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Commentary: Keep your business going during these difficult times

Commentary: Keep your business going during these difficult times

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The economic shutdown that we’ve endured as a nation as we attempt to combat COVID-19 has created significant challenges for small business owners. Even those that were thriving before the crisis are not immune to the effects of a sustained closure or limitation on how they operate.

If you’re among the millions of American small business owners worried about being able to pay your bills — or even stay in business — during this challenging period, you’re likely wondering how assistance from the U.S. government can help. Here is information on three programs that may be available to you, depending on your circumstances:

1. The Paycheck Protection Program

This was a major element of the fiscal stimulus act passed by Congress, designed to help small businesses. You can apply through a bank for a government loan to help keep your business operating. If the funds are used to cover payroll costs and other necessary expenses like rent and utilities, the loan may be forgiven in part or entirely. This program works best if you are still able to keep your business operating and some of your staff employed. If you’ve been forced to shut down completely and laid off your workforce without a clear idea of when you can be up and running again, it may prove less beneficial. Congress has added more funding for the program, but the demand for loans among businesses is strong, and to date only a finite amount of dollars are available.

2. Employee Retention Credit

If you have continued to pay wages to employees even through your business income declined significantly compared to last year, you may be eligible for the Employee Retention Credit. You qualify if your business was fully or partially suspended by the government due to COVID-19 during a calendar quarter, or if your gross receipts are below 50% of what you earned in a comparable quarter last year. The credit equals 50% of qualifying wages paid up to $10,000 per employee, beginning for wages paid after March 12, 2020 and before Jan. 1, 2021. Be sure to consult with your tax adviser to find out if you qualify.

3. Social Security Tax Deferral

If cash flow is an issue, you can defer deposits of the employer’s share of Social Security payroll taxes or, if you are self-employed, a portion of self-employment taxes. Deferred tax payments apply to payroll effective March 27 and ending Dec. 31. Deposit of the 6.2% employer share of Social Security tax due can be deferred. Half of the deferred tax payments will be due on Dec. 31, 2021, with the remaining half due Dec. 31, 2022. Be sure to consult with your tax adviser.

Take time to assess where you stand.

Government programs can only go so far in helping to keep your business viable. Carefully assess factors such as your available resources, access to lines of credit through your lending institution, and ways to adjust your business for the environment that likely lies ahead.

It also pays to talk to your financial adviser about whether your personal financial plan needs to be adjusted to account for what may be changing circumstances for your business. This is clearly a time for review and action to keep your business and your personal financial life on track.

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