2008.”

It’s a phrase we’ve seen a lot of in recent weeks, as COVID-19 continues to claim lives and shutter vast swaths of the economy.

We’ve seen the volatile stocks, the 16m+ unemployment claims, and the double-digit GDP drop projections. Some anticipate a crisis “deeper and more severe” than the Great Recession.

The situation we’re in now is fundamentally different: It’s the result of an external factor, not financial vulnerabilities — and our ability to “reopen” thousands of businesses hinges on controlling a virus.

But most crises share certain commonalities and universal lessons.

As thousands of entrepreneurs sit at a standstill, we thought it might be helpful to glean some encouragement from those who made it through tough times in the past.

Last week, we sent out a survey and received more than 200 responses from small business owners who survived the Great Recession. We’ll highlight a few of these stories in this article, focusing on the range of strategies that were employed.

But first, a few bigger-picture takeaways

The average small business in our survey was around 8 years old and had 16 employees at the time of the 2008 recession.

We heard from folks all over the world, in a wide range of industries: A cattle rancher in California, a boat builder in New Zealand, a crab shack owner in New Jersey, a hedge fund manager in New York, a family physician in Tennessee. Some companies had 2 employees; others had more than 100.

The businesses we surveyed weathered the Great Recession by adhering to one of two overarching approaches:

Promotion focus: They made primarily offensive moves that provided upside benefits.
Prevention focus: They made primarily defensive moves to avoid losses and minimize downside risks.

Among our sample, businesses leaned slightly toward offensive (e.g., expansion) over defensive (aggressive cost-cutting) strategies.

Breaking this down on a more granular level, there was no magical, universal path to survival. What worked for a gardening store in Iowa wasn’t necessarily the best bet for a travel agency in Florida.

Successful business owners employed a variety of strategies to make ends meet, from entering into strategic partnerships to significantly downsizing staff.

When small business owners faced dramatic downward shifts in revenue, they had to get creative and, in some cases, make extremely difficult decisions:

Rhys Williamson’s fiberglass boat business saw sales decline from $3m to $150k/year; he survived by pivoting to specialized repair work.

Robert Radcliff’s consulting firm business took a tumble from $1.8m to $550k/year; he had to lay off his entire staff to make ends meet.

Dida Clifton’s virtual bookkeeping company lost 50% of its business; she survived by forging strategic partnerships.

David Stringer’s SaaS for auto accessories business lost 37% of its revenue; he stayed afloat by diversifying his client pool.

Small businesses survived the Great Recession in various financial states. Some thrived, and saw revenue go up; others hung on for dear life.

One unifier between these stories and those that are sure to come out of COVID-19 is that crises put a strain on everyone — even those who find success.

Andrew Russell, of the Scotland-based body and fragrance company, Arran, told us he lost 42 pounds in 3 months. We heard from other business owners who lost their spouses, their homes, and their friends due to the financial pressures of the Great Recession.

Around 1.8m small businesses went bust between December 2008 and December 2010. But below, we’ll focus on the journeys of 5 entrepreneurs who made it through.

 

The creative agency owner

In 1996, Ernest Montgomery, a then-24-year-old photographer in New York City, wasn’t getting along with his boss.

So, the NYU grad quit his job and launched The Montgomery Group Represents, a creative agency that produces editorial and advertising campaigns and manages its own talent (photographers, stylists, makeup artists) in-house.

For the next decade, Montgomery enjoyed modest success, booking clients like American Airlines, Pepsi, and The Miller Brewing Company. He rented a beautiful office on 7th Avenue in Manhattan, expanded his staff to 15 artists, and grew his revenue to around $800k/year.

But toward the tail end of 2008, Montgomery began to lose a lot of business.

“Clients were saying, ‘Look, we can’t pay you $25k for this video. We can give you $5k — and all the costs will have to come out of your pocket,’” he recalls. “The question was: Do I want to work and make something, or sit on my pride and wait for the good times to come back?”

Montgomery chose the former, and cut every single expense he could think of:

He left his $4.2k/month office, went “virtual,” and made his entire staff remote

He axed his web design budget and learned how to build sites himself

He stopped running expensive ads in industry publications and started dropping off physical copies of his portfolio to prospective clients

Most dramatically, he permanently relocated to the Dominican Republic

“A campaign that costs $100k to produce in Miami can be made for $65k in the Dominican Republic,” he says. “A location that costs $10k in Miami costs $500 here — and there is so much less red tape — street permits, blocking off traffic, all that.”

When the economy began to pick back up again, Montgomery found that many of his bloated competitors had gone out of business.

Even in brighter times, he stayed lean.

Now 48, he continues to operate from the Dominican Republic. When he needs to meet with a client in NYC, he boards the first flight of the morning — a 3-hour journey — visits with talent, spends the whole day in the city, and takes the last flight home. “Some clients don’t even realize I live out of the country,” he says.

These extreme sacrifices have made it easier for him to weather the current crisis.

His advice to entrepreneurs in crisis: “We’re all very nervous and don’t know what will happen. It’s a good time to ask your clients, employees, and associates 3 questions: 1) What can we do to make things feel better? 2) How can we plan on surviving this as a group? And, 3) What are we going to do differently once this is over?”

 

The machinist

Brad Emerson, of St. Louis, Missouri, also knows a thing or two about cutting costs.

After many years of “living like a rockstar” as a salesman for a Switzerland-based machinery firm, Emerson decided to branch out on his own in 2005. The company he created, FixYourOwnBindery.com, specializes in chopping up, fixing, and relocating niche bindery machines — many of which aren’t made anymore — in printing factories.

“I was working 20 hours a week, making $250k [annually],” he says, of his first few years in business. “It was like picking up money off the street. Hardly anyone else knew how to work with those old machines.”

