The next round of PPP loans is right around the corner and they offer small businesses more flexibility than last time, employers continue to mull the question of making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory, and we might actually be able to thank coronavirus for something good! Get the details in today’s EBI Screening News Update.
The new Paycheck Protection Program will soon be available. Millions of small businesses will be eligible for federal loans, which could eventually be forgivable.
President Trump signed the bill into law on December 27th and it went into effect 10 days later. But since the entire department administrating the loans is transitioning out with the change in administration, there have been delays getting the portal up and running. At this point, the goal is to start accepting applications sometime next week.
There are several rules regarding the use of this money, but this time around it is a bit more flexible and opens the door for the money to be used to protect employees from COVID-19.
During the last round of loans, the money could only be used for four things:
This time, any business that claims a PPP loan must use 60% of it to cover payroll expenses, but up to 40% can now be used to cover COVID-related expenses such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and other workplace health and safety solutions. This could mean spending money on anything from temperature scanners to COVID-19 tests, fixing property damage, or even managing increased supplier costs.
Business owners can check for this portal to open to get the materials. Right now, if you click the link, you’ll get a 404 error until the portal is up and running. Keep checking back; it will go live sometime in the next few days. But even then, business owners must still apply for the loans through a local bank.
It might be the question of the year – should employees be required to have a COVID-19 vaccine in order to come to work? Right now, the weight of that question is falling mainly on hospitals and other medical institutions, but soon, all employers have a decision to make.
Recent guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says employers do have the right to tell employees they must get vaccinated or stay home. But will employers take such a hard line?
The Society for Human Resource Management surveyed employers and found that 61% of them say they plan to “encourage” the vaccinations, but not require them outright. These seem to be in line with the 64% of employees who told researchers they are likely to get the vaccine when it becomes available. Nearly a quarter of employees, however, say that making the vaccine “mandatory” would make them not want to get it.
It turns out all of the energy we have been spending on preventing the spread of COVID-19 has actually stopped other illnesses in their tracks. Scientists say instances of the flu and other common viruses are at the lowest levels they have ever seen.
After the pandemic started, the number of flu tests dropped 61% as doctors focused on the new threat, but even so, the number of people positive for the flu dropped 98%. In the southern hemisphere, which just ended its flu season, there were only 51 cases out of more than 83,000 tests!
Experts credit all the social distancing, mask-wearing, hand washing, and the lack of international travel for the numbers. But the news is not all rosy. There is a real possibility that many of these illnesses will bounce back with a vengeance. Very few cases can also make it difficult to figure out which strain to put into next year’s vaccine.
Jennifer Gladstone is a news anchor and journalist with more than 20 years of experience in front of the camera. She's worked in several markets, large and small, and has performed nearly every task needed in a newsroom. As EBI’s Screening News Editor, she keeps EBI’s customers and blog subscribers up to date on the latest screening news and legislative alerts affecting companies of all sizes.