April 16, 2020 Crain's Detroit Business
The head of Michigan's labor department said Tuesday that the state's information technology system "struggled" to accept unemployment claims for six hours Monday, underscoring a battle that jobless workers have faced in securing financial aid during the economic upheaval of the coronavirus pandemic.
Jeff Donofrio, director of the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, as well as Unemployment Insurance Agency Director Steve Gray addressed questions Tuesday about a multitude of problems that have surfaced since more than 800,000 Michigan workers sought unemployment benefits over the past months due to coronavirus-related layoffs.
Donofrio said he expects the unemployment rolls to swell this week to more than 1 million workers, nearly one-quarter of the state's workforce.
Here are eight questions they answered in a conference call Tuesday with reporters:
What happened in Monday's website outage?
On Monday, for the first time, self-employed workers, 1099-independent contractors, gig economy workers like Uber drivers and other low-wage workers who can't normally get unemployment assistance were eligible to file for a new $600 weekly Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefit. This caused an influx of new filers Monday morning for a system that's already been prone to locking up for users for several weeks amid a 5,000 percent increase in claims over a three-week period.
Donofrio said the state's Department of Technology, Management was wrestling with IT problems Monday for the unemployment agency as well as the Secretary of State's office and the Department Health and Human Services. “The state's IT department, DTMB, assures us that they've added additional server capacity — and it seems to be working," Donofrio said. "As of (Monday) night, we saw higher traffic than at any point in the last few weeks." Gray acknowledged the coronavirus crisis exposed "cracks in our user interface," but said the agency is working to upgrade its IT systems to improve customer service.
What's the state doing to better manage the influx of unemployment claims?
The Unemployment Insurance Agency has increased its call center staff from 130 to nearly 500. There are plans to add another 200 call center employees in the coming weeks, Gray said. The agency also has asked workers to stagger their claims based on the first letter of their last name using the Michigan Web Account Manager (MiWAM) online filing system.
For individuals whose last name begins with A-L, the state asks that they file online on Monday, Wednesday or Friday. Workers whose last name begins with M-Z are asked to file on Sunday, Tuesday or Thursday. "For anyone who misses their day, they can file on Saturday," Donofrio said.
State officials also urge workers to file during nonpeak hours, after 8 p.m. Some workers have reported having the most success with the system between midnight and 6 a.m. The state agency also is urging people to limit their use of the online system to prevent it from locking up. "If you've filed your claim and you've been certified already, we ask that you try not to log back on to the system to make it easier for fellow Michiganders to access their accounts and file claims," Donofrio said.
What if a worker cannot file a claim online?
For workers who cannot access the unemployment website, the agency has reserved time for them to file by phone between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays, Gray said. The UIA customer service phone number for claimants is (866) 500-0017. The number for employers is (855) 484-2636.
Who is eligible for unemployment?
There are now two different categories of unemployment insurance assistance.
There's the regular state unemployment benefit of up to $362 per week for 39 weeks. This was previously 20 weeks until Gov. Gretchen Whitmer increased it to 26 weeks. Congress extended the period of unemployment assistance to 39 weeks. The second category is the new $600 of pandemic-related assistance. The $600 weekly federal benefit is retroactive to March 28 but will expire at the end of July.
The state portion starts whenever a worker became unemployed through mass layoff because their employer was deemed nonessential or through a forced shutdown by the governor, such as the closure of public accommodation and hospitality businesses that began March 16.
Most hourly or salary workers will be eligible for both. Claims are backdated to the day the worker became unemployed.
"The date you file your claim will not impact or affect the benefits you receive," Donofrio said.
After a worker is certified as eligible for unemployment benefits, they have to recertify with the state that they remain out of work every two weeks.
Will the state waive the requirement that workers recertify they remain unemployment?
No. The federal government requires the state to verify an individual remains out of work every two weeks in order to pay out benefits, Gray said. Individuals can report their continued unemployment status by using Michigan's Automated Response Voice Interactive Network (MARVIN) system by calling (866) 638-3993.
