With the effects of COVID-19 rippling through the economy, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Many businesses are being forced to shut their doors temporarily. What should you do first? How can you protect your finances in a volatile economy? 

  1. Understand your business’ current financial position

It’s always a good idea to have a handle on your numbers, but this becomes doubly important during times of economic uncertainty. 

A clear understanding of your company’s financial position lets you immediately see where you can cut costs, what expenses you can justify, and what debts might need to be renegotiated or deferred. Evaluate current assets and loans and see what can be leveraged during this time. 

Bookkeeping in times of recession is more important than ever—having financial statements on hand are often necessary for payment deferrals or loan applications.

  1. Apply for disaster loans or financial relief

Nobody was ready for the heavy-hitting impacts of COVID-19, but the government has stepped up and is rolling out new programs and loans to help you stay in business. 

Here are some of the latest options to take advantage of: 

SBA Disaster Relief Loan 

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has approved low-interest federal disaster loans for small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of COVID-19.

The highlights: 

  • The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million.
  • You can use this loan for typical day to day expenses such as mortgage payments, payroll, accounts payable, utility payments, or vehicle payments.
  • You cannot use this loan to refinance existing debt, to replace lost sales or profit, or fund purchases of equipment, vehicles, and supplies.
  • Loans that exceed $25,000 must be secured by collateral. The SBA will not decline a loan if you don’t have enough collateral but will ask for whatever collateral is available, which may include real estate owned by a business’ principals.

Further reading: How to Get an SBA Disaster Loan

SBA Express Bridge Loans

Applied for an SBA disaster loan but need cash, now? The Express Bridge Loan Pilot program authorizes SBA Express Lenders to provide emergency loans in amounts up to $25,000 while your small business applies for and awaits long-term financing through SBA’s direct Disaster Loan Program. 

There is a catch, though—your small business must have an existing business relationship with an SBA Express Lender. Check with your banking institutions to see if they offer SBA Loans.

The highlights: 

  • The small business must have an existing relationship with the funding bank prior to March 13, 2020.
  • Up to $25,000 in funding.
  • Fast turnaround.

Further Reading: Express Bridge Loan Pilot Program Guide

Paycheck Protection Program

The Paycheck Protection Program is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This program is intended to provide American small businesses with eight weeks of cash-flow assistance through 100 percent federally guaranteed loans. 

The highlights: 

  • The funding is meant to help retain workers, maintain payroll, and cover rent/mortgage/utility expenses.
  • Small businesses, sole proprietorships, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals can all qualify.
  • The loan covers expenses dating back to February 15, to June 30, 2020.
  • The loan can be forgiven and essentially turned into a non-taxable grant.

Further Reading: What is the Paycheck Protection Program? (A Simple Guide)

The CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, Economic Security)

The government just passed one of their biggest financial relief bills yet—the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, Economic Security). $350 billion is being dedicated to preventing layoffs and business closures while workers have to stay home during the outbreak. 

The highlights: 

  • Expanded Family and Medical Leave Act benefits for employees who are unable to work due to COVID-19.
  • Forgivable loans and tax credits for businesses that keep their employees for the duration of the crisis.
  • Deferment of an employer’s 6.2% share of Social Security taxes based on employee wages.
  • Expanded write-offs for improving property for retailers, restaurants, and hotels.
  • Expanding unemployment benefits for small business owners, self-employed individuals and gig workers.
  • Option to carry back net operating losses to offset taxable income in prior years.
  • Extension of time to file and pay 2019 taxes.

Further Reading: The Coronavirus Relief Bill: Every Benefit for Small Businesses

  1. File your taxes sooner rather than later

If your tax filing deadline is April 15, good news: the IRS has officially extended this deadline to July 15, 2020. This extension includes making payments on any taxes owed, so you can defer without penalties and interest. 

But just because you can put off filing your taxes, doesn’t mean you should. If you’re owed a refund, the IRS is encouraging taxpayers to file as soon as possible. Most tax refunds are still being issued within 21 days, which could mean some much-needed cash back for your business.

Even if you owe money, it’s still in your best interest to file sooner rather than later. A lot of lenders or relief programs want to see an up-to-date business tax return. By filing now, you’ll have this important document on hand and ready to go—and you’ll still have until July 15 to make a payment for any taxes owed.

  1. Consider pivoting your business strategy

Even if you’ve made all the right moves for your business during COVID-19, there are still some things that are out of your control. A dip in sales is one thing, but what if your customers or revenue disappear altogether? 

Consider an alternative, temporary revenue stream. Create an ecommerce site for your brick and mortar store. Or, if you run a fitness studio, stream live classes. If you run a salon or spa, sell gift cards for future services. Loyal customers are eager to help out their favorite small businesses if they can, so staying connected and empathetic to your customer base right now goes a long way. 

Further Reading: Leading a Small Business Through a Recession: Five Best Practices

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