When the crash hit, Emerson lost 90% of his business. In short order, he went from getting 5-6 bids per day to 2 bids per month.

He shut off the lights and ate bologna for months on end. He started cutting grass on the weekends for cash. His 20-hour weeks turned into 80-hour weeks. His wife left him. At times, he struggled to feed his 3 daughters.

One day, he called his landlord and told him he was going to go out of business and miss rent. The landlord told him to bring over his bank statements and bills.

“He sat down with me and went through all of my expenses with a red pen, crossing things out — ‘You don’t need this, this, this,’” says Emerson. “That man helped me save my business.”

In total, Emerson cut expenses that totaled $3k/month, including:

• Monthly computer and software costs
• Routine maintenance on company vehicles and forklifts
• Building services, like lawn care and snow removal
• Air conditioning during the summer

With leaner overhead, Emerson decided to “follow where the market took the business.”

Printing factories were closing around the country and the industry was consolidating. A few years earlier, he’d purchased an 18-wheeler on eBay for $12k. He began transporting machinery between factories and his bids eventually began to pick back up.

He never returned to the glory days of his income, but he’s “comfortable” now, with a healthy backlog of bids. He sees himself in the struggle of today’s business owners.

“There’s a restaurant near me where the owner is running the food out to cars on the street, with the skeleton kitchen crew inside,” he says.

They’re doing it just like I was: Shaving costs as low as possible, rolling up their sleeves, and fighting to stay alive.”

His advice to entrepreneurs in crisis: “Make the painful list of every expense you have and get the red pen out. And when you push through and make those changes, don’t fall out of that mindset. Keep yourself poised for an uncertain future.”

 

The florist

For Nic Faitos, the path to flowers began as a ponytail rebellion.

In 1994, he was working as a stockbroker on Wall Street — a position that required him to wear a suit every day and barred him from growing out his flowing mane. At the time, his wife ran a small flower shop in a low-traffic bedroom community on Long Island.

Faitos began to study the retail landscape for flowers in NYC and spotted a gaping opportunity in the B2B space: “Fortune 500 companies needed flowers for their offices and employees,” he says. “But most flower people couldn’t make a spreadsheet to save their lives. These businesses wanted someone who spoke their language.”

So, he launched Starbright Floral Design, cold-called HR departments all over the city, and established himself as NYC’s go-to corporate flower source by the end of the ‘90s.

When the recession hit, many of his clients — Ernst & Young, Deloitte, Chase, hoteliers and restaurateurs — aggressively cut costs.

Flowers were one of the first things to go. But Faitos, who’d been through 9-11 and the dot-com bubble, didn’t panic.

“In a crisis, the typical reflex of a small business owner is to pull back into his shell like a turtle,” he says. “But times of trouble are when marketing opportunities are created.”

He decided to go hard on marketing, offering reduced prices with the goal of doubling his client base. Faitos and staff expanded their demographic, placing hundreds of cold calls to labor unions, pharmaceutical firms, and other “recession-proof” industries.

“When you have five people on the phone and you are making about 50 calls each for an entire year, you are bound to open some new doors,” he says. “It is the way commerce in this country was built and we went back to the very basics.”

His logic was this: If you have 100 accounts spending $100 on average and all of a sudden it drops to $80, that’s a 20% loss. If you go out and develop 50 new accounts during that time, the 50% growth offsets the loss.

It wasn’t a small gamble. His product cost was around 30% of revenue and his 20 employees ate up another 30%. After factoring in the $25k/month rent for his Chelsea shop, margins were thin.

The move eventually paid off. When the economy picked back up, the new clients he’d sourced went back to paying the regular rates. In the 12 years since the recession, Starbright has doubled its annual gross revenue from $3m to $6m.

Now 62, Faitos finds himself in the midst of another crisis — and this time, business is completely shut down. But he’s back at it with another marketing strategy. On his website, he’s selling “virtual” bouquets for $70-$400: A recipient gets a photo of their bouquet via email now, and the real deal once the floral delivery ban is lifted.

Revenue is a small fraction of what it was, but he remains optimistic.

His advice to entrepreneurs in crisis: “During a crisis, a lot of things are out of your control. Focus solely on what you can control. The objective during a crisis isn’t just to survive; it’s to come out stronger.”

 

The furniture makers

When Scott Baker met Mary Ann Hesseldenz at a furniture fair in 2006, it wasn’t just love at first sight; it was the beginning of a promising business partnership.

Baker had been building high-end furniture since college; Hesseldenz had worked in fashion design for 20 years in New York. They married, settled in Tucson, Arizona, and launched Baker Hesseldenz Studio, a boutique interior design firm that makes custom luxury furniture.

The business catered to a wealthy clientele who were building new homes and wanted a $17,641 couch, or a $22,137 curio, or a $5,290 cocktail table.

But when the recession tanked the housing market, the couple had to recalibrate.

They noticed that, while wealthy people weren’t building new homes, there was still a thriving remodeling market. So, they decided to pivot from high-end furniture to millwork and cabinets — a far cry from the craftsman work they were used to.

“Many of the large cabinet makers in Tucson went under because they had too much overhead,” says Baker. “We were small and had always prided ourselves on running a very lean operation — no $500k CNC machines or giant shop.”

Tucson’s low cost of living was key to the couple’s low overhead: His 2.6k sq. ft. warehouse was $1,150/month (a mere $0.45/sq. ft.), and skilled labor could be found for $12-15/hr. When they needed extra workers, they hired independent contractors.

During the recession, the couple says the company’s revenue actually went up.

Pre-recession, selling mostly furniture, they grossed $250k; in 2009, they grossed $300k on just a few millwork jobs. A single kitchen remodel would net them $30k-$50k.

