COVID-19 UPDATE from Bellas & Wachowski

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What Can Small Businesses Do About the Maskless?

As more states lift requirements that people wear COVID-19 masks indoors when in public, what can small businesses do to protect their employees—and other customers who still prefer to wear masks?

As of April 5, more than one-third of states (18) lacked mask requirements, some of which never had them in the first place, according to the Associated Press. But business owners are certainly legally entitled to require them if they so choose, given that their public-facing spaces are still private property that they either rent or own, as long as they don’t discriminate. Customers who refuse to wear a mask, are asked to leave and stubbornly do not are therefore trespassing, and business owners could involve police if they so choose.

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COVID Rules for Residential Evictions

UPDATED APRIL 7, 2021

The Illinois Supreme Court issued an order this week creating stronger protection for tenants in need of rent relief due to the pandemic and making it more difficult for landlord to obtain an eviciton.

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Pandemic Relief for Restaurants

Smaller restaurants and bars soon will have a new opportunity for pandemic-related relief when the U.S. Small Business Administration posts the application for the new Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a program created as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 signed by President Biden on March 11.

As of this posting, the application had not been made available; however, those eligible should keep checking this page or watching out for announcements and be ready to pounce.

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New County Ordinance, Supreme Court Orders to Impact Landlords

Landlords in Illinois, especially those in non-home-rule portions of Cook County, will face a raft of changes this spring in the wake of three state Supreme Court orders issued in late February, and a new ordinance passed by the Cook County Board of Supervisors that takes effect June 1.

The Supreme Court’s orders respectively relate to Governor Pritzker’s eviction moratorium, which has been extended to April 3; how circuit courts can handle an anticipated flood of eviction cases once the moratorium ends; and the use of electronic signatures in eviction proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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How to Determine Your Workplace Vaccination Policy

As COVID-19 vaccines begin to become available for working-age people—first for those in healthcare, then those in other “frontline” occupations, then for those at risk due to medical conditions, and finally for the general 18-to-64 population—can employers implement mandatory vaccination policies?

In general, the answer is yes, according to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, although employers need to be careful on a number of fronts, starting with ensuring that the way they craft their policy does not run afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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CTA – Federal Reporting Requirements for Small Business

The paper work for many small businesses will be increasing.

Many small businesses with 20 or fewer employees and $5 million or less in gross receipts or sales will be subject to new federal reporting requirements under the Corporate Transparency Act (“CTA”), a section of the National Defense Authorization Act enacted on January 1. This will include both those formed in the U.S., whether through a state or an Indian nation, as well as those formed outside the U.S. but registered to do business here.

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Small Business Pandemic Survival Information

The $900 billion pandemic relief package included relief for Small Businesses.  The updated programs are intended to make it easier for small business owners to apply and gain funds.

The Small Business Administration (“SBA”) approved $5 billion in new Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loans on January 19 and expanded the network of lenders who can make the loans.  At least $25 billion is being set aside for Second Draw PPP Loans to eligible borrowers with a maximum of 10 employees or for loans of $250,000 or less to eligible borrowers in low or moderate income neighborhoods.  More info is available on the SBA Website here.

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How to Prepare for 2021

Wow, 2020 was a year to forget! I hesitate to say it was interesting because it was not. It was more like a nightmare as we coped with a public health crisis, an economic crisis, a political crisis, and a civil rights crisis. Let’s put 2020 in a lead box and drop it in the deepest part of the ocean!

Unfortunately, the pandemic has forced a number of businesses to close. Some businesses have actually thrived and others have adapted and are working diligently to succeed. Mostly, it has altered how businesses operate and tested our resilience. Some people have learned that working remotely is a viable alternative, while others have found themselves struggling to survive in a world which places demands on the use of technology to survive.

George Bellas Chicago Business Lawyer George Bellas answers questions for business owners.

Employees can be required to vaccinate.

The federal government has stated that workers can be barred from work if they refuse the vaccine.  Employers can make a COVID vaccination a condition of employment.  But, employers must also consider exemptions for employees with disabilities or religious objections.

After a long delay in getting guidance to employers, on December 16, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) – this is the agency that enforces laws against workplace discrimination – provided the answer to whether employers can require employees to provide proof of vaccination and how employers should respond to employees who indicate that they cannot get vaccinated because of a disability.

December 9.

The Illinois Supreme Court approved a new rule which authorizes any Illinois court to develop and use a text message notification system.

Amended Rule 14 is effective immediately and the full text of the rule can be viewed here.