Are people who are afraid of potential coronavirus exposure at work eligible for unemployment?
No. Workers who are sick, in two-week quarantine, immunocompromised or have a family or childcare situation that forces them stay home are eligible for unemployment insurance, Donofrio said.
Does the 28-day window for filing for unemployment still apply?
Gray said the state is waiving the 28-day deadline for anyone who becomes unemployed because of the coronavirus pandemic or if they've been unable to access the filing system online or by phone. "We're not going to deny people because they're past the 28 days" deadline to file, Gray said.
What is the solvency of the unemployment fund?
Michigan's unemployment trust fund had $4.6 billion in the bank at the beginning of the crisis.
The state's "middle ground" estimate of how long that $4.6 billion can last shows half of it will be expended by July, Donofrio said. "The question really is, how many more people file and how long will the duration of these layoffs continue to be?"
Published April 14, 2020 by Crain's Detroit Business
Nonprofits Ramping up Advocacy as Sector Struggles to Access CARES Act Funding
When the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act was passed just more than two weeks ago, providing $2.2 trillion in COVID-19 relief, there was a collective sigh of relief from the nonprofit sector.
Like other organizations, nonprofits were being offered lifelines.
But the funding has been out of reach for many nonprofits, and the pool of available funding is drying up.
Nonprofit leaders are ramping up advocacy efforts to ensure the sector can tap new dollars, while a measure to increase the CARES Act SBA loan funding and a separate bill to carve out $60 billion to help nonprofits play out.
Getting loans through the three loan programs in the CARES Act been "dicey" for nonprofits, said Omari Rush, executive director of arts and culture association CultureSource, and chairman of the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.
"Everyone is waiting with paperwork filled out ... to see if banks are actually processing loans because either they're overwhelmed or have hit some capacity they have internally," he said.
That, coupled with what appears be the ability for banks to choose who they lend to, is making nonprofits anxious, Rush said.
"When people heard the CARES act was passed, they got excited about that relief," he said. "Now, people are feeling a little disheartened, wondering if funds will still be available when they do get to them in the queue and whether they will get the relief in time."
The speed behind efforts to deploy the new funding and the fact that the regulations on its distribution are being written in real time has led to lot of confusion on the part of lenders, said Kyle Caldwell, president and CEO of the Council of Michigan Foundations.
Compounding matters is the fact that most small and midsize nonprofits don't have lines of credit. So, it's a new experience for them to apply for loans and for banks attempting to work with them, he said.
And the technical and resources issues banks are having in processing the wave of applications has exacerbated issues even more.
Last week, Huntington Bank, the state's largest U.S. Small Business Association lender, temporarily halted its intake of new loan applications amid overwhelming demand.
The next day, Comerica Bank, the state's second largest bank, said technology issues were hampering processing of Paycheck Protection Program applications.
"It's a trifecta — everybody is trying to move this funding, but for those ... reasons, it's led to a great amount of confusion and delay," Caldwell said.
But the bigger concern beyond access to funding is that demand is outpacing available funding, he said.
"We are all trying to figure this out so that if more funding is infused in the system, nonprofits are ready and eligible to apply," Caldwell said.
To bolster stimulus funding for nonprofits, U.S. Reps. Seth Moulton, D-Massachusetts, and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pennsylvania, introduced the Save Organizations that Serve (SOS) America Act on March 27, the same day President Donald Trump signed the CARES Act into law.
The legislation would provide another $60 billion in emergency funding for nonprofits, allow nonprofits of any size to qualify for expanded SBA loans and create a universal charitable deduction for the 2019, 2020 and 2021 tax years. Michigan Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin is among the bill's co-sponsors.
The SOS America Act would be "a good thing long term and help to deal with some of the potential issues and concerns..around the charitable sector being able to access some of these loan programs and making sure the sector is shored up during a time of crisis at a time when we know families are relying on them most right now," said Regina Bell, director of government relations and public policy for the Council of Michigan Foundations.
