FUBA’s team of experts is working hard to keep you updated on how the coronavirus impacts your business. We update this site frequently, but you can sign up for our e-alerts to get updates as they happen. Click here to sign up for FUBA’s e-Alerts.
If you need help or have a question about the pandemic and your business, you can email our experts at email@example.com.
(This information was last updated 7/31/20.)
- Businesses That May Open
- Face Coverings Required in Many Florida Cities and Counties
- CDC Guidance for Employers with Suspected or Confirmed COVID Cases
- Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loans and Forgiveness
- Other Loans & Financial Assistance for Businesses
- Businesses Can Defer Part of Their Payroll Tax Until Next Year
- Paid Leave Required by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
- Resources for More Information
Businesses That May Open
On Friday, June 5, 2020, the State of Florida entered Phase 2 of re-opening the state for business.
For a brief overview from the Governor’s office on which businesses can operate in Phase 2, click here.
For a list of Frequently Asked Questions on Florida’s Phase 2 re-openings from the Governor’s office, click here.
Counties and cities may have their own restrictions on which businesses can re-open and the restrictions that re-opened businesses must follow. For example, Broward and Miami-Dade counties have stricter rules than what the State of Florida requires. Please check with your local city or county to make sure your business is in compliance.
Restaurants in Florida may operate at 50% indoor capacity and may allow seating at bar areas with social distancing. The following measures are mandatory for restaurants and food establishments:
- Indoor seating must be limited to 50% capacity of the dining room.
- Outdoor tables must be separated by at least 6 feet.
- No more than 10 customers at one table (inside and outside).
- Social distancing must be used for seating and serving customers in all areas of the restaurant, including:
1. A minimum of 6 feet between parties or the use of a partition between parties; and
2. Not allowing customers to congregate in bar or waiting areas.
- Food contact surfaces like dishes, utensils, and glasses/cups must be washed, rinsed, and sanitized after each use.
- Surfaces that are frequently touched by customers and employees must be disinfected frequently, such as doorknobs, equipment handles, and checkout counters. Tables, arm rests, menus, and other items used by customers must be disinfected between each use.
The following best practices are recommended for restaurants and food establishments:
- Provide hand sanitizer, soap and water, or disinfecting wipes for customers.
- Remove all unnecessary items that are frequently touched like magazines, newspapers, and other unnecessary paper products from tables and customer areas.
- Provide physical guides for customers to socially distance, such as tape on floors or sidewalks.
- Limit access to buffets, salad bars, and beverage stations to employees only.
- Encourage third-party delivery staff (like Grub Hub and UberEATS) to socially distance and wait outside or in non-congested areas when picking up delivery orders.
While the State of Florida is not requiring face coverings for restaurant employees, your local city or county may have a law requiring your employees to wear masks or face coverings (see section below). And even if your city or county does not require face coverings, you may require that your employees wear them.
For more information about the mandatory measures and best practices for restaurants from the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation, click here.
For Frequently Asked Questions about the requirements for restaurants, click here.
Effective June 26, 2020, bars cannot serve alcoholic beverages to customers unless the drinks are packaged to-go and consumed off the premises. (Licensed restaurants may continue to sell alcohol to drink on premises, provided they follow the rules for restaurants above.) Click here for a copy of the Emergency Order from the Department of Business & Professional Regulation.
Gyms and Fitness Centers
Gyms and fitness centers may operate at full capacity of the building’s occupancy as long as safety measures are adopted, including social distancing in group classes and sufficient cleaning supplies to make sure customers self-clean surfaces and machines with sanitation wipes after each use.
Barbers, Hair Salons & Nail Salons
- Customers must be appointment only; no walk-ins are allowed.
- Salons must allow at least 15 minutes between appointments for proper disinfecting practices.
- No group appointments are permitted.
- Employees must wear masks (but are not required for clients).
For more information on salon requirements, including suggestions on protecting clients, click here.
- Retail stores may operate at full capacity.
Other Businesses That Can Open
- Movie theaters, bowling alleys, auditoriums, and other entertainment businesses may open at 50% capacity with social distancing and sanitization protocols.
- Tanning salons, massage clinics, tattoo parlors, and other personal service businesses may operate if they follow the guidance from the Florida Department of Health.