Though Baken and Hesseldenz eventually returned to higher-end furniture after the recession cleared, cabinetwork is currently saving them again: In Arizona, furnituremakers are closed for business but residential construction — including cabinet work — is considered essential.

A decade later, they’re up to $1m in gross revenue: $500k in millwork, $300k in furniture sales, and $180k in interior design fees.

“The cabinets are allowing us to keep working,” says Hesseldenz. “That pivot years ago is saving us again.”

Their advice to entrepreneurs in crisis: “The biggest thing we learned is how important it is to run a very lean operation. Do not over-hire or get yourself locked into expensive recurring costs. Resist the urge to overspend during the good times.”

April 10, 2020

Silicon Valley Chambers Discuss COVID-19

The Silicon Valley Chamber Coalition, made up of 18 Chambers of Commerce and co-chaired by Matt Mahood, President/CEO of Silicon Valley Organization (SVO) and Mark Turner, President/CEO of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, held a special meeting Monday, April 6 to discuss COVID-19’s impact on the region.

The following Chamber of Commerce representatives participated: Campbell, Cupertino, Gilroy, Los Gatos, Milpitas, Morgan Hill, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Saratoga, Scotts Valley, Silicon Valley Central (Santa Clara), Silicon Valley Black and Silicon Valley Hispanic.

This special meeting of the Coalition served as a roundtable discussion for Chambers to highlight the actions and campaigns established in each community. The Chambers are committed to providing resources, information and support to their members through newly established COVID-19 webpages, webinars and partnerships with organizations such as the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Each organization is committed to continuing to provide the community with the most current up-to date resources and information available to them.

Additionally, the Coalition is focused on the future role Chambers of Commerce will play in the positive economic recovery once the Shelter in Place order is lifted. The Coalition will continue these discussions and brainstorming at its next meeting in two weeks.

The Coalition typically meets bi-monthly to discuss key issues related to education, housing, land use, regulatory environment and transportation.

Payroll Protection Program (PPP)

Grow with Google: Keeping the Lights On

Over the course of the past few weeks, there have been many changes affecting the communities that you work with. In response to this, the Grow with Google team has been working on a number of resources dedicated to supporting you and your communities during these uneasy times.

Join the Grow with Google team for a business resiliency livestream in partnership with America’s SBDC

An actionable business resiliency plan could mean the difference between business continuity or closure. Invite the small businesses in your community to join Grow with Google and America’s SBDC for a free business resiliency webinar.

Keeping the Lights On
Tuesday, April 14
1PM ET / 10AM PT
Register here/share this link: g.co/grow/keepingthelightson

Blade and Timber Owner Pivots to Create Shared Fun in New Venue: Your Home

Article by Leslie Collins, Kansas City Business Journal. Photo by Sinkers Lounge

Few companies have had their business models more upset by stay-at-home orders than those reliant on social gatherings. Such is the case for Swell Spark, an interactive-experiences company in Kansas City that operates Blade & Timber ax-throwing venues and Breakout escape rooms. It laid off 240 workers, keeping two employees “just to keep the lights on,” said co-founder Matt Baysinger, who’s among the 240.

But that’s when opportunity took over. Idle time and some brainstorming led to the creation a 64-piece mini-golf kit with instructions and designs for 36 holes for people to play at home — and with friends and family via video conferencing.

Baysinger said the possibilities and longevity of the product extend beyond the pandemic. “What’s been really invigorating as a small-business owner and as the owner of Swell Spark is the mission of Swell Spark hasn’t died,” he said.

WFH Chronicles: New Habits Take Hold

Article and photo by Beth Hunt American City Business Journals

The floor-to-ceiling windows in my office-office make our newsroom airy and bright, which is important for my state of mind. As a woman of a certain age, I also need the overhead lights on. They’re fluorescent, sure, and harsh. They also help me see to do my work, a necessity in my view.

My #WFH perch is in front of floor-to-ceiling windows that face east and overlook my back deck. There’s sunshine in the morning, gentle shadows in the afternoon.

Over the past few days, I’ve added the deck as a satellite to my regular perch. After officially “opening” the outdoor furniture for the season, I sat down beneath the umbrella to see whether a change of scenery would be a delight or a distraction.

At first, the sun and wind held my attention, as did the birds and the bees. Eventually, though, they blended into the background.

Three hours later, it was hard to make myself come back inside.

Note to self: Working outside is good for the soul. And this isn’t the only habit I’ve developed during this #WFH adventure that I hope will endure. Here are a couple of others:

Cooking a meal at the end of a work day.

I fancy myself something of a chef. Cooking is my therapy; Sunday, my weekly session. After church, I don my apron, pull out my knife, pop in my AirPods and get to work preparing a week’s worth of lunches and a week’s worth of dinners for my family. It may sound like drudgery to you. It’s the best part of my week.

I started doing it this way because the notion of having to cook after a day at the office seemed like it would steam the joy right out of it. But my work is pretty intense right now, and preparing a meal is more of a balm than ever.

So while these times are too weird to make a firm decision, cooking after work is no longer off the table.

A family stroll after dinner, even (and especially) when we’re all too tired to even consider it.

Despite the fact that Husband, Urchin and I are sheltering in the same house, we don’t see much of each other. He’s a professor whose day is filled with teaching, office hours and administrative meetings. She’s a high-schooler whose last quarter of ninth grade will be spent staring at a computer screen. We’re in three different parts of the house most of the day.

Dinner is where we come back together, and we’ve made a habit of extending that beyond the meal. We’re fortunate to have a lovely neighborhood, with trees and songbirds and hospitable neighbors. As we walk, we catch up on the day, talk about the things on our minds, sometimes just take in the quiet.

Setting out on a walk puts a punctuation mark at the end of the day that I never knew I needed.

Engaging with my teenager, on her turf and her terms.

