Weekly Digest – 10 February 2021

Although most of us have not been able to travel for much of the last year, that didn’t stop The Guardian from hosting a travel photography competition. Stunning landscapes, colorful marketplaces, and chance photos that capture an unforgettable moment are all among the winners in the many categories. We may not be able to travel safely yet, but we can at least travel in our imaginations.

STIMULUS UPDATES

Progress on Another Plan?

Democrats are pushing ahead to pass President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package, even without Republican support. If passed, this package would likely include these provisions:

  • $1,400 direct payments
  • A $400 per week jobless benefit through September
  • $350 billion in state, local and tribal government relief
  • A $20 billion national COVID-19 vaccination program
  • $50 billion for virus testing
  • $170 billion for K-12 schools and higher education institutions
  • A $30 billion rent and utility assistance fund

Another proposal, just introduced by Democrats on Monday, would expand the Child Tax Credit and give millions of families $3,600 per child under six and $3,000 per child aged six through 17. These payments would be paid out monthly starting in July. A Republican proposal would also expand the Child Tax Credit program, with monthly payments of $350 per child per month for young children and $250 per month for school-aged children.

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

Are you having a difficult time navigating the ever-changing requirements of the new PPP? You’re not alone, according to a letter sent by the AICPA to the SBA, which outlines several areas of concern.

  • Applications for first and second round draws are being denied for unknown reasons. System and software problems are incorrectly denying applications, but the SBA doesn’t have clear remedies for fixing the problems. Even after fixing the problem, many applications are still being denied.
  • Loans are being capped at a maximum of $35,000 per employee, so many applicants are receiving less than they expected with no explanation for the difference.
  • The SBA is not clearly communicating that sufficient funds should be available to accommodate most requests, and that processing may take one to two weeks.

However, despite these problems, as of January 31, the SBA had disbursed 891,044 loans worth $72.7 billion, according to Bloomberg News.

TAX ISSUES

Teachers can deduct up to $250 for personal protective equipment purchased to stop the spread of COVID-19 in classrooms, according to new guidance from the IRS. Eligible purchases include face masks, disinfectant, hand soap and sanitizer, gloves, plexiglass barriers, and tape or paint used to mark social distancing boundaries.

LIVING WITH THE PANDEMIC

With most viral infections, those who have had the illness and recovered are usually immune to future infections. However, this does not appear to be the case with the South African variant. In a recent trial with a vaccine from Novavax, people who had previously been infected were just as likely to be infected with the new South African variant as those who had never been infected. However, experts caution that more research is needed.

During 2020, the objective of most businesses was to survive. But if you’ve made it this far, the improvisational strategy that got you through 2020 won’t be enough to set you up for future success. To prepare for the future, these four strategies from Strategy + Business can point you in the right direction. First, evaluate your data and set up experiments to find out what resonates with customers and what flops. Next, manage costs, but make sure that customer experience doesn’t suffer. Cooperate with the ecosystem of suppliers, complementary service providers, and other partners to help each other strengthen their businesses while improving customer satisfaction. Finally, share employee and customer feedback so that employees have an easier time doing their jobs and have better information to help customers.

The connection between employee engagement and business performance has been well-documented. But what about remote employees? A Gallup survey cited in a recent article in Entrepreneur indicates that remote Millennial and Gen Z employees are highly engaged when they have communicative and supportive managers. Other surveys describe strategies for increasing the level of engagement that remote workers have. Communicating the company mission and values and connecting that to employees’ work is essential, but only if the actions of company leaders are congruent with those ideals. Diversity helps to retain employees when they see people in leadership positions who look like them.

As the world went remote in the pandemic, the disruptive phenomenon of “zoombombing” became common. However, as researchers point out in Ars Technica, the common countermeasure of password-protecting meetings tends to be ineffective. This is because those passwords can easily be shared via email with potential disruptors either inside or outside an organization. A better method is to select the option to create a unique link for each user. This link can only be used by one participant, and is verified within Zoom as the one sent in a calendar invite to that person’s email address.

GENERAL RESOURCES

We sincerely hope that you and your family are well and remain well. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are all in this together!

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