COVID-19 UPDATE from Bellas & Wachowski

Articles Posted in Small Business

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Employers Need to Mask Up Against Lawsuits

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.

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Women-Owned Small Business Ends

Starting October 15, in a stepped-up effort to ensure that all applicants are eligible, the U.S. Small Business Administration will no longer allow women-owned small businesses or economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses to self-certify that they meet the requirements for the Procurement Program for Women-Owned Small Business Concerns.

That program enables these categories of businesses to compete for set-aside or sole source contracts with the goal of awarding at least 5% of contracts to these businesses, a goal that the government surpassed in 2019 with $26 billion in total contracts awarded. Women-owned small businesses are defined as those at least 51% owned by one or more women who are U.S. citizens, while the separate economically disadvantaged category includes those with a net worth of less than $750,000, not including primary home equity and interest in the business.

Is Chicago Commercial Real Estate set to rebound after 2020?

Is commercial real estate set to rebound after 2020?

The pandemic and resulting stay-at-home orders from governments and private employers has upended the commercial real estate market on a number of fronts.  And we are now looking square into the Pandemic Recession which has just begun.

For now, it’s merely a matter of unpaid rents and empty spaces, which means short-term losses for building owners. But if working at home has lasting appeal—and the sometimes-resistant culture of American business changes—or if shopping from home stays at its currently heightened level of prevalence, commercial real estate could lose longer-term value.

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How private is your cell phone?

Smartphones provide all kinds of information that advertisers might find useful, including the user’s locations throughout the day. While this information is aggregated and anonymized—excluding names and other identifiers—it’s possible that hackers or other malevolent actors could gain access to a user’s raw data.

Location tracking can be useful for a number of reasons, ranging from targeted advertising from stores and brands, to traffic monitoring and reporting on the part of GPS apps, to analyzing the growth of potential coronavirus hot spots. But people often don’t know their information is being tracked, and disclosures that providing their location for use in a weather app might lead to their data being sold, for example, are often buried in the fine print.

Chicago Business Lawyer

The Dangers of Payroll Tax Deferment

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. 

Chicago Small Business Lawyer

The Key to Surviving as a Small Business

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.

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Entrepreneurial Business Concepts 

Companies like GE, Disney and HP got their start during the Great Depression, while Airbnb, Uber, Slack and Venmo launched in cyberspace during the Great Recession.   Taboola’s analysis of more than 8 billion page views, along with data from the aggregated readership among 1,000 of its publisher partners, collected in March and April, shows several promising growth markets, as Singolda noted in an article published on CNBC.com.

Creating the next great videoconferencing platform is an idea that’s probably already taken, but the Taboola analysis of search engine terms revealed others:

downloadThe Supreme Court decided two years ago in Carpenter v. United States that the Fourth Amendment requires police to obtain a warrant, in most circumstances, to access GPS location information spanning seven days or more from a cell phone user.   Prior to that decision, the court had held that voluntarily providing this information to third parties like technology companies did not have Fourth Amendment protections and thus litigants did not have any reasonable expectation of privacy.

Although the court majority labeled the decision “narrow,” it nonetheless led to questions about where else Fourth Amendment protections might be applied in future decisions related to various forms of technology. Dissenting Justice Samuel Alito predicted the decision “guarantees a blizzard of litigation.”

While Justice Alito was correct that some new cases have come forward, but for the most part lower courts have followed the contours of the Carpenter decision when asked whether users can be granted Fourth Amendment protection for such non-content data as financial and billing records, IP addresses, subscriber records, and lists of devices that accessed a wireless network.   Most recently, in June, the First Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling granting Fourth Amendment protection to eight months’ worth of video feed recorded by a pole camera, labeling this a “conventional surveillance technique” and thus not analogous to collection of cell-site location data.

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Health and Safety Regulations

On June 24, Virginia became the first state in the country to implement workplace health and safety rules to protect workers from coronavirus infections. Could Illinois be next?   Whatever happens, these actions should serve as an example of what every  business should do.   

Virginia’s health and safety board agreed to create finalized rules after the state’s Department of Labor and Industry drafted an emergency temporary standard in late May. The office of Governor Ralph Northam said the idea arose because the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has received more than 4,000 complaints related to coronavirus but only issued one citation, according to the Washington Post.

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Small Businesses Reopening

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?