UPDATED JANUARY 17, 2021 FOR COOK COUNTY
The Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County issued another Administrative Order affecting the status of all cases, including eviction cases.
The Chicago area and Illinois business owners are facing a number of challenges and the CoronaVirus pandemic is threatening the continued viability of their business. Here are some of the more frequently questions asked by business owners.
Small businesses face a dizzying swirl of regulations from different levels of government about whether patrons and employees are required to wear masks during the pandemic, as well as whether employers are required to either purchase masks for employees or reimburse them for reasonable costs.
The scenario becomes more fraught given the emergence of class-action litigation even when businesses are complying with the mandates and guidelines from the federal, state and local authorities. Going forward, small businesses need to strike a delicate balance between accommodating customers in their public spaces while doing right by their employees, whose priorities are not always the same but should be considered.
Updated October 19
Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order on October 16 extending the statewide moratorium on residential evictions for another 30 days. Pritzker first put a hold on residential evictions through an executive order on March 20, the same day he issued a statewide stay-at-home order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
As part of a series of executive actions rolled out in early August, President Trump ordered Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to allow the deferral of the 6.2% payroll tax on employees from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31 for workers making less than about $104,000 on an annualized basis. The plan was brought forth by the White House after it became clear that Congress did not plan to play ball with the President and pass an actual payroll tax cut.
After a hard look at the plan, it is obvious that small business owners should not be tempted by President Trump’s offer to defer paying some employee payroll taxes until next year. Established through a non-binding Presidential Memorandum, this offer does *not* constitute a tax cut.
How can your business – and you – survive the COVID-19 pandemic?
It’s a tall order. But small business owners have means of surviving. The corollary shutdowns have impacted 20% of small businesses, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and restrictions have affected a far greater number. A study by the University of Illinois, University of Chicago and Harvard University and its business school estimates more than 100,000 small businesses are permanently shuttered. Not a surprise since many small firms don’t generally have more than a few months’ cash reserve.
UPDATED AUGUST 23, 2020 – A federal judge in Kansas has ruled that three Missouri restaurants can proceed with their claims against Cincinnati Insurance Company alleging that the policies also covered “physical loss,” which the insurers failed to define in the policies. The insurance company’s argument is that the policies provide coverage “only for income losses tied to physical damages to property, not to economic loss caused by governmental or other efforts to protect the public from disease.” In other words, they cover direct physical damages or losses from events like storms or fires. This argument was rejected by the federal district court judge.
August 10, 2020 – The sudden expansion of remote work arrangements in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis has created a buffet of opportunities for would-be cyber criminals. And the newly reconfigured, decentralized satellite workplaces in people’s homes look to be with us for some time. In addition to protecting themselves from the network vulnerabilities created by these off-site offices, businesses need to undertake a thorough review of their cyber insurance policies to ensure that if a malicious actor causes them harm, they are protected on the fiscal front.
An emergency rule promulgated in April by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission gave certain classes of “essential” workers the ability to claim COVID-19 as an occupational disease vis-à-vis the ability to collect workers compensation. This is a change that every Illinois business should be aware of.
The commission withdrew the rule after a court challenge, but last month Governor J.B. Pritzker signed legislation amending the Illinois Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act (820 ILCS 310, codified as Public Act 0633) to say that a “COVID-19 first responder or front-line worker” has the rebuttable presumption of having contracted the disease due to hazards and exposures in the workplace.
The moratorium is scheduled to end on July 31, 2020, it may very well be extended again. Once the moratorium period ends, Illinois landlords can file eviction suits due to the non-payment of rent.
NOTICE TO LANDLORDS: Chicago residential tenants, who have lost income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, can respond to their landlords within five days of receiving an eviction notice under a Chicago Ordinance. The notice must be in writing, whether in the form of a letter, email or text message. The notice can be as simple as, “I have been unable to pay rent because I have been financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.” For a more formal template, go to: www.chicago.gov/eviction
As of today June 26, Illinois has reached Stage 4 of coronavirus reopening, which allows essentially all types of businesses to reopen provided they observe public health safety guidance and capacity limits, with no more than 50 people allowed in one place.
What does this mean for businesses, and how can they protect themselves—and their employees and customers—medically, financially and legally?