If there’s a bright spot in all of this for me, it’s that my kiddo is around and available. I have to meet her where she is, of course, but these days, she is where I am.

As with most teenagers, when she hit high school, her friends became her lifeline. Like most parents of teenagers, I developed surreptitious ways to stay engaged with her. Then, not long after we started #WFH, she did me one better.

As we climbed into the car for her nightly practice drive around the neighborhood, she turned to me and said, “OK, time for hot topics.”

Hot topics, it turns out, is a chance for her to ask me questions about the intensity of being a teenager careening toward adulthood without having to look me in the eye. We both stare out the windshield. She asks. I respond. The questions are tough and profound, the resulting conversation important. I’m not sure either would have happened were it not for these extraordinary circumstances.

Someday, our worlds will return to normal size and we’ll go back to behaving as we once did. There will be plenty of things about this experience we’ll be happy to jettison. There’s a handful I will hold tight. Whatever else happens, they will be my silver lining.

 

April 6, 2020

Face Shields for Front Line Workers Needed

The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce is working with an organization to make face shields for our front line healthcare workers who have a great need for them.

There are several ways you can help:

-If you have a 3D printer and are willing to participate, please let us know.

-Secondly, there is a need for the sheet material, clear polyethyene terephthalate (PETG) in thickness of 0.020 inch. We could also use 0.015 or 0.030. The preference for this material is in sheets of 48″ x 96″, but would consider rolls or other sizes.

Anyone who has a source or lead, please contact Mark Turner at mturner@gilroy.org

How to Avoid Loan Sharks and Debt Traps

How to Avoid Loan Sharks and Debt Traps During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Written by Manuela Tobias, Fresno Bee

As millions of Americans lose jobs, shifts and other sources of income during the coronavirus health crisis, financial experts worry that people will be preyed upon by loan sharks who stand to profit.

“We saw this during the foreclosure crisis, where people were in distress and scammers took advantage to promise to help people connect to relief for a fee they could not afford,” said Kevin Stein, deputy director of the California Reinvestment Coalition, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that advocates for protecting consumers.

In 2018, there were 133 payday lenders in the central San Joaquin Valley, according to California records. But there were nearly 198 of them ten years earlier, when the valley began feeling the effects of the 2008 recession and spiking unemployment.

Statewide, California has 1,645 licensed locations offering payday loans, according to the Department of Business Oversight, and the number has declined by a quarter over the past decade.

Payday lenders in California under state law can loan up to $300 and charge a maximum of $45 in fees, according to the Department of Business Oversight. The average annual percentage rate (APR) for payday loans in the state was 376% last year, which is exponentially greater than the APR for most credit cards.

The payday loan industry says its businesses provide a needed service at an affordable cost. But advocates argue they prey on financially vulnerable families. Most payday loan offices in California are located in zip codes with above-average poverty rates.

A weekly record number of Californians, almost 187,000, filed initial claims for unemployment insurance last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

By June, private-sector job losses could climb to more than 55,000, or 11% to 12% of employment in the central San Joaquin Valley, according to a Sacramento Bee analysis of a recent Economic Policy Institute study.

“We’re facing one of the worst unemployment crises we’ve ever seen,” said Adam Briones, director of economic equity at the Greenlining Institute in Oakland. “I think it goes without saying that when families are in crisis, those payday lenders are some of the easiest ways to get money quickly. It’s really tough to get out of that debt though.”

A new law enacted last year caps interest rates at 36% for loans from $2,500 to $10,000, but it doesn’t apply to payday lenders, only larger lenders.

If you were recently laid off and need a loan, experts have advice on how to get help without falling into a debt trap.

Go to your bank or credit union first

If you’re struggling to make a payment, contact your lending institution first. Rosa Pereirra, branch manager of Self-Help Federal Credit Union in Fresno, said they have allowed all their members to skip their payments in April like they sometimes do during the holidays.

“I would beg the public to call the institution they already owe the payment to because a lot of them get frantic,” Pereirra said. “We’re telling them, take care of yourself, stay home. I can promise you 99% of lenders have a way they can help people skip their payment.”

Banks including Wells Fargo, Citi, Chase and Capital One are encouraging cash-strapped customers to contact them to see what they can work out. Many can offer hardship plans, which could mean lower interest rates or smaller fees.

Briones, from Greenlining, said banks may not offer hardship plans offhand, so clients should do their research first, and ask for what they need. For additional resources, seek out the Department of Housing and Urban Development approved housing counselors or credit counselors from nonprofit organizations.

Regulators are also responding to this pandemic by asking large banks and community development financial institutions to start offering small-dollar loans. Briones said clients should ask their banks for a small loan before resorting to a payday lender.

“Wherever we’ve seen payday lending it does lend itself to predatory lenders. But if it is large national banks making small-dollar loans, at the very least there is a regulatory aspect. There’s a structure there,” he said. “Where we worry the most is non-bank lenders that aren’t regulated at the federal level and have much less accountability than large national lenders.”

If lenders ask for a canceled check, that’s a red flag, according to Pereirra from Self-Help Federal Credit Union.

“Most banks and credit unions are able to make a direct deposit. A lot of predatory lenders go ahead and want to have access to your account. With a check, they have the routing number and account number so they can try to pull it several times.”

Pereirra said small loans typically should run between 2.5% to 10%. If a rate exceeds 20%, she encouraged consumers to reach out to a credit union for refinancing help.

“I just saw one at 480% APR,” Pereirra said. “A lot of times we’re able to pay their high rate loans off.”

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has also created multiple guides on navigating loans and debts.

Coronavirus aid available

Trump signed a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill on Friday with significant relief for families and small businesses.

Individuals who filed their 2018 or 2019 taxes can receive a check of up to $1,200, plus $500 for each child. You can calculate how much you receive here.