Keep in mind that just because a business may open under the Governor’s Order does not mean that the business is required to be open. Owners of businesses allowed to open may use their judgement when deciding when and if they want to open.
What should I do prior to re-opening my business?
Prior to opening, the Governor recommends that businesses review the guidance for businesses from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which can be found here.
Businesses should also pay extra attention to cleanliness by encouraging employees to wash their hands often and by disinfecting frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs, phones, handrails, and computer keyboards. A good resource for this from the CDC can be found here.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines for workplaces can be found here.
OSHA frequently updates its list of Frequently Asked Questions on COVID-19.
Face Coverings Required in Many Florida Cities and Counties
As the number of COVID-19 cases rise in Florida, more and more cities and counties in Florida are passing local ordinances that require masks or face coverings to be worn in public, which includes businesses.
Some of these local laws require employers to post a notice telling their employees and customers that they must wear a mask or face covering while inside the business. As a service to our members, FUBA has designed a generic mask poster for our members to use if their local area requires a mask poster. This poster can be printed here in English and here in Spanish.
Even if your business is not located in an area where masks are required, you may choose to require that all customers and employees wear masks, and you might want to put several of these mask posters up at your workplace as reminders.
Both OSHA and the CDC recommend the use of masks or face coverings to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. For more information from the CDC, click here. For more information from OSHA, click here.
CDC Guidance for Employers with Suspected or Confirmed COVID Cases
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued guidance for employers that have a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 at their workplace. This is a summary of the CDC’s information. Details can be found at the CDC’s website.
What should I do if an employee comes to work with COVID-19 symptoms?
Employees who have symptoms when they arrive at work or become sick during the day should immediately be separated from other employees, customers, and visitors and sent home. Employees who develop symptoms outside of work should notify their supervisor and stay home.
Sick employees should follow the CDC recommended steps. Employees should not return to work until they have met the criteria to stop home isolation and have consulted with a healthcare provider.
Employers should not require sick employees to provide a COVID-19 test result or healthcare provider’s note to validate their illness, qualify for sick leave, or return to work. Healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely manner.
What should I do if an employee is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19?
In most cases, you do not need to shut down your workplace. But you should close off any areas that the sick person used for prolonged periods of time.
- Wait 24 hours (or as long as possible) before cleaning and disinfecting to minimize potential for other employees being exposed to respiratory droplets.
- Follow the CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations.
In addition to cleaning and disinfecting, you should determine which employees may have been exposed to the virus and need to take additional precautions:
- If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform the other employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but should maintain confidentiality by not revealing the name of the employee who tested positive.
- Employees who test positive for COVID-19 should not come to work and should isolate at home if they do not need to be hospitalized and follow the CDC recommended steps.
- Workplaces should follow the CDC’s recommended precautions for people exposed to COVID and tell potentially exposed employees to stay home for 14 days and self-monitor for symptoms.
Employees should not return to work until they have met the criteria to stop home isolation and have consulted with a healthcare provider.
If employees have been exposed but are not showing symptoms, should I allow them to work?
Employees may have been exposed if they have been within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 for a prolonged period of time.
Exposed employees who do not have symptoms should remain at home and practice social distancing for 14 days.
All other employees should self-monitor for symptoms and wear cloth face coverings when in public. If they develop symptoms, they should notify their supervisor and stay home.
What should I do if I find out several days later, after an employee worked, that they were diagnosed with COVID?
If it has been less than 7 days since the sick employee was in the workplace, you should clean and disinfect all areas used by the sick employee following the CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations.
If it has been 7 or more days since the sick employee was in the workplace, additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary. Continue routinely cleaning and disinfecting all high-touch surfaces in the workplace.
Other employees may have been exposed if they were in within 6 feet of the sick employee for a prolonged period of time (longer than 15 minutes):
- If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, you should inform the other employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality by not revealing the name of the employee who tested positive.
- Employees who have symptoms should self-isolate and follow the CDC recommended steps.
- Employees who were potentially exposed but have no symptoms should remain at home or in a comparable setting and practice social distancing for 14 days.
