Upon surveying the landscape of organizational climate commitments, it is not uncommon to hear about attention-grabbing goals like committing to 100% renewable energy, setting a science-based target, going carbon neutral or even climate positive. You might be wondering: how do these organizations get started? Looking around your own organization, it may be difficult to imagine how the fragmented efforts that are taking place within different business units and on different timelines can come together to form a coherent story about the opportunity for impact and risk mitigation.

The key to getting started is to establish a carbon baseline.

A carbon baseline is an inventory of sources of carbon emissions from business activities. This is typically a one (or more) year(s’) snapshot that serves as a reference point for organizations to understand and track their changing emissions over time. Building a multi-year emissions baseline not only enables an organization to have a better understanding of its recent historical GHG emissions trends but also enables an organization to grasp the business trajectory and associated potential future emissions. A carbon baseline includes both direct and indirect emissions, also known as Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions (see image below for detailed categories).

Scope 1: Direct carbon emissions from owned or controlled sources (e.g. fuel)

Scope 2: Indirect carbon emissions from consumed purchased electricity, heat or steam

Scope 3: Indirect carbon emissions from all other business activities (e.g. purchased goods and services, capital goods, production of purchase materials, transport-related activities not owned or controlled by an organization, waste disposal, business travel, use of sold products, etc.)

Carbon Emissions

Source: GHG Protocol

Why establish a carbon baseline? 

Just as companies take stock of other types of resources or supplies, it is important for organizations to assess their carbon budget in order to understand which areas of business activities have the greatest opportunities for impact. We’ve discussed the importance of data quality in a previous blog when establishing carbon inventories. Establishing a detailed carbon baseline provides management with the ability to understand carbon emissions across different business units and make data-informed decisions, for example, by having specific fuel type information according to projected business growth, or understanding how carbon-intensive specific regions’ electric grids are going to behave in the future where the company operates. Given the likely volume of data collection and calculations, the baseline inventory data can be much easier to visualize, analyze and synthesize if it is established in a centralized software system. ‍

A secondary benefit to establishing a baseline carbon inventory is for tracking change over time. Since a baseline carbon inventory is only a snapshot in time, organizations need to build their processes for ongoing data collection to evaluate the effectiveness of operational changes. Having a baseline carbon inventory also supports companies in conducting peer benchmarking and evaluating their market position.

So you’ve built your baseline… what’s next?

Establishing a carbon inventory baseline is only the first step to managing organizational GHG emissions. Once an organization undertakes the effort to put together this emissions approach to understanding its impact, the organization can extend the same approach to thinking about risks and opportunities in business decision-making processes. For example, when evaluating capital investments into a new facility, a company can inquire and collect data about the historical operational costs—including energy data—for existing facilities it is considering for acquisition, and/or factor in how “dirty” the electric grid is in the potential regions where a new facility may be sited. Because an organization already has a baseline understanding of its existing portfolio of facilities, the organization can evaluate potential facilities against their own portfolio’s average emissions as well compare potential acquisitions against each other from a carbon impact standpoint. Siting new facilities in a region with a cleaner electrical grid, or with easier access to cleaner alternative fuels, can be considered alongside other performance and market factors in the capital investment decision making processes. ‍

Beyond singular business decisions, having an established carbon inventory baseline can facilitate an organization’s goal setting and scenario planning. Companies that have a target year and an established emissions target can draw a line from their established carbon baseline to their designated emissions target to understand the necessary change in their carbon budget over time compared to business as usual (see purple and green lines in the graph below).

Carbon Emissions

Source: SINAI Technologies

Forecasting different projections of possible futures based on the current carbon baseline provides a data-driven approach to stacking individual or decentralized business decisions together to get a comprehensive understanding of the planned emissions reductions, which aggregates the approved project pipeline. The planned emissions reductions can then be compared to the planned emissions gap, or the targeted emissions reduction that has yet to be accounted for based on existing company mitigation strategies. Finally, for companies thinking about supporting a 1.5-degree climate scenario, modeling the path from their carbon baseline to the company’s current goal versus what the target emissions would need to be to achieve the 1.5-degree scenario can facilitate an internal discussion around the target emissions gap (shown as the steepest emissions pathway in the graph above).

