New Rules

The new PPP comes with new rules for expenses. Miami and its mayor are having a moment. Businesses are suing successfully for business-interruption payments.

Happy New Year, everyone!

PPP LOANS

Gene Marks lists the many changes to the second round of PPP loans that could affect your business. While the 60/40 cost allocation between payroll and non-payroll costs in order to receive full forgiveness will continue to apply, new categories of forgivable expenses include:

  • “Operations expenditures such as payment for any software, cloud computing, and other human resources and accounting needs.”

  • “Supplier costs such as expenditures to a supplier pursuant to a contract, purchase order, or order for goods in effect prior to taking out the loan that are essential to the recipient’s operations at the time at which the expenditure was made.”

  • “Worker protection expenditure such as personal protective equipment and adaptive investments to help you comply with federal health and safety guidelines or any equivalent state and local guidance ...” READ MORE

INSURANCE

Businesses have sued successfully for business-interruption payments: “In hundreds of lawsuits across the country, mostly small businesses have sued their property-insurance companies for refusing to pay out business-interruption claims tied to the pandemic. Many insurers say their policies contain clear language excluding virus-related claims, while most claims also haven’t met their policies’ criteria. Many courts have backed up the insurers in their denials of payouts, but businesses are making progress. Of the roughly 100 rulings in suits pitting businesses against insurers, about three-quarters have been in favor of insurers, according to a Covid-19 litigation-tracking effort at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School.”

  • “Chef Matthew Kelly is one of the few restaurateurs who has fought property insurers over pandemic business restrictions and won.”

  • “The policies in the case, which were issued by units of Cincinnati Financial Corp. and covered a total of 16 restaurants, didn’t contain a specific virus exclusion.”

  • “Some policyholders are having success by building off years-past rulings in which judges concluded that things like wildfire smoke, gasoline vapors and carbon monoxide created property damage for purposes of business-interruption coverage, lawyers said.” READ MORE

LITIGATION

That long-feared wave of Covid-liability lawsuits has yet to hit: “Nine months into the pandemic, an expected torrent of virus-related personal-injury lawsuits hasn’t materialized, as plaintiff attorneys find it more challenging than anticipated to hold a business responsible for spreading Covid-19. Negligence lawsuits brought against businesses by infected customers are nearly nonexistent in state and federal courts, apart from a cluster of lawsuits targeting cruise lines. Even more rare are cases against smaller retailers and businesses, which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had said were particularly vulnerable to financially crippling claims.”

  • “Existing laws have funneled most employee claims against employers into workers’ compensation systems, which don’t typically award the large sums sought by trial attorneys who can sue for pain and suffering in the courts.” READ MORE

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ECOMMERCE

Created to drive sales to independent stores, a website called Not Amazon is looking to expand: “What began as a Google spreadsheet with more than 160 businesses collated initially from [Ali] Haberstroh’s memory and research became a directory of hundreds that have a website and a high-quality photo and offer nationwide shipping, curbside pickup or delivery. So far, the website has garnered more than half a million page views and grown to include 4,000 businesses across Toronto, Calgary, Halifax and Vancouver. The site is now submission-based, and thousands of businesses are awaiting Ms. Haberstroh’s approval.”

  • “Ms. Haberstroh’s attempt to even the playing field has been welcomed by small-business owners like Tannis and Mara Bundi, twin sisters who opened the Green Jar in Toronto last December.”

  • “Since being on the Not Amazon site, the Green Jar has seen online orders rise 500 percent and has been ‘incredibly busy,’ Tannis Bundi said.”

  • “One Toronto business, Stainsby Studios, was astonished by the threefold increase in pottery sales after being featured on Not Amazon.” READ MORE

TRAVEL

People are making big post-vaccine travel plans for this year: “High-end travelers are laying plans for bucket-list journeys to make up for lost time, injecting some light into a still-grim pandemic winter. ‘Everybody is excited to get the hell out of their house,’ says Ed Leinss, 79, who is planning a monthlong, three-continent journey with his wife this summer, by which time he hopes to be vaccinated.”

  • “Gavin Delany, chief executive of Austin, Texas-based Travelstride, a website that lets people search for trips, says bookings for 2021 picked up after the FDA authorized the Pfizer vaccine this month.”

  • “Interest has shifted from Spain, Portugal, the U.K. and crowded big cities in general, he says, to more remote destinations in Africa, South America and even Antarctica.”

  • “Catherine Heald, founder of New York-based tour operator Remote Lands says the company is flooded with phone calls and emails to book trips to far-flung destinations into the summer and fall. ‘They want something longer, because they want to make up for some of the lost time,’ she says.” READ MORE

STARTUPS

Miami and its mayor, Francis Suarez, are having a moment: “From the outset of his tenure, Suarez has worked to attract innovative companies. His highest profile success came in October, when global finance giant Blackstone announced it would open a tech office here. But a recent series of Tweets from Suarez seem to be kicking the movement into high gear. On Dec. 4, in response to a Tweet from Delian Zebulgar, a principal at venture capital firm Founders Fund, saying Silicon Valley should ‘move’ to Miami, Suarez replied, ‘How can I help?’”

  • “Suarez’s reply went viral, with more than 500 quotes or retweets, 5,700 likes, and millions of views.”

  • “The recent flurry of online activity has landed Miami a company called Pipe Technologies, which lets companies sell access to recurring revenue streams, like subscriptions.”

  • “Shutterstock founder and executive chairman Jon Oringer, who moved to Miami six weeks ago, said he plans to launch a new group, Pareto Holdings, that will incubate businesses in Miami.” READ MORE

HUMAN RESOURCES

On January 1, 20 states and 32 cities and counties raised their minimum wage with 27 of these places reaching or exceeding $15 an hour: “Some economists say lifting the minimum wage will benefit the economy and could be an important part of the recovery from the pandemic recession. That is partly because lower-income workers typically spend most of the money they earn, and that spending primarily takes place where they live and work.”

  • “Many business groups counter that increasing the minimum wage will hurt small businesses, already beleaguered by the pandemic.”

  • “A 2019 Congressional Budget Office study found that a $15 federal minimum wage would increase pay for 17 million workers who earned less than that and potentially another 10 million workers who earned slightly more.”

  • “According to the study’s median estimate, it would cause 1.3 million other workers to lose their jobs.” READ MORE

A new state law in Massachusetts requires employers to offer workers up to 12 weeks of paid family leave and up to 20 weeks of paid medical leave: “The paid leave will expand to include care for a family member in July. Many owners welcome this opportunity to offer another benefit to employees, particularly at a stressful time. But they also recognize potential downsides. ‘Going into this before the pandemic, small businesses were already at a high anxiety level about this program,’ said Christopher Carlozzi, state director for the National Federation of Independent Business. ‘This just makes it infinitely worse to have a pandemic going on while this is being rolled out.’”

  • “‘There are people who have been waiting . . . for January 1 to roll around,’ said Bill Randell, principal at Advantage Benefits Group in Worcester. ‘The state is going to be overrun with claims.’”

  • “Small businesses need to figure out how best to explain this complex program to employees, and calculate how it gels with the array of preexisting leave requirements.”

  • “Perhaps the toughest task: deciding how to fill the shoes of their workers while they are out.” READ MORE

TRADE

Temporary exclusions to the China tariffs have expired for many businesses: “Mr. Trump began placing tariffs on more than $360 billion of Chinese goods in 2018, prompting thousands of companies to ask the administration for temporary waivers excluding them from the levies. Companies that met certain requirements were given a pass on paying the taxes, which range from 7.5 percent to 25 percent. Those included firms that import electric motors, microscopes, salad spinners, thermostats, breast pumps, ball bearings, fork lifts and other products. But the bulk of those exclusions, which could amount to billions in revenue for businesses based in the United States, were set to automatically expire at midnight on Thursday.”

  • “Mr. Trump has wielded tariffs to protect some American industries from foreign competition and encourage others to move their supply chains from China. The tariffs have partly accomplished those goals, though most companies have moved operations to other low-cost countries like Vietnam or Mexico, rather than the United States.”

  • “Most economists say those gains have come at a high price, and hurt the American manufacturing sector over all by greatly increasing the cost of imported components and making U.S. manufacturers less competitive with other companies abroad.” READ MORE

RETAIL

A failing store with no website was saved by its loyal customers: “Mr. Yao never fully realized the depth or span of his reach. He never saw the Yelp reviews that raved about the ‘tiny little hole-in-the-wall shop with the absolute sweetest man alive.’ He did not realize that he had slowly created a community willing to come to his aid if he should ever need it. Then, on July 14, just when Mr. Yao figured he was in his last month of operation, came a shifting of the stars. That’s when Mx. Thibodeaux launched a GoFundMe campaign for Mr. Yao, tossing in the first grand. Mr. Yao had never heard of crowdfunding. He was touched. A week later, Nicolas Heller stopped in. Known as New York Nico to his 500,000 Instagram followers, he had heard of Mr. Yao’s struggle from Mr. Rivera.”

  • “Adding the fund-raising link to his profile, Mr. Heller wrote up a post with a photo of Mr. Yao in his usual blue-and-white striped shirt.”

  • “Unfamiliar with Instagram, Mr. Yao posed good-naturedly by his pegboard wall of bags. An hour passed. Suddenly a line began to form outside.” READ MORE

CANNABUSINESS

Mexico is set to become the world’s largest market for legal cannabis: “The legal changes will turn Mexico into the third country in the world to legalize cannabis nationally for recreational use after Uruguay and Canada, and the largest with a potential consumer market of 88 million adults. Mexico’s legalization will more than double the number of people globally who have access to legal marijuana, creating momentum for legalization efforts world-wide, said Maritza Perez, director of the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, a U.S.-based advocacy group for legalization. Because Canada and Mexico will now have legal cannabis, it will also likely lead to pressure on the U.S. to follow suit, she said.”

  • “Fifteen U.S. states have legalized recreational marijuana, including California and Illinois.”

  • “Oregon recently became the first state to decriminalize small amounts of hard drugs, even heroin and cocaine.” READ MORE

OBITUARY

Nancye Radmin, a pioneer of plus-size fashion: “With $10,000 she had borrowed from her husband, Ms. Radmin looked to start her own business — a boutique stocked with the kind of upscale clothes she wanted to wear. In 1977 she opened the Forgotten Woman at 888 Lexington Avenue, near 66th Street, on the fashionable Upper East Side. The store’s name was a reference to her clientele, women who wore sizes larger than most fashion designers manufactured, and perhaps, too, to the culture that overlooked them. Prices were high: A Persian lamb fake-fur coat by Searle went for $595, and an iridescent rose silk Kip Kirkendall gown sold for $1,850. By 1991, Ms. Radmin had 25 shops around the country, with annual sales of $40 million.”

  • “Stores were strategically opened on shopping streets like Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills to show customers that they were just as entitled to spend money as their thin counterparts.”

  • “‘I don’t have competition,’ she told People magazine in 1988. ‘I only have imitators.’” READ MORE