To bolster the Paycheck Protection Program loan funds available, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, last Thursday introduced a measure to add another $250 billion to the $350 billion already allocated for the loans in the CARES Act. Senate
Democrats blocked the measure amid demands that it include broader funding and other stipulations, including protections for underserved communities, Newsweek reported.
RAMPING UP ADVOCACY
Nonprofit leaders are ramping up advocacy efforts to make sure nonprofits can access the COVID-19 relief loans/grants.
Washington, D.C.-based Independent Sector and the National Council on Nonprofits last week called on the financial industry and legislators to make changes that will increase nonprofit access to current and new stimulus funding and to expand the universal, above-the-line charitable deduction included in the CARES Act.
"Like many of you in the last week, Independent Sector had to gather our documents and contact our own banking institution to apply for relief funds provided through the CARES Act. We found it to be a cumbersome and unclear process," Independent Sector President and CEO Dan Cardinali said in a letter posted on the organization's website last Tuesday.
"We heard from many of you with similar tales of unanswered phone calls and unclear websites," he said.
"In our bank's application, we were forced to put down an 'owner' of our organization, depicting how nonprofits are seen as extensions of the business community, rather than distinct and vital resources that need preferential treatment during this time."
Michigan Nonprofit Association President Donna Murray-Brown has been working with her former colleagues in the banking industry to let them know the loan application forms were not specifically designed for nonprofits, so adjustments have to be made, said Joan Gustafson, external affairs officer for the Lansing-based association.
The SBA is working on answers of what to do with those types of boxes, she said.
"We're advising (nonprofits) right now to put in nonprofit or write in n/a."
Independent Sector last week sent an open letter to the financial industry, asking it to prioritize the applications of nonprofits, particularly small organizations and those that serve communities of color and tribal communities.
Then, last Thursday, the National Council on Nonprofits called on legislators to, among other things, designate funding exclusively for nonprofits within two of three loan/grant programs offered as part of the CARES Act: The Paycheck Protection Program and the Mid-Size Business Loan Program. It voiced support for raising the 500-employee cap so larger nonprofits can also tap those loans and participate in the Mid-Size Business Loan Program with the same loan forgiveness as smaller nonprofits and other provisions, along with expanding the universal charitable deduction by raising the $300 cap per person.
Hundreds of nonprofits around the country have signed on to both letters.
CARES ACT SUPPORT FOR 501(C)(3) NONPROFITS
Three loan programs (also open to small businesses):
Paycheck Protection Program
Emergency Economic Injury Loan Program
Also in the CARES Act:
Dedicated funding for arts and culture nonprofits
Funding for education and health care
SBA Disaster Loan Application
1. New access to online application: sba.gov/disaster
2. Estimate 30 days from application to funding
3. New site----fillable pdfs, download, complete, save to desktop, sign, upload through box on sba.gov/disaster
4. If in doubt, apply and let loan officer assist client with what is needed or further questions
5. As of today, dropped credit score/worthiness requirement
6. As of today, dropped credit elsewhere questions, don’t have to prove denials
7. Applicant does not request an amount, describe to clients as an application for credit card---client applies, SBA decides the amount based on info client submitted and SBA will notify client
8. There is a process for reconsideration if client feels they need a different amount
9. Eleven month payment deferral---first payment due in month 12 after date of signing promissory note
10. If denied SBA loan, can ask for reconsideration and have 6 months to do so
11. No known minimum for $ approved
12. Client will get call from LO if more info needed. Otherwise, client will get approval notice with amount or denied communication
13. Having an existing 7a or 504 loan DOES NOT MAKE THEM INELIGIBLE. The working capital on EIDL loan can be used to make those payments.
14. Loans processed in order received
15. Additional forms on sba.gov/disaster. Clients can send with submission or wait to see if requested by LO
16. Complete SBA form P-019 with app
SBDC Webinars & MoreNot familiar with the Small Business Development Center known as the SBDC? Well, allow us to introduce them.
They work hand-in-hand with entrepreneurs, business owners, corporations and are constantly working to provide their clients with the most up-to-date and accurate information to see your business thrive. To check out their website, CLICK HERE!