- Employees not considered exposed should self-monitor for symptoms. If they develop symptoms, they should notify their supervisor and stay home.
When should an employee suspected or confirmed with having COVID-19 return to work?
Employers do not need to require a sick employee to provide a negative COVID-19 test result or healthcare provider’s note to return to work. Employees with COVID-19 who have stayed home can stop home isolation and return to work when they have met one of the following criteria:
Persons with COVID-19 who have symptoms may return to work if:
- They have gone at least 3 days (72 hours) without a fever and have improvement in respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath); and
- At least 10 days have passed since their symptoms first appeared.
- They have no fever and
- They have improvement in respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath), and
- They have negative results from at least two consecutive COVID tests done at least 24 hours apart.
People who test positive for COVID-19 but don’t have symptoms may return to work if:
- At least 10 days have passed since the date of their first positive COVID-19 test assuming they have not subsequently developed symptoms since then.
- They have negative results from at least two consecutive COVID tests done at least 24 hours apart.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loans and Forgiveness
In response to concerns over the strict PPP forgiveness rules, Congress approved the PPP Flexibility Act in early June. This new law relaxes the requirements for PPP loan forgiveness in favor of small businesses. This article is updated with those changes.
Small businesses needing financial assistance due to the coronavirus can apply for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. PPP loans provide cash to cover payroll, rent, utilities, and mortgage interest. To apply for a PPP loan, contact your local banker. To find a lender in your area that is authorized to issue PPP loans, click here. The PPP application form can be downloaded here.
If you are thinking of applying for a PPP loan, the deadline to apply is August 8, 2020.
If your business receives a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program, you can apply to have your loan forgiven (which means you don’t have to pay it back) if you spend the money on certain expenses within 24 weeks of receiving the loan.
There is a simplified application [Form 3508EZ] available for employers who have not reduced their number of employees or their employees’ wages by more than 25%.
To be eligible for loan forgiveness, you must spend at least 60% of the loan on payroll for employees (salary/wages, health insurance, retirement, paid leave, and state unemployment taxes) and no more than 40% of the loan on rent, utilities (including phone and internet bills), and mortgage interest.
Any amount of your PPP loan that is not forgiven will be converted to a traditional loan with a 1% interest rate. If your PPP loan was approved prior to June 5, 2020, your loan term is 2 years, but you can negotiate with your bank for a longer term. If your PPP loan was approved after June 5, 2020, your loan term is automatically 5 years.
The amount of your PPP loan forgiveness can be reduced if you have fewer employees or lower employee salaries after receiving your loan than you did before the pandemic. If you hire furloughed employees back or restore their pre-coronavirus salaries by December 31, 2020, your forgiveness will not be penalized.
You won’t be penalized for reducing your employees if you have made a good faith written offer to rehire a laid-off employee who refuses to return to work. If you try to re-hire a furloughed employee and they refuse to come back to work, this will not count against you as long as you document your rehire offer in writing (email is fine) and document the employee’s response so you can prove that you tried to rehire them but they refused your offer.
Employees who were fired for cause, voluntarily resigned, or who voluntarily requested a reduction in their hours don’t count against you for loan forgiveness. Again, make sure to make to document these decisions in writing (email is fine). And if you can document that you are unable to re-hire employees who were on your payroll as of February 15, 2020 and you can’t hire similarly-qualified individuals to fill their positions by December 31, 2020, you can still get full loan forgiveness.
Also, if you can’t go back to your pre-pandemic staffing levels because your business is complying with worker or customer social distancing measures, your loan forgiveness will not be penalized.
Other Loans & Financial Assistance for Businesses
ECONOMIC INJURY DISASTER LOANS (EIDLS)
The US Small Business Administration (SBA) offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) to small businesses unable to pay their operating expenses due to loss of revenue from the coronavirus. EIDL loans have a 3.75% interest rate, a 30-year maturity, and automatic deferment of payments for one year. To download an application for an EIDL loan, go to covid19relief.sba.gov.
Update: As of July 12, 2020, the SBA has discontinued their free EIDL grants of $1,000 per employee (up to $10,000) that don’t have to be paid back. Businesses needing cash can apply for a traditional EIDL loan, but not the cash advance.