‍To understand how SINAI Technologies can support your organization to build carbon baselines, visualize scenario planning and risk analysis, and enable meaningful progress towards your decarbonization journey, contact us for a demo

References:

1. RE100 campaign. The Climate Group & CDP. https://www.there100.org/. Accessed Friday 27 November 2020.

2. Science-based targets. https://sciencebasedtargets.org/. Accessed Friday 27 November 2020.

3. Carbon Neutral Standard. Natural Capital Partners. https://www.carbonneutral.com/. Accessed Friday 27 November 2020.

4. Greenhouse Gas Protocol. World Resource Institute & WBCSD. https://ghgprotocol.org/. Accessed 29 November 2020.

5. https://www.sinaitechnologies.com/post/four-main-data-challenges-in-managing-carbon-inventories . SINAI Technologies.

6. https://www.sinaitechnologies.com/about-us#contact


‍This article by Serena Mau was originally  published at Sinai Technologies

In 2016, the US offshore oil and natural gas industries—which are heavily concentrated in the Gulf of Mexico— contributed 315,000 jobs and $30 billion to the US economy. These industries are lucrative, but they see their fair share of challenges. 

Even during the best of times, the extraction of oil and gas demands strict attention to employees’ health and safety and the maintenance of assets. But as extreme weather events increase—strong winds, heavy rain, lightning, and high seas—the risk of mishaps increases, requiring additional care. Delivery and distribution may be halted, assets may become damaged, and there’s a greater chance of oil and chemical spills. 

A Look at Past Events

The US offshore oil and gas industries were dealt a one-two punch in 2005, as two category-5 hurricanes (Katrina and Rita) swept across the coast. The effects were so damaging that it took years to recover:

– 3,050 of 4,000 platforms in the Gulf were affected, each of which halted production for several weeks.

– 22,000 of the 33,000 miles of Gulf pipelines were in the storms’ direct path, and 457 pipelines were destroyed

– 115 platforms were destroyed

– 8 million gallons of oil spilled into waterways from Louisiana to Alabama 

– Oil prices spiked to $70 a barrel

Nola.com

Image Credits

Companies spent millions to repair their infrastructure. Shell, for example, spent over $300 million on recovering and repairing assets. Besides the cost of repairs, for the next nine months, 22% of federal oil production and 13% of gas production remained shut-in—resulting in the loss of 150 million barrels of oil and 720 billion cubic feet of gas. 

 Since those two hurricanes, there have been ten more category 5 Atlantic hurricanes. Climate change’s effects are certainly being felt— and experts anticipate that it will induce more storms at greater intensities. Although we can’t stop them from happening, we can learn more about them and determine the best ways to reduce their impact—to ensure these industries operate safely and remain lucrative. 

Data’s Place in the Offshore Oil and Gas Industries

It’s the responsibility of oil and gas companies to protect their infrastructure, assets, and employees. It’s also their responsibility to set up emergency response teams and employ remediating measures to minimize the extent of oil spills if and when they occur. 

Accurate, real-time data (and alerting) is vital for making fast, informed decisions that will protect assets, lives, and the environment. Here are two specific applications of data to the offshore oil and gas industries:

  1. Monitoring extreme weather changes:

A week of delay to operations could affect major shippers and cost companies as much as $7.5 million. Time is essential for reducing the impact of extreme weather events such as hurricanes. 

Anticipating upcoming wind shifts and speed changes can help prepare and protect vessels and their tethered connection. Having up-to-date weather data also allows companies to avoid dangerous activity. Not only does this protect these billion-dollar oil rigs and employees, but it also prevents oil spills.

Real-time ocean data is also important for monitoring everyday weather and temperature changes. Milder weather can still put operations and assets at risk. For pipes, all it takes is a 35 mph wind at a specific angle to become damaged. (To put that into perspective, Hurricane Katrina’s wind speeds were moving at 175 mph.) 