For many, advocates argue, that won’t be enough to cover rent or other expenses.

“We’re really concerned because we feel that for an economic recovery package to make an impact, those funds need to be consistent. We think families are going to need 12 to 24 months of payments to make it out of this economic fallout,” Briones said.

For now, however, that payment is a one-time deal.

The stimulus also includes $10,000 loans for injury disaster relief through the Small Business Administration to provide paid sick leave to employees, maintain payroll and make rent or mortgage payments. You can apply through SBA.

“This is a historic move on the part of SBA,” said Tara Lynn Gray, Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce president. “You can apply for the loan, not yet have an answer and within three days get $10,000. If you end up not qualifying, they don’t come after you for $10,000. That is unheard of for small businesses. And SBA loans are very difficult for us to get. Most people of color struggle greatly to get those loans.”

Manuela Tobias is a journalist at The Fresno Bee. This article is part of The California Divide, a collaboration among newsrooms examining income inequity and economic survival in California.

What are they doing to homeless during the lockdown?

When the state first declared an emergency, Newsom identified three groups as significantly at-risk for complications arising from the virus and COVID-19: seniors, people with chronic medical conditions and people who are homeless.

If you’re unhoused, how do you shelter-in-place? And if you choose to wait out the pandemic in a homeless shelter, are you any safer than relative isolation on the street?

Manuela Tobias, a Report For America fellow and California Divide reporter at the Fresno Bee, tackled that question on Friday.

“I’ve already lived here for years. I’ve got lupus and fibromyalgia. I don’t fear the coronavirus,” Andrea Harper, 34, told Manuela. “I’d rather be out here and continue helping people before I go and actually put my health at risk in a shelter.”

She found that shelters are using some of the same safety protocols as other communal living spaces. “Katie Wilbur, executive director of RH Community Builders, said the shelters are enforcing the same shelter-in-place guidelines as the city. Meals are delivered to residents’ rooms and residents are encouraged not to leave the property,” Manuela wrote.

Newsom estimates that of the state’s approximately 150,000 homeless residents, 60,000 could catch the virus. The state has been scrambling to find them beds — an estimated 50,000 are needed, Newsom said Monday.

The state also is doling out $100 million to cities, counties and local aid organizations to fight the coronavirus among the homeless. Newsom has said he wants to add another $50 million to that pot.

“This is money that will be immediately available to help those who are homeless – among the most vulnerable to COVID-19,” Newsom said in a press release.

Homelessness was a crisis in California before the pandemic. Now, as people swarm food banks and test the tensile strength of the social safety net, the way in which the state accommodates and cares for its neediest will dictate whether California, amid a tanking economy and housing crisis, helps stanch its homelessness emergency or watches it worsen.

This article is part of The California Divide, a collaboration among newsrooms examining income inequity and economic survival in California.

https://calmatters.org/health/2020/03/california-coronavirus-gavin-newsom-senior-citizens-chronic-illness/

Beware of Scammers

Beware of scammers trying to get your personal information or your COVID-19 Economic Impact Payment!

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will begin to distribute COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments in a matter of weeks. For most Americans, this will be a direct deposit into your bank account. For the unbanked, elderly or other groups that have traditionally received tax refunds via paper check, they will receive their economic impact payments in this manner as well.

With any good news story from the IRS, comes an opportunity for criminals and scammers to take advantage of the American public.

Scammers may try to get you to sign over your check to them.

Scammers may use this as an opportunity to get you to “verify” your filing information in order to receive your money, using your personal information to file false tax returns in an identity theft scheme.

Between these two schemes, everyone receiving an economic impact payment is at risk.

The Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) is working tirelessly alongside our civil counterparts and law enforcement partners to identify scams and halt wrongdoers from taking advantage of the American people.

Special Agent in Charge Ryan L. Korner warns, “unfortunately criminals are taking this unprecedented pandemic as an opportunity to exploit the public. It is critical now more than ever to remain vigilant for scams that are attempting to steal your personal information and your money. All Americans should specifically be on the lookout for scammers trying to directly steal their COVID-19 Economic Impact Payment, as well as fraudsters trying to trick them into providing sensitive information by convincing them it is required to receive their payment from the IRS.”

“While much of the country is working from home, scammers and con artists are also working – on schemes to steal your money,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “Criminals are taking advantage of the health emergency, so I urge everyone to heed the warnings to protect your personal information, your bank account and anything potentially valuable to a fraudster. The Justice Department will vigorously investigate and prosecute criminals, but we need everyone to be extra careful so they can avoid becoming a victim.”

Top Line Messages from the Internal Revenue Service

The IRS will deposit your economic impact payment into the direct deposit account you previously provided on your tax return (or, in the alternative, send you a paper check). The IRS will not call and ask you to verify your payment details. Do not give out your bank account, debit account, or PayPal account information – even if someone claims it is necessary to get your economic impact payment. Beware of this scam.

If you receive a call, do not engage with scammers or thieves. Just hang up. If you receive texts or emails claiming that you can get your money faster by sending personal information or clicking on links, delete them. Do not click on any links in those emails.

Reports are also swirling about bogus checks. If you receive a “check” in the mail now, it’s a fraud –- it will take the Treasury Department a few weeks to distribute the payments. If you receive a “check” for an odd amount (especially one with cents), or a check that requires that you verify the check online or by calling a number, it’s a fraud.

Beware Scams and Schemes

IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scams

An aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, but are not. Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. Or, victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information.

With COVID-19 scams, they may urge you to pay this fake “debt” with your economic impact check. For those who receive an actual check, they may ask you to endorse it and forward to them for “payment of past debts.”

Remember: scammers change tactics. Variations of the IRS impersonation scam continue year-round and they tend to peak when scammers find prime opportunities to strike — like a new economic impact check being sent.