MAIN STREET LENDING PROGRAM
The Main Street Lending Program will offer 5-year loans to eligible small businesses that were in good financial standing before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Principal and interest payments on the loans will be deferred for one year. Businesses that have applied for a PPP loan may also take out a loan under the Main Street Program.
Unlike loans under the PPP, Main Street Program loans are not forgivable and borrowers will be responsible for paying the loan back plus interest charges.
To apply for a Main Street loan, contact your local banker. For more information, please click here.
Businesses Can Defer Part of Their Payroll Tax Until Next Year
Employers are responsible for withholding Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes from their employees’ paychecks and paying these taxes along with the employer’s share to the IRS each month. The Social Security tax is 12.4% total, with 6.2% withheld from the employee’s wages and the employer paying 6.2%. The Medicare tax is 2.9%, with 1.45% withheld from the employee’s wages and the employer paying 1.45%.
As part of aid to businesses provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), employers can defer depositing the employer’s share of Social Security taxes until December 2021. For payroll periods starting March 27th through the end of this year, employers may defer their share of the Social Security tax (6.2%) and not deposit it with the IRS. Instead of depositing the usual amount of payroll tax, employers can simply hold back their portion of the Social Security tax each month and use it for other operating expenses. *Please note this only applies to the employer’s portion of the Social Security tax. Employers may not defer the employee’s part of the Social Security tax, and employers must still deposit both the employee’s and the employer’s portion of the Medicare tax each month.
Employers who decide to defer their part of the Social Security tax have until the end of next year to start depositing the amount they deferred. Half of the deferred payroll tax amount must be deposited with the IRS on December 31, 2021, with the other half due by December 31, 2022.
All employers may take advantage of this payroll tax deferral, including employers who have received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.
For more information from the IRS about payroll tax deferral, please click here.
This payroll tax deferral is not the same as the payroll tax credits that employers may take for providing paid leave to employees or the employee retention credit. The IRS has detailed information about these credits here.
Paid Leave Required by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
Effective April 1, 2020, small businesses are required by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to give their employees paid leave in certain circumstances relating to the coronavirus. Employees who cannot work due to one of the reasons listed below are entitled to two weeks of paid leave, with an additional 10 weeks of paid leave if they have to care for a son or daughter whose school or daycare has been closed due to the coronavirus.
How do employees qualify for paid leave?
Employees receive two weeks of paid leave if you have work for them to do but they cannot come to work (or work from home) because:
- The employee has been quarantined by a health care provider or by government order.
- The employee has COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a diagnosis.
- The employee must stay home to care for someone who has been quarantined by a health care provider or by government order.
- The employee must stay home to care for a child under 18 whose school or childcare is unavailable due to COVID-19. These employees are also eligible for an additional 10 weeks of paid leave, for a total of 12 weeks’ total paid leave.
Employees taking leave for reasons 1 and 2 above must be paid their regular rate of pay, up to $511 per day.
Employees taking paid leave for reasons 3 and 4 above must be paid two-thirds their regular rate of pay, up to $200 per day.
Can my employees choose to stay at home and take paid leave?
No. Employees cannot decide on their own to self-quarantine and be entitled to receive paid leave. To qualify for paid leave under reason #1 above, the employee must be advised by a doctor or other health care provider to self-quarantine.
Do my employees qualify for paid leave if they have to stay home with their children because school is closed for summer vacation?
No. Paid leave is not available in this situation because the school is closed for summer, not because of COVID-19. To qualify for paid leave, the school must be closed for reasons due to COVID-19, which is not very common now that school has closed for the summer. However, if the child’s summer daycare – a camp or other program in which the employee’s child is enrolled – is closed or unavailable for a COVID-19 related reason, the employee may be entitled to paid leave.
Do employees working from home qualify for paid leave?
Employees working from home are not entitled to paid leave because they are still working.
What documentation do I need to get from employees who request paid leave?
Employees must provide appropriate documentation to request paid leave which must include the following:
- The employee’s name and the dates leave is requested
- A statement of the COVID-19 related reason the employee is requesting leave
- A statement that the employee is unable to work or telework for this reason
- Documentation supporting the reason for leave
- For leave related to quarantine, the employee’s statement should include the name of the health care provider advising self-quarantine. If the employee is requesting leave to stay home to take care of someone in quarantine, the employee must give the name of this person and their relation to the employee.