If this is something you are interested in please register below.
Loans, Relief, Programs and More.Below you will find a list of links to help you get the necessary tools and information to keep your business up and running over these next few weeks. We hope they can provide you with some of the information you have been searching for.
CLICK HERE for a side-by-side spreadsheet comparison of loans and programs to find out which on is the best fit for you!
If you would rather watch a video on it, CLICK HERE!
Small Business Paycheck Protection Program - The Paycheck Protection Program provides small businesses with funds to pay up to 8 weeks of payroll costs including benefits. Funds can also be used to pay interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities. For a full Q&A CLICK HERE. For an in-depth look at the details CLICK HERE. If you would like to be redirected to the application CLICK HERE.
Coronavirus Paid Leave Programs - The Families First Coronavirus Response Act created new temporary paid sick leave and paid Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) programs that are 100% reimbursable by the federal government. The effective date of both programs is April 1 and they expire on December 31, 2020. CLICK HERE for more information.
The Corona Virus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act - With $350 million dollars allocated for small businesses, also known as the ‘Paycheck Protection Program’. The initiative provides 100% federally guaranteed loans to small businesses who maintain their payroll during this emergency. Importantly, these loans may be forgiven if borrowers maintain their payrolls during the crisis or restore their payrolls afterward. To watch a video on it - CLICK HERE.
Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) from the SBA - This is a low interest loan with a fixed-rate with funds that come directly from the U.S. Treasury. You can apply HERE. If you would like more information about the loan and who qualifies please CLICK HERE!
Process for Applying for a Disaster Loan - Use this as a guide to show what you will need when you apply for a disaster loan. From paperwork to how much you can borrow and so on. CLICK HERE for the printable PDF form.
E-commerce and Sales Tax - Use this information, provided by Spencer Field, and SBDC Consultant to find out how your small business can navigate e-commerce sales tax. CLICK HERE to be redirected to the article.
Unemployment, Safety and Government Response - To stay up to date on changes, receive business and tax tips, and find ways to qualify for financial relief as a business owner or employee CLICK HERE! Check out this site as well by CLICKING HERE! If you qualify for unemployment, you can start by applying HERE!
Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FMLA) - The FFCRA’s paid leave provisions are effective on April 1st and will run through the remainder of the year. For a full list of information CLICK HERE.
Emergency Funds for St. Clair County Residents - The United Way of St. Clair County’s Emergency Services Fund will extend aid to St. Clair County residents to those heavily impacted by COVID-19. You can make a donation to the fund or see if you qualify for funding by CLICKING HERE!
HR & Unemployment Benefits - If you are a business owner or the head of HR you may be wondering what to do when it comes to your employees and their financial well being. To find a bit of clarity on whether to lay off employees, cut back hours, or problems with cash flow, check out SBAM’s website by CLICKING HERE! Apply for unemployment HERE!
Forms Available for DownloadThis information was provided to the public from the Small Business Association (SBA). If you would like to check out there website, CLICK HERE!
COVID-19 Financial Resources for 501(c)(6) Organizations
U.S. Small Business Administration Disaster Assistance in Response to the Coronavirus
As mentioned on the call, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) amends the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)’s Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. To view the U.S. Chamber's one-pager outlining what is available to 501(c)(6) organizations through the EIDL program and the application process, please click here. We also encourage you to visit the SBA's Disaster Loan Assistance webpage.
Additional Resources to Help Small Businesses Navigate the Coronavirus Pandemic
In addition to the information shared by the U.S. Small Business Administration, we encourage you and your members to utilize and share those created by CO--, the U.S. Chamber's own interactive digital platform designed specifically for business owners and offering unparalleled assets and subject matter expertise from the U.S. Chamber.
CO—has created a Coronavirus Small Business Guide to help you navigate the pandemic with new stories daily—including a detailed breakdown of federal stimulus aid programs, information about managing financial difficulties, keeping your team engaged, supporting and retaining your customers, and more.