Welcome to the Small Business Weekly Rundown. Each week, we bring you stories and trends that impact small business owners and their workforce.
Small Business News Highlights:
- Congress reaches stimulus deal, President Donald Trump threatens not to sign
- New PPP funding available for expanded uses
- New COVID-19 relief bill falls short of needs of U.S. restaurant industry
- Weekly new jobless claims hold steady above 800,000
- Global backlog of shipping containers delays deliveries to U.S. businesses
- U.S. companies vying for access to vaccine doses
Congress reaches stimulus deal, President Donald Trump threatens not to sign
“I think [Congressional leaders] should cancel their vacations…Get it done. That’s what you’re elected to do, to represent your constituents. That’s what small businesses do. I don’t get to go on vacation unless I do my job.”
Congress passed a new round of economic stimulus legislation, including $600 direct payments to qualified individuals and expanded unemployment benefits, with a veto-proof majority. Yet, President Donald Trump is threatening not to sign the bill unless Congress bumps up the amount of aid going to families.
The bill resurrects the expanded federal unemployment benefit program to the tune of $300 per week for an additional 11 weeks and allocates $285 billion for additional small business aid.
The bill was tied to the larger omnibus spending bill that needed to be passed in order to avoid a government shutdown.
New PPP funding available for expanded uses
“A lot of problems we’ve been pushing them at the U.S. Chamber to address, they’ve fixed.”
It seems that the ongoing criticism of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) did not go on deaf ears and Congress made improvements to the program. While the legislation still requires SBOs to use 60% of loan funds for payroll, the remaining 40% can be used for a much wider variety of operating expenses, including purchasing and installing protective equipment, cloud computing and sales monitoring, and even expenses incurred during vandalism or looting that took place during riots earlier this summer.
The maximum loan amount has been reduced from $10 million to $2 million and funds are now available to live music venues and cultural organizations who were largely left out of earlier rounds of funding. Businesses who received money during earlier rounds of funding are eligible to apply again.
New COVID-19 relief bill falls short of needs of U.S. restaurant industry
“Make no mistake: independent restaurants and bars will continue to close without additional relief this winter, leaving millions more out of work.”
Not all business owners are pleased with the newest iteration of the PPP, however. The Independent Restaurant Coalition and National Restaurant Association claim that the PPP largely leaves them out in the cold as the hospitality industry experiences an unemployment rate 134% higher than the national average and outdoor dining ends due to winter weather.
Weekly new jobless claims hold steady above 800,000
“With a new bill likely to be signed with extra benefits and an extension of them in terms of time, we’ll see how people manage the job opportunities available relative to the size of these benefits.”
Speaking of unemployment, the number of new jobless claims filed last week rose less sharply than expected, topping out at 803,000 new unemployment claims filed for the week ending on December 19. While this number is lower than expected by some economists, initial claims from the previous week were revised to 892,000 which reflected the highest number since early in September.
Continuing jobless claims fell to 5.3 million last week, and the overall number of Americans receiving some sort of unemployment assistance was 20.5 million as of December 5, 2020.
The new COVID-19 relief bill includes federal unemployment benefits of $300 per week.
Global backlog of shipping containers delays deliveries to U.S. businesses
“We’ve moved production out of China and moved ourselves right into a disadvantage.”
The United States Postal Service isn’t the only one trying to keep up. An increase in demand for goods like furniture, home exercise equipment, and office supplies for workers spending more time at home has disrupted normal shipping patterns, causing major backlogs of shipping containers around the world.
Many U.S. importers from a wide range of sectors have reported shortages and disruptions that have made it even more difficult to bounce back from the economic strain imposed by pandemic-related restrictions.
U.S. companies vying for access to vaccine doses
“It almost feels like a wrestling match out there, where many interests want to make it clear that the people they represent have a lot of essential workers.”
Companies large and small, from a wide variety of industries, are lobbying state and federal government agencies to grant their workers early access to the new COVID-19 vaccine.
Large companies, such as Amazon, have made a pitch to have warehouse workers considered “essential” and the National Retail Federation made a similar request on behalf of its member organizations.
A vaccine advisory panel for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted earlier this week to recommend that grocery store workers, school employees, day care staff, front-line workers and adults over 75 get the next round of doses.
Texas has already announced that it plans to deviate from CDC recommendations.
The Latest from Workest
As more Americans receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks and months, it’s time to start considering what steps your organization needs to take to bring workers back to the office. For tips and strategies on setting up a safe workplace and creating contingency plans, check out this Post-Pandemic Readiness Checklist by Riia O’Donnell.
Start the conversation about 2021 charitable giving early by considering this list of 10 Workplace Giving Programs that are a Win-Win by Linda Koffman.
Finally, before we say goodbye for the week, here are 3 things you should know:
- Pandemic winner Zoom is reportedly rolling out an email platform in 2021.
- Global economists are noting that China’s journey to economic recovery may not be quite over, as the country extends relief measures to Chinese small businesses.
- The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has announced new reasons that employers can be targeted for workplace inspections.