To reduce the risks posed by climate variability and change, some experts advocate for better collaboration between the oil and gas industries and the meteorological community. A stronger partnership between these two groups would allow for better integration of high-quality weather and climate information into energy sector activities. 

  1. Oil spill mapping:

To limit the areas affected by an oil spill and facilitate containment and cleanup efforts, several factors must be identified: 

– Spill location 

– Size and extent of the spill

– Direction and magnitude of oil movement

– Wind, current, and wave information for predicting future oil movement

Oil Spills caused by Katrina

Image Credits

Timely detection and continuously updated information on these factors are vital for executing response measures. Responders depend on oil spill trajectory maps built from field observations, aerial surveys, remote sensing, and weather forecasts for ocean currents and winds (drawn from weather buoys). Oil spill trajectory maps help with cleanup measures, shoreline protection, and penalization (when applicable):

– Slick detection and surveillance

– Tactical and strategic countermeasures

– Slick trajectory determination 

– Containment boom implementation

– Gathering of legal information 

To echo the prior discussion, the weather is becoming increasingly unpredictable. With quick changes to wind speeds, currents, and waves, oil spill trajectory maps need to be informed by real-time holistic data to be effective. These industries are some of the most advanced users of weather and climate information. However, their rapid evolution, and extreme changes to weather, constantly create new needs.

The offshore oil and gas industry isn’t the only large industry requiring top-quality data in the face of increasingly volatile weather. Read about the risks to the maritime industry and how real-time data is a game-changer for operations. 


This article by Ayesha Renyard was originally published at sofarocean.com

About Sofarocean:

Our oceans cover over 70% of our planet’s surface, drive our climate system, and over 90% of the world’s trade is carried by sea. Our ocean environment affects us every day, through weather, the food we eat, and the stuff we use. Yet, ocean data is exceedingly sparse, and we know more about the surface of the moon than the waters surrounding us. Distributed sensing has revolutionized digitizing on land and from space. Ocean’s are next.

Our goal is to create a data-abundant ocean and provide critical insights into science, society, and industries. As a first step, we deploy and grow the world’s largest real-time ocean weather sensor network which provides the most accurate marine weather information and forecasts to power industry-specific solutions.

We believe that more and better ocean data will contribute to a greater understanding of our environment, better decisions, improved business outcomes, and ultimately contribute to a more sustainable planet.


Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

The ocean has been around for billions of years. Yet, we only started measuring oceanographic variables in the late eighteenth century. We’ve got a long way to go before we can fully understand it. 

What we do know is that it’s changing at a rapid pace—and at the crux of many of these changes is our warming global sea surface temperature. 

To get you up to speed, this post is an introduction to sea surface temperature, and we’ll be answering all the fundamental questions: 

What is it? 

How is it measured? 

What is the data telling us?

And most importantly, why is this information important?

What is sea surface temperature (SST)? 

Sea surface temperature (SST) is the water temperature close to the ocean’s surface. It varies mainly with latitude, with the warmest waters generally near the equator and the coldest waters in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. 

As the oceans absorb more heat, sea surface temperature increases, and the ocean circulation patterns that transport warm and cold water around the globe change.

How is SST measured?

SST was one of the first oceanographic variables measured, yet it is still a fairly new phenomenon. The first recording was in the late eighteenth century by Benjamin Franklin, who suspended a mercury thermometer from a ship while traveling between the US and Europe. SST was later measured by dipping a thermometer into a bucket of water that was manually drawn from the sea surface (yes, humble beginnings). 

The first automated technique was accomplished by measuring the temperature of water in the intake port of large ships in 1963. 

Today, SST measurement is obtained by satellite microwave radiometers, infrared (IR) radiometers, in situ moored and drifting buoys, and ships of opportunity. Different instruments measure the temperature at different depths. For instance, most buoys have sensors located at about 1-meter depth or placed at regular intervals along a tether line. When measured from space, sea surface temperatures represent a depth that is related to the frequency of the satellite instrument. For example, IR instruments measure a depth of about 20 micrometers, while microwave radiometers only measure a few millimeters. 