Surge in Email, Phishing and Malware Schemes

Scam emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS, tax industry professionals or tax software companies. These phishing emails ask taxpayers about a wide range of topics — related to refunds, filing status, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information – in order to steal your personal information or file false tax returns.

When people click on links from these phishing emails, they are taken to sites designed to imitate an official-looking website, such as IRS.gov. The sites may also carry malware, which can infect people’s computers to steal their files or record their keystrokes.

Also, be aware of email phishing scams that appear to be from the IRS and include a link to a bogus web site intended to mirror the official IRS web site. These emails contain the direction “you are to update your IRS e-file immediately.” The emails mention USA.gov and IRS.gov (without a dot between “IRS” and “gov”). Don’t get scammed. These emails are not from the IRS.

https://www.irs.gov/compliance/criminal-investigation/do-not-fall-victim-to-a-covid-19-scam

 

April 3, 2020

Newsom Announces New Help

Governor Newsom Announces New Help for Small Businesses & Workers Displaced by COVID-19

BEGINNING April 3, 2020: Federal government offering first-come, first-serve loans of up to $10 million for small employers

Governor Newsom announces $50 million in loan guarantees for small businesses that may not be eligible for federal relief

Governor joins Bitwise Industries in announcing OnwardCa.org, a platform connecting COVID-19 displaced workers with over 70,000 job opportunities in critical industries

State is also allowing small businesses to defer payment of sales and use taxes of up to $50,000, for up to 12 months

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled a series of new resources to aid small businesses and help California workers who have lost work due to COVID-19.

Beginning tomorrow, California small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 crisis can apply for a loan from the federal government for up to $10 million. Importantly, the program is first-come, first-serve and the Governor encourages all eligible California small businesses to contact their lender to learn more.

Today, the Governor also announced that the state is allocating $50 million to the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank for loan guarantees to small businesses to help eliminate barriers to capital for individuals who do not qualify for federal funds, including low wealth and undocumented immigrant communities. The state is also allowing small businesses to defer payment of sales and use taxes of up to $50,000, for up to 12 months.

Additionally, the Governor joined Bitwise Industries and the Kapor Center to launch OnwardCa.org, a new platform connecting displaced California workers with more than 70,000 job opportunities in critical industries.

Earlier this week, Governor Newsom signed an executive order to help small businesses, granting a 90-day extension for small businesses to pay sales taxes.

Governor Newsom also today announced $17.8 million in new state initiatives to support California workers impacted by COVID-19. The allocation will come from Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act funds with $7.8 million going to the Los Angeles region and $10 million made available statewide.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is having cascading effects for millions of California families and small businesses,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “Through no fault of their own, more than a million Californians have lost a job and countless more are seeing their businesses fail. California will emerge from this crisis stronger than before, and until then, the state will work overtime with the federal government and private sector to get families the help they need.”

Small Business Survival Tips

Here’s What Small Business Owners and Government Must Do Now to Survive the COVID-19 Crisis and Rebound

Opinion by Kevin Klowden, Executive Director of the Milken Institute for Regional Econimcs and California Center, writing for Fox & Hounds

The COVID-19 outbreak is decimating the global economy with company shutdowns and soaring unemployment. But in its aftermath, the world must be ready to rebound quickly. Small business and government can jumpstart this recovery by taking strong measures now to limit the damage and establish a strong foundation for regrowth.

The recommendations below can ensure companies and their surrounding communities avoid mass layoffs, have ready access to capital, and take advantage of new opportunities. Putting them into practice requires steady leadership and operational discipline. Small businesses should:

Reduce hours for non-essential personal rather than engaging in widespread layoffs. This more moderate approach will minimize employees’ loss of income and the strain on unemployment insurance systems, and allow firms to ramp up quickly once the virus is contained.

Use available lines of credit as soon as needed. Given the scope of the crisis and likelihood of further disruptions in the lending environment, this will help firms avoid future problems accessing cash to cover operating costs.

Open lines of communication with creditors and suppliers to increase flexibility. Firms will be better prepared to address disruptions in transportation, logistics and trade resulting from the virus if they do not face onerous short-term financial obligations.

Reexamine long-term spending plans. Social distancing has not only necessitated reducing non-essential costs but also provided opportunities for companies to consider investments in new business lines. These potential areas include e-commerce and delivery options for retailers, restaurants and grocery stores, and expansion of network-enabled tools for communication and collaboration.

Meanwhile, state and federal policymakers must create a strong, economic stimulus package that targets small businesses, which employ half of U.S. workers and have been particularly hard-hit by the economic collapse.

Because the U.S. economy is over $20 trillion, current plans for a $2 trillion recovery plan may not be sufficient to minimize job losses and establish a meaningful return to health. One important priority at the federal level is a package that expands the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) loan portfolio.

State and local governments must also use recovery funds to expand procurement opportunities for small business, particularly minority entrepreneurs.

SBA loans are already a crucial source of capital for underserved communities, and by using additional funds to support employment through government purchasing, the economic stimulus can contribute to a swifter, more sustainable recovery.

California Companies Can Get $10 Million

California Companies Can Get $10 Million Loans From New Coronavirus Law. Here’s How.

Written by David Lightman, Sacramento Bee

More than 763,000 small businesses in California could be eligible for $48 billion worth of help from the economic aid package that became law last week.

The estimates from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reflect what state businesses could receive from the $350 billion national program aimed at allowing smaller companies to retain employees. The federal government would provide forgivable loans to help them meet payroll and pay the rent and utilities.

To get help, the best bet for a business owner is probably to go to a local bank that has been involved in small business lending.

To answer questions, it may help to contact your local member of Congress or have a look at the U. S. Chamber of Commerce guide to how to navigate the new law, or take a look at this resource guide from the National Federation of Independent Business.