- For leave based on a school closure or childcare unavailability, the employee’s statement should include the name and age of the child to be cared for, the name of the school or daycare that has closed, and a representation that no other person will be providing care for the child during the time the employee is receiving paid leave. If the child is older than 14, the employee must show that special circumstances require them to stay home with the child during daylight hours.
One of my employees says they are tired, have a cough, or have other symptoms of COVID-19 and is taking leave to seek a medical diagnosis. What documentation may I require from the employee to document their efforts to obtain a diagnosis?
You may require the employee to identify their symptoms and provide you with a date for a test or doctor’s appointment. You may not, however, require the employee to provide further documentation before allowing them to use paid leave for COVID-19 related symptoms. The minimal documentation required is intentional so that employees with COVID-19 symptoms may easily take leavey and slow the spread of COVID-19.
Are there tax credits for this paid leave?
Yes. Employers can offset the cost of leave by keeping a portion of the quarterly federal employment taxes they would otherwise deposit with the IRS. If the cost of the leave is more than your federal employment tax bill, you can request an advance refund from the IRS using form 7200. To claim a payroll tax credit, you must retain the documentation described above and comply with any IRS procedures for claiming the tax credit. For more information about how to claim these payroll tax credits and what documentation is required, click here. For more information about form 7200, click here.
Is there an exemption for small businesses?
Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees can be exempt from providing paid leave if it would jeopardize the viability of the business. The exemption only applies to requests for paid leave due to school closure or unavailability of childcare due to COVID-19. If an employee requests paid leave for any of the other qualifying reasons (such as the employee is told to self-quarantine by a doctor or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19), the employer must comply with the requirements of the FFCRA and provide the paid leave regardless of the financial hardship it may cause the employer.
For more information about the small business exemption, click here.
Is this paid leave a permanent requirement?
No. The paid leave required under the FFCRA expires December 31, 2020.
New Poster Required
The paid leave law requires all employers to provide a notice to their employees explaining the new paid time off that they may be eligible for because of COVID-19.
For more information from the US Department of Labor, click here.
Here is a one-page summary of when employees can request paid leave.
Click here for a Fact Sheet on this leave from the US Department of Labor in English.
Click here for a Fact Sheet on this leave from the US Department of Labor in Spanish.
Resources for More Information
CDC Recommendations for Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Workplace
CDC Workplace Considerations for Reopening
OSHA Guidelines on Preparing Your Workplace for Covid-19
OSHA’s 7 Steps to Wearing a Mask at Work
OSHA Guidance for Restaurants
OSHA Guidance for the Construction Industry
Information from the Internal Revenue Service regarding extended filing deadlines, as well as new Employee Retention Credit to assist employers with their payroll taxes
Information for small businesses from the Florida Small Business Development Centers
Guidance on the CARES Act from the US Treasury
Wage and Hour Issues During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Many businesses are being affected by forced closures or alternative operations to stop the spread of COVID-19, which is especially true in the entertainment and dining industry. The US Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division provides information on common issues employers face when responding to pandemics or other public health emergencies, and their effects on wages and hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Florida Department of Health COVID-19 Dashboard
The Florida Department of Health is actively updating their website on what you need to know about Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Florida to keep residents and visitors safe, informed and aware of the status of the virus. To contact the COVID-19 Call Center, call 1-866-779-6121 or email COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org. The call center is available 24/7.
Florida’s Alert Notification Initiative. Individuals and businesses can learn how to receive emergency alerts and other public safety notifications directly from their local jurisdictions.
The Florida Department of Revenue is monitoring developments pertaining to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and is following guidance from federal and state officials. The Department has established a dedicated team to address tax-related issues pertaining to COVID-19 and has created an email address, COVID19TAXHELP@FloridaRevenue.com, where you can share your questions and concerns. The Department encourages all taxpayers to conduct their business through online services. Visit their website at FloridaRevenue.com for information and answers to your questions; use their eServices applications to file and pay taxes; or contact their call center at (850) 488-6800.