Satellite infrared data is merged with the temperature data drawn from ships and buoys to create a holistic understanding of sea surface temperature at a larger scale. We’ve come a long way from the bucket method. 

Why does SST data matter? 

While heat energy is stored and mixed throughout the depth of the ocean, the temperature of the water right at the sea’s surface—where the ocean is in direct contact with the atmosphere—plays a significant role in weather and short-term climate. The ability to measure it allows us to observe the global system and quantify ongoing weather and climate change

What is Sea Surface Tempreature data telling us? 

Average Global Sea Surface Temperature

Source: EPA.gov

 

Due to global warming, the average global SST is on a steady incline. From 1901 through 2015, the temperature rose at an average rate of 0.13°F per decade. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s severely impacting the ocean; sea levels are rising, and ocean circulation patterns are changing—disrupting marine ecosystems and even human livelihood.

Why should we care about rising sea levels?

As the water warms, two things happen. First, it expands as its temperature increases. Second, it melts glaciers and ice sheets. Together, these phenomena increase sea surface temperatures, and consequently, sea levels.

Rising sea levels lead to greater coastal erosion, stripping the coast of its natural protection consisting of sediment and wetlands. Each year, extreme weather events—such as cyclones, storm surges, and hurricanes—increase in intensity and frequency. Due to coastal erosion, communities are at greater risk of floods, and ultimately habitat and infrastructure destruction. 

We can’t stop rising sea levels, but we reduce their impact. Learn how improved ocean data can help coastal communities mitigate the risks associated with rising sea levels.

How does SST change ocean circulation patterns?

Ocean Circulation Patterns

Source: Britannica.com

Ocean circulation is the large-scale movement of waters in the ocean basins. The oceans have thousands of currents, gyres, and eddies that carry water around the planet. Their movements regulate the Earth’s climate and transport carbon, heat, and nutrients.

Together, these currents act like a giant conveyor belt that transports heat from the tropics to the higher latitudes. As warm water from the tropics flows toward the poles in wind-driven currents near the surface, it cools, becoming denser and heavier, and eventually sinks. Temperature and salinity drive this circulation—so changes in these variables will affect it. Warming waters are melting ice sheets and glaciers. In conjunction with increased rainfall, ocean water is becoming less saline (and less dense than saltier water), which is slowing the ocean’s circulation.

A Nature study reveals that the Atlantic Ocean’s circulation has slowed by about 15 percent since the middle of the last century

Which industries are being affected by increased SST? 

Four industries that are especially impacted by increased SST are the maritime industry, offshore oil and gas industry, agricultural industry, and fishing industry

The increase of extreme storms and other weather events along the coast can cause million and billion dollars worth of damage to the maritime, offshore oil and gas, and agricultural industries’ assets and operations. The need for real-time data and warnings is incredibly important for monitoring and predicting the storms and their effects—to reduce damage and operation closures. 

The slowing ocean circulation patterns create inhabitable marine ecosystems for some species, driving them to cooler water and subsequently affecting the local food chain. There is an increase in the frequency and density of harmful algal blooms such as red tide. Additionally, scientists link increased SST to coral bleaching, leading to a decline in fish populations. Fisheries located in areas of rapidly warming waters are seeing severe decreases in fish stock—some to the point of collapse. Obtaining denser data can identify areas that need critical rehabilitation and help guide sustainability projects. 


This article by Ayesha Renyard was originally published at sofarocean.com

About Sofarocean:

Our oceans cover over 70% of our planet’s surface, drive our climate system, and over 90% of the world’s trade is carried by sea. Our ocean environment affects us every day, through weather, the food we eat, and the stuff we use. Yet, ocean data is exceedingly sparse, and we know more about the surface of the moon than the waters surrounding us. Distributed sensing has revolutionized digitizing on land and from space. Ocean’s are next.

Our goal is to create a data-abundant ocean and provide critical insights into science, society, and industries. As a first step, we deploy and grow the world’s largest real-time ocean weather sensor network which provides the most accurate marine weather information and forecasts to power industry-specific solutions.

We believe that more and better ocean data will contribute to a greater understanding of our environment, better decisions, improved business outcomes, and ultimately contribute to a more sustainable planet.


Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

The coronavirus pandemic is creating unprecedented challenges, both for public health and the economy—and those challenges are causing many businesses to lay off their employees and shutter their doors, at least for the time being.

If your business is having to lay off employees, the process can feel overwhelming and confusing. Let’s take a look at some of the most common questions about how to navigate employee layoffs and terminations in California—and, more importantly, the answers you need to navigate layoffs during the coronavirus:

Q: What information do I need to get my employees to ensure they have what they need to file for unemployment benefits?

A: When your employees file an unemployment insurance (UI) claim with the Employment Development Department, they’ll need the following information:

  • Your official company name (as it appears on their pay stub or W2)
  • Company contact information, including both mailing and physical addresses, direct supervisor’s name, and company phone number
  • Their last physical work day
  • Gross earnings in the last week they worked, beginning with Sunday and ending with their last day of work

If you want to make the process easier for your employees, you can provide this information at their termination meeting so they have it readily available when they apply for UI benefits. (You can access their earnings information through Hourly’s Payroll function and information on hire date on each employee’s individual W4.)

Q: How do I confirm my employee’s unemployment status with the Employment Development Department?

A: Once your employee files a UI claim, you’ll receive a Notice of Unemployment Insurance Claim Filed from the EDD through the mail. Unless you wish to dispute the claim, there’s nothing you need to do. If there is any incorrect information on your employee’s claim (for example, the time of termination), you’re required to return the form with the correct information within 10 days of receipt.

Q: Is it even legal for me to lay off all of my employees—especially suddenly and without warning?

A: Under normal circumstances, the California WARN Act requires employers to give employees and state and local representatives 60 days notice before moving forward with mass layoffs.

However, we’re not operating under normal circumstances—and many businesses are having to close their doors immediately, both to protect their employees’ safety and to comply with the current statewide shelter in place order.

In response, Governor Newsom has issued Executive Order N-31-20, which temporarily suspends the WARN Act’s 60-day notice requirement. There are still, however, a number of requirements employers have to meet in order to remain compliant with the WARN Act, including providing written notice to all affected employees, the EDD, the Local Workforce Development Board, and the chief elected official of each city and county government where the closure and/or layoffs are taking place. (For more on WARN Act requirements and what needs to be included in your written notice, visit the EDD’s COVID-19 WARN FAQ page.)

Q: When do I give my employees their last check—and what needs to be included?

A: The appropriate time to give your employee their final paycheck is at their termination meeting. Their final paycheck needs to include any outstanding money owed to the terminated employee, including any accrued PTO.

To process and print a termination check through Hourly, follow these steps:

  • Choose “Payroll” in the navigation bar;
  • Choose the employee you are terminating;
  • Ensure the direct deposit option is off;
  • Confirm all hours worked during the week are entered into the timesheet;
  • Navigate to “Manual Timesheet” and add any accrued PTO hours and/or sick pay;
  • Return to the Payroll screen;
  • Select the terminated employee;
  • Click “Pay” in the upper right of the screen;
  • Choose the “Print at Home or Office” option;
  • Click “Run” at the bottom right of the screen;
  • Confirm Payroll Run

Once you go through these steps, the check will be sent straight to your email address on file—that way, all you have to do is print and you’re ready to go.

Need compatible checks for your printer? You can order them on Amazon

Q: With social distancing in full effect, how do I make sure my employees get their final paycheck in a timely manner?

A: Under normal circumstances, you would terminate your employee and give them their final paycheck in person. But the coronavirus—and accompanying social distancing—is changing the way we interact; in order to protect the safety of yourself and your employees, an in-person meeting might not be possible. You still, however, need to get them their final paychecks in a timely manner.

Unfortunately, this is a new situation—and, as such, there’s no clear answer as to how to handle the situation and what constitutes a “timely manner.” If you’re unclear, talk to your lawyer or call the EDD or