John Kabateck, the independent business federation’s California state director, saw big potential for the loan program.

“In normal times, small business owners bend over backwards to avoid taking out any loan at all, let alone one from a state or federal government,” he said.

But now, “they have little choice but to take advantage of what the government is offering, which I think is particularly pronounced in certain areas of California that are still rebuilding from the Camp Fire less than two years ago,” he said.

Using information from the independent business federation, the chamber and Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office, here are some basic questions and answers:

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR HELP?

In most cases, a business with fewer than 500 employees, or someone who operates as a sole proprietor, independent contractor or “regularly carries on any trade of business,” according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Employees include anyone full-time, part-time or other status.

Also eligible are certain food and accommodation services with fewer than 500 employees per location and less than $500 million gross annual receipts last year.

WHAT CAN THE LOAN BE USED FOR?

“Salary or wages, family and sick leave, allowance for dismissal or separation, health care benefits, retirement benefits, payment of state and local taxes assessed on the compensation of an employee, and the sum of payments to an independent contractor,” the the independent business federation said.

It can also be used for mortgage payments, rent, lease payments, utilities and interest on debt incurred after Feb. 15.

All expenses have to be incurred between Feb. 15 and June 30.

WHAT WILL LENDERS ASK ME?

Were you operating before Feb. 15? Does the current economic turmoil make this loan necessary to maintain your operations? Will you use the money to keep people working, make mortgage or lease payments, and pay utilities?

Suppose I have an emergency loan already?

“There is an opportunity to fold emergency loans made between Jan. 31, 2020 and the date this loan program becomes available into a new loan,” the chamber advises. The Small Business Administration can buy loans made before the stimulus law went into effect this month and cover up to six months of payments.

ANY COLLATERAL NEEDED?

No. The Small Business Administration guarantees 100%.

HOW MUCH OF A LOAN CAN I GET?

The maximum is $10 million. But to figure out how much you can receive, independent business federation advises multiplying the average total monthly payments for payroll costs incurred during the one-year period before the date the loan was issued by 2.5. Your loan would be whichever is less, that figure or the $10 million.

I’M AN INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR. WHAT DO I NEED TO SHOW THE LENDER?

If you are an independent contractor, sole proprietor, or self-employed individual, lenders will probably ask for payroll tax filings, Forms 1099-MISC, and income and expenses from the sole proprietorship.

THE LOAN IS SUPPOSED TO BE FORGIVEN. WHAT REQUIREMENTS DO I HAVE TO FOLLOW?

The amount forgiven is the amount you spend during the eight weeks from the date the loan originates: Payroll costs, mortgage interest, rent on a lease, utility payments, and “for borrowers with tipped employees, additional wages paid to those employees.”

If you reduce your number of employees or reduce wages by more than 25%, the amount of forgiveness drops.

WHAT CANNOT BE INCLUDED?

What does not count in the calculation is salary paid to someone that exceeds $100,000, prorated from Feb. 15 to June 30. Also not included: Payroll taxes, railroad retirement taxes, and income taxes, and compensation of anyone who lives outside the United States.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Anti-discrimination Laws

On March 27, 2020, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) conducted a webinar to address emerging questions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the EEOC’s previously updated pandemic guidance. The EEOC has not yet published revised guidance or a questions-and-answers document, but it offered listeners useful information during its webinar. Ogletree Deakins’ attorneys who were in attendance on the webinar prepared the following takeaways based on notes from the presentation to help employers in this evolving area.

https://www.natlawreview.com/article/eeoc-s-webinar-covid-19-pandemic-and-antidiscrimination-laws-overview

California Disaster Relief Loan

California Disaster Relief Loan Guarantee Program — COVID-19

The Small Business Finance Center (SBFC) partners with Financial Development Corporations to provide loan guarantees and direct loans for small businesses that experience capital access barriers.

Who Can Apply

Eligible Applicants

  • Small Businesses located in California with 1-750 employees that have been negatively impacted or experienced disruption by COVID-19
  • Eligible Nonprofits

 

Guarantee Terms:

  • Guaranteed up to 7 years; the term can be longer
  • Guarantees up to 85% – 95% of the loan
  • Loan interest rates negotiated between lender and borrower
  • Qualifications based on lender criteria

 

Loan proceeds to be used for the continuance of business including, but not limited to:

  • Rent, payroll, etc.

 

How to Apply

Qualifying small business owners may apply directly with a lender (LIST to be announced soon) or get additional information by contacting one of the participating Financial Development Corporations (FDCs) from the LIST HERE.

 

April 2, 2020

Charter Extends Free Broadband and Wi-Fi

Charter extends free broadband and Wi-Fi offer to K-12 teachers and college professors

STAMFORD, Conn. – Today, Charter announced it is expanding the eligibility for its 60-day free offer for Spectrum broadband Internet and WiFi access to include educators (K-12 teachers and College/University professors) who do not already have a Spectrum account. During this unprecedented time, with the COVID-19 pandemic having forced schools, colleges and universities to close, it is more important than ever for students and educators to stay connected while they teach and learn.

Educators, who live in a Spectrum market and do not currently have broadband, should contact Spectrum at 1-844-488-8395 to sign up. A free self-installation kit will be provided to new student and educator households.

Now more than ever, Americans rely on high speed broadband in nearly every aspect of their lives and Charter is committed to ensuring our more than 29 million customers maintain reliable access to the online resources and information they want and need. To ease the strain in this challenging time, on March 16 Charter committed to the following for 60 days:

Charter is offering free Spectrum Internet and WiFi access for 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students, and now educators, who do not already have a Spectrum Internet subscription.

Charter continues to offer Spectrum Internet Assist, a high speed broadband program available to eligible low-income households that delivers speeds of 30 Mbps.

Charter has opened its WiFi hotspots across our footprint for public use.

Spectrum does not have data caps or hidden fees.

Spectrum will not terminate service for residential or small business customers who face difficult economic circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Similarly, Charter will not charge late fees for those customers facing difficult economic circumstances related to the pandemic.

Spectrum News has opened its websites to ensure people have access to news and information.

Charter has also donated airtime to run 1,000 COVID-19 public service announcement (PSA) spots per week, including on all Spectrum News Networks, for four weeks to our full footprint of 16 million video subscribers and on our digital video and streaming apps.

Additionally, Charter will run PSAs for the American Red Cross and other relief organizations. As the country works collaboratively to contain this pandemic, broadband Internet access will be increasingly essential to ensure that people across the country are able to learn and work remotely, that businesses can continue to serve customers, and Americans stay connected and engaged with family and friends.

Charter’s advanced communications network will ensure our customers – including government offices, first responders, health care facilities, businesses and the news media – across 41 states maintain the connectivity they rely on to help flatten the curve and protect the country.

https://www.lightreading.com/services/charter-extends-free-broadband-and-wi-fi-offer-to-k-12-teachers-and-college-professors-/d/d-id/758473?

April 1, 2020

New May 3 Shelter in Place Order

The Santa Clara County Public Health Officer issued an updated Shelter in Place Order that extends the Shelter in Place Order through May 3, 2020 and also answers questions regarding essential and non-essential businesses.

New Requirements for All Essential Businesses:

Before Friday, April 3, 2020, essential businesses that continue to operate facilities in the County must create, post, and implement a Social Distancing Protocol for each facility frequented by employees or the public, using the template attached to the Order.

Essential businesses must also provide a copy of their Social Distancing Protocol to all employees and must provide evidence of its implementation to any authority enforcing the Order on demand.

Essential businesses must maximize the number of employees who can work from home. Only those employees who cannot perform their job duties from home may work outside their homes.

Businesses with both essential and non-essential components must scale down operations to only the essential components.

However, retail outlets that sell a significant proportion of essential goods like food, hygiene, and consumer household products may keep open to the public (and stock) the portions of their retail storefronts dedicated to non-essential products.

Essential businesses must follow industry-specific guidance issued by the Health Officer related to COVID-19.

 

Removals from the List of Essential Businesses:

Businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home no longer qualify as essential businesses.

 

Additions to the List of Essential Businesses:

Service providers that enable residential transactions, including real estate agents, escrow agents, notaries, and title companies.

Residential viewings may only occur virtually, or if virtual viewing is impossible and the residence is unoccupied, by appointment with no more than two visitors from the same household and one person showing the unit.

Funeral home providers, mortuaries, cemeteries, and crematoriums.

Services to assist individuals in finding employment with essential businesses.

Moving services that facilitate residential or commercial moves allowed by the Order.

Rental car companies and rideshare services (including shared bicycles and scooters) providing services necessary for Essential Activities.

 

Clarifications to the List of Essential Businesses:

Retailers that sell non-alcoholic beverages are essential businesses.

Establishments that sell multiple categories of specified essential products (unprepared food, pet supplies, hygienic products, and household consumer products necessary for sanitation, habitability, or operation of residences) are essential businesses if they sell a significant amount of those essential products. This includes, for instance, a liquor store that sells a significant amount of food.

Arborists, landscapers, gardeners, and similar service professionals are essential businesses, but only to provide services necessary to maintain the safety and healthy operation of a business or residence. This means they can provide services for fire prevention like weed abatement. But they cannot provide services that are cosmetic or that constitute general upkeep.

Gas stations, auto-supply, and auto-repair businesses, and auto dealerships may operate only to provide auto-supply and auto-repair services (and not, for example, car washes or onsite car sales).

Businesses that supply products needed by other essential businesses may continue operating to supply those essential businesses.

But they are prohibited from providing curbside pickup or onsite sales to members of the general public.

Businesses are prohibited from operating facilities to manufacture or assemble non-essential products.

Childcare facilities may only operate to provide childcare to children or dependents of workers exempt under the Order, including volunteers and contractors (e.g. employees of essential businesses, workers who must leave their residence to perform minimum basic operations, and workers performing essential governmental functions). Non-exempt workers cannot use childcare facilities.

 

Clarifications for Non-Essential Businesses:

Non-essential businesses may deliver existing inventory directly to residences or other businesses.

Minimum basic operations include activities necessary to maintain the safety and sanitation of the business, as well as previously listed functions.

To read the Executive Summary, please visit:
https://www.sccgov.org/sites/phd/DiseaseInformation/novel-coronavirus/Documents/executive-summary-3-31-2020.pdf

To read the full order, please visit:
https://www.sccgov.org/sites/phd/DiseaseInformation/novel-coronavirus/Pages/order-health-officer-033120.aspx

 

The Chamber Staff are working remotely and are still here for you. Please contact the staff at the following email addresses and we will get to you as soon as possible. We will continue to send out information as we receive it.

Mark Turner, President/CEO
mturner@gilroy.org

Eric Howard, Business Relations Manager
ehoward@gilroy.org

Candace Van Sambeek, Economic Development and Marketing
cvansambeek@gilroy.org

Victoria Wright, Event Planner
vwright@gilroy.org

Jude Miranda, Administrative Assistant
jmiranda@gilroy.org

General Inquiries
chamber@gilroy.org

Gilroy Take-Out and Delivery Options amid COVID-19

Let’s support our local restaurants and wineries by utilizing their delivery/carry-out services!

Click here to view Facebook group

Gilroy Shops Local

 

Gilroy Shops Local is a page organized by the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce to promote and support local businesses during COVID-19.

Click here to view Facebook group