Its no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on our economy, and businesses, especially small businesses, are getting hit hard. However, there may be some relief in sight. There are quite a few resources now being made available to small businesses, and I felt it was important to share this information with you. In addition to the government's initial promise for stimulus checks for all citizens, last week, the U.S. Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or “CARES Act.” The CARES Act is a noteworthy piece of legislation with a budget of $2 trillion that aims to provide economic assistance to businesses and consumers. There are several ways you can benefit from the CARES Act as a voice talent small business entrepreneur.
Quick Tip: My personal accountant was an amazing resource through this process. She was already in the middle of my taxes, so current numbers and information were easily accessible, and made the application process much easier. I have always said that my accountant was one of my best investments for my business, and it certainly still holds true during these times.
Here's a quick breakdown of the main resources available now:
Personal Stimulus Checks
Part of the government's Coronavirus economic relief package includes cash payments to taxpayers. These are one-time payments of up to $1,200 sent to eligible individuals. The amount may vary depending on your adjusted gross income (AGI) from last year or the year before if you haven’t filed your 2019 taxes yet. You may be eligible if: you are a single resident of the US with an adjusted gross income of less than $99,000, you earn under $146,500 and file for the stimulus checks as the head of a household, or if you earn less than $198,000 and file jointly without children. If you do file jointly with a spouse with a combined AGI below $150,000 you will get $2,400. If you file with children in your household, parents will get $500 for each child who is 16 or younger. Note, You do NOT need to apply for this. (PS - Don't forget to file your taxes !)
Voice artists - sole proprietors and beyond - I would strongly urge anyone who feels they might need it to apply for unemployment insurance, and to do so ASAP. This is because of the high demand at the moment. In fact, so many people are applying for unemployment right now that the government is having difficult time keeping up with demand. This is part of the reason why the CARES Act was set into motion. The law represents the first large scale social measure to include the self-employed (freelancers generally don’t qualify for unemployment insurance). As specified in the House bill, the CARES Act offers an additional $600 in unemployment insurance per week for freelancers. If you include state benefits, weekly payouts add up to about $800 to $900. These weekly payouts can apply for up to four months.
Bank and Credit Union Assistance
Many banks and Credit Unions are now offering assistance as well, encouraged by the FDIC and the National Credit Union Administration. Assistance may include waiving fees on late or missed credit card or loan payments, waiving early withdrawal penalties for out-of-work savers who need access to money locked up in CDs, or offering affected borrowers the ability to defer or skip making loan payments for a finite period of time. I have been receiving emails from my bank in the last week to let me know how they are offering assistance. Make sure to check your local bank for more information. And if you are simply not able to make a payment, check with the source directly. Most have plans in place to defer payments with no penalty involved.
COVID 19 relief programs and the SBA
In addition to the above, legislation is creating and expanding relief programs specifically for small businesses.
In accordance with the new CARES Act, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has created the Paycheck Protection Program, a loan program worth almost $350 billion. The program is available to small businesses (defined as businesses with a maximum of 500 employees) to help with expenses such as rent, payroll, utilities, health insurance, etc.
In light of the CAREs Act, the SBA has also expanded existing programs, namely the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program. I would recommend gathering some information prior to applying in order to facilitate the application process, namely: the last 12 months of payroll (and all of 2019), 1099’s for employees from 2019 (employees, not services), group health plan health insurance costs paid for by the business owner, and what the company pay for their company retirement plan. The plan itself is applicable to small business owners in all states and territories. The EIDL program can provide small businesses with up to $2 million in working capital loans to bolster businesses through the temporary loss of revenue. Part of the expansion of the EIDL includes emergency grant cash advances of $10,000. If accepted, funds will be made available within three days of application and the loan advance does not have to be repaid.
Note: it’s likely that these will change quickly as the days go by, so it’s important to check with the SBA on a regular basis to be aware of updates and new initiatives.
Update 4/24: Congress passed the CARES Act extension and the President signed the bill earlier today, which adds more funding to both the PPP and EIDL programs.
Although the PPP and EIDL programs are TEMPORARILY unable to accept new applications based on available appropriations funding, it is important for small businesses to prepare to apply once both programs are re-opened.
Stop the Stigma
In the US, there is often a social stigma around people cashing in on government aid or social services - people may feel it is unjust as others may be "working the system", or taking away from people who need it, or that it’s an admission of failure. Remember that we are all in extreme circumstances and everyone is feeling the effects of this global pandemic. The government has provided resources and money to support you and your small business through these uncertain times. I have worked way too hard creating and cultivating my business, and I’m certainly not going to let this pandemic shut it down if I can help it in any way. If there is aid available, I'm certainly going to research and execute my options thoroughly.
I recently interviewed VO industry expert and Certified Worker's Compensation Specialist, Rob Sciglimpagia, about options available to small businesses. You can check it out below or get all of our show notes, links, and Takeaways here: Business of VO: COVID-19 Relief for Small Businesses.
Keep your Eyes on the Future
Our times are changing. This pandemic, and the response to it, is going to change the way that small businesses operate. It’s going to evolve the economy and market. Make sure to take this time to reflect and think about how your business can best serve the new market, and make changes as necessary. And of course bosses, remember, we're all on this together! Let's continue to lift each other up - and support your local business if you can!
Much love and Keep on rockin' your biz.
About the Author: Anne Ganguzza is a full-time voice talent and award-winning director and producer who works with students to develop their voice over and business skills - including VO demo training and production. She specializes in Conversational Commercial and Narration styles, including Corporate, E-Learning, Technology, Healthcare - Medical, Telephony, and On-Hold. Located in Orange County, CA, Anne offers private coaching and mentoring services to students in person and via Skype, ipDTL or Zoom.