Many small businesses are facing existential challenges. Review this list of actionable resources to help meet them.

Small businesses are the backbone of American commerce, representing 99.9% of enterprises and 47.3% of employees in the U.S. Here in Florida (like everywhere else), entrepreneurs, their employees, and their customers are intensely watching how COVID-19 is developing and the government’s response to the threat.

One of the most pressing concerns is whether or not a business provides a product or service that’s deemed essential. It’s a classification that, at the time of this writing, still only has general national guidelines (see page 5 of this Department of Homeland Security advisory memorandum). Individual states largely determine which businesses stay open, which makes knowing your local position critical for local operations.

In this blog, I cover some national resources but also a great deal of information specific to my home state of Florida. Be sure to check for similar resources in your state, including detailed government guidance on lockdowns, infection stats, and the definitions of essential businesses in your area.

Florida’s COVID-19 situation: infection statistics and essential businesses

The status of COVID-19 infections in Florida is being continually updated and is selectable by county midway down the page of this state government resource.

Governor Ron DeSantis’s office is also providing a list of resources, including the latest reports of working groups for various industries and the latest plans for reopening the economy.

The Governor’s Executive Order 20-91 provides a full list of businesses that are deemed “essential services.” Some—but by no means all—of the categories are:

  • Healthcare/Public Health
  • Food and Agriculture
  • Transportation and Logistics
  • Communications and Information Technology
  • Financial Services
  • Commercial Facilities
  • Hygiene Products and Services
  • Residential/Shelter Facilities and Services

The devil is in the details of these categories, so read the full list to see where your business may fit. For example, a bullet under “Residential/Shelter Facilities and Services” specifies “Workers responsible for the leasing of residential properties to provide individuals and families with ready access to available housing.” This classification would broadly apply to many organizations and their employees in the commercial real estate industry.

Paycheck Protection and other helpful programs

If COVID-19 has negatively impacted your business in Florida, you may qualify for assistance from one of several programs.

  • If you currently have a relationship with an SBA Express Lender in Florida, you may qualify for the SBA Express Bridge Loan, which offers quick access to up to $25,000. I also recommend looking into the SBA’s Debt Relief provisions, which may provide “a financial reprieve to small businesses” based on the loan type, timescales, and other factors.
  • Looking after your employees may still be possible through the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Lenders again began taking applications in late April after the funding from the first stimulus ran out.

The SBA will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks, and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. The PPP’s language can be a bit muddy, so be sure you understand how it works. And be sure to apply soon if you haven’t already. The money for this current round of stimulus will quickly run out, but lenders with access to the funds are placing applicants in a queue and issuing many loans on a first-come, first-served basis. Given that another round of funding is possible, it’s a good idea to establish relationships with a lender and submit an application, even if the money runs out. If you have trouble applying through a national or regional bank, here is a helpful list of “less traditional lending companies that are SBA-approved.”

  • An Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) had been made available from the Small Business Administration (SBA), offering up to a $10,000 emergency advance to eligible businesses. The funding has currently run out, however, and the program is not accepting new applications. But bookmark the site and check back to assess the status of this resource—and be ready to apply when and if the SBA resumes applications.
  • Other relief options include FloridaDisaster.biz, which offers a business damage assessment survey, information about the CARES Act, loan-status updates, and network help for small businesses. I’m glad to say these aren’t all the relief options open to Florida’s entrepreneurs, so review these additional resources from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, as well.

Florida’s entrepreneurs—and those nationwide—aren’t alone

The Entrepreneur’s Organization of South Florida is making many free webinars available to help leaders navigate COVID-19. These cover topics ranging from mastering leadership in isolation to crisis management and the fundamentals of entrepreneurial resiliency. It’s a great series, and there’s no better time to absorb its lessons.

The Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS) is something that has helped me and many others build and rebuild businesses. And it offers a suite of tools that will be more useful than ever for organizations that are looking to adapt to the crisis, weather it, and make the fastest possible recovery after it passes.

When will Florida’s economy reopen?

Businesses are getting anxious as lockdowns continue, and there are various opinions on when it will be safe to relax extreme social distancing measures. Bill Gates listed a series of innovations that he deems necessary to reopen the economy, and it’s an informative and thought-provoking read.

Tensions are mounting about restarting Florida, prompting the governor’s “Task Force to Re-Open Florida” to solicit public comments via an online submission form.

Florida has a 4-phase (Phases 0 to 3) plan laid out to reopen our economy. We’re currently in Phase 0 (page 15 of the plan), with employers urged to promote telework, screen employees for illness, and avoid non-essential travel.

There’s no set date for Phase 1 to begin—only general guidance that it will commence upon “a downward trajectory of the syndromic and epidemiology criteria while maintaining adequate health care capacity.” Unfortunately, no one can say with certainty when that will be, since the course of COVID-19 and its effects are proving unpredictable. But it seems likely that a phased reopening with numerous safety precautions will happen soon.

Even amid economic chaos, there is a silver lining

Times are tough for almost every business, and the survival of many enterprises is in doubt. But for those who can weather the immediate storm, we can still achieve meaningful—and unique—progress. This pandemic can and should be viewed as a chance to reimagine who we are as entrepreneurs, how we’ll express that in our future actions, and to start innovating. And in some cases, to begin again.

Coronavirus has the world on pause, but I view it as a potential opportunity for leaders to regroup, reflect, adapt, and return to regular business more capable than ever. A downturn following a shock event like COVID-19 can spur some entrepreneurs to push their mindset to a new level of resilience that serves them long after the crisis recedes. There will undoubtedly be a new global business paradigm following COVID-19, and the best entrepreneurs are actively seeking out ways to adapt and thrive.

I wish all of my colleagues, clients, partners, and friends the best of luck during this crisis. If you need help adapting your leadership or EOS implementation to this situation, I can help. I remain confident we’ll come out the other side of this okay—with many businesses and their leaders stronger than before.

COVID-19 is changing how leaders and businesses think. Connect with Cesar today to discuss turning vulnerable positions into winning strategies.