COVID-19 UPDATE from Bellas & Wachowski

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Drop the Mask in your business?

After a year of employee and customer mask requirements being a no-brainer for small businesses, the CDC’s recent change in guidance that those who have become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 need not wear masks in many public settings has required business owners to put on their thinking caps again with regard to this issue, for the first time in more than a year.

Major retailers like Costco, Kroger, Walmart, Target, Walgreens and CVS have revised their guidance to match that of the CDC, although individual store locations in more highly populated areas like Chicagoland have not necessarily followed suit.

The Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) and the City of Chicago Department of Housing (DOH) have each announced separate Emergency Rental Assistance Programs.  Both programs will be funded using the federal COVID-19 relief funds.   Owners with non-paying residents in Chicago can apply to both agencies for assistance, but will only be allowed to receive funds from one of the programs.

Landlords can apply for the Illinois House Development Authority assistance at:  https://ilrpp.ihda.org/

The Chicago Emergency Rental Relief Assistance Program will begin taking applications on May 24.   This program is open for both Tenants and Landlords.  For more information about this program, click HERE.

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SBA Restaurant Revitalization Fund

Eligible restaurants and other dining establishments are entitled to apply to the U.S. Small Business Administration for a $28.6 billion grant program under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, as established in section 5003 of the legislation.

The SBA recently released a Program Guide that lays out the details of the grant eligibility under the Restaurant Revitalization Fund that foodservice outlets might want to review before applying. Among the key points of consideration promulgated in that publication are:

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COVID Rules for Residential Evictions

UPDATED May 10, 2021

The largest landlords in the US received letters from the  Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) reminding the landlords that the COVID-19-related eviction moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) has been exttended until June 30, 2021, and that the CFPB has issued an interim final rule establishing new notice requirements under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”).

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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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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.

Chicago Small Business Lawyer

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.