Dear clients and friends of Cook, Little, Rosenblatt & Manson:
We hope that you are all weathering the Covid-19 storm. During these challenging times, we want to provide you with information that we think would be helpful for you and your business. Below we outline some issues to consider that may impact your business, and list some resources that you may find useful. Of course, if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us. While we are generally working remotely, we remain fully accessible by email, phone and video conference.
With that, the list below includes some of the most useful resources that have come to our attention:
- Here is a helpful summary prepared by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of new federal legislation regarding paid leave and related matters (note that while prepared before the law was passed, it remains accurate). BIANHASSOC_3029_US Chamber Summary of Families First Coronavirus Act (002)
- The State of NH has created and is maintaining a website of information for businesses: https://www.nh.gov/covid19/resources-guidance/businesses.htm
- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued answers to frequently asked employment questions: https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/wysk/wysk_ada_rehabilitaion_act_coronavirus.cfm
- The New Hampshire Business and Industry Association has compiled and updates a list of resources for NH businesses: https://www.biaofnh.com/covid19.html
- The New Hampshire Small Business Development Center has created and is maintaining a website with information (including the SBA disaster loan program) for businesses: https://www.nhsbdc.org/covid-19-assistance
- The US Department of Labor has issues a press release regarding coronavirus-related paid leave. The release describes how U.S. Department of the Treasury, IRS and the U.S. Department of Labor plan to implement coronavirus-related paid leave for workers and tax credits for small and midsize businesses to swiftly recover the cost of providing coronavirus-related leave. Here is the link to the release: https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/osec/osec20200320. In addition, the USDOL has provided some guidance with regard to the manner in which paid leave will be implemented: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic.
Legal and Business Issues to Consider:
In addition, below are some issues that you should note that may impact your business:
- Contract compliance: Many companies are finding it difficult or impossible to meet contractual requirements that they may have. You should be aware that various contract provisions (including force majeure clauses) and legal principles (including the doctrine of impossibility) should be reviewed if your business is having difficulty.
- Lease obligations: A major expense of many businesses is rent and related lease costs. You should be aware that Governor Sununu has issued an order prohibiting landlords from commencing any eviction proceedings (including with regard to commercial tenants) for a period of 90 days.
- Insurance coverage: A portion of damages suffered as a result of Covid-19 may be covered by business interruption or other insurance. While many policies include an exclusion for damages caused by a virus, you should contact your insurance agent or provider to discuss filing a claim.
- New federal laws – employee benefits: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which goes into effect April 2, 2020, addresses a variety of issues, including unemployment insurance, virus testing, and paid sick leave. You can find a summary at: https://www.npr.org/2020/03/19/818322136/heres-what-is-in-the-families-first-coronavirus-aid-package-trump-approved
- Other employee matters: The economic disruption is causing many organizations to consider whether to lay-off or furlough employees, seek information about benefits for affected employees, and determine what rights and obligations employers have. There have been several recent and quickly moving changes that you should take into account in deciding how best to proceed.
- Tax matters: The IRS has moved the deadline to file tax returns and pay tax from April 15 to July 15, 2020. All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties.
- What constitutes an “essential business”: In the event New Hampshire becomes subject to a “shelter-in-place” order, essential businesses likely will be allowed to remain open. That then gives rise to the question of what constitutes an essential business. Each state may define an essential business differently, so we won’t know what an essential business is in NH unless and until a “shelter-in-place” order is issued. Generally, essential businesses are those needed to keep basic services available and include healthcare facilities, grocery stores, gas stations, and related suppliers and vendors.
- Protecting trade secrets and confidential information in a remote work environment: Of course, as businesses move their operations to a remote work environment, companies should consider policies and plans to protect sensitive information. Some simple measures, such as reminding employees of any obligation they have to protect information, can be a good start, though the longer this situation persists, the more diligent employers should be to take steps to be sure that information is protected. The remote work environment raises new challenges for protecting this important business asset.
- Other: Of course, there may be a variety of other issues that you and your business may face, depending on your particular circumstances. Covid-19 is having an unprecedented impact on businesses throughout the country, and we are working hard to prepare to address those issues and questions as they arise. We have ourselves faced some unexpected challenges in our own business, but are fully operational and remain committed to bringing our experience and desire to do what we can to help our clients to help you address whatever issues you may face. If you have questions, please reach out to us and we can direct you to the attorney(s) at Cook Little who is/are best able to advise you on the challenges facing your business.
We hope that you find helpful the list of resources and information provided above. We are, of course, available to do what we can to help you through this difficult time and also look forward to continuing working with you in a more normalized, post-Covid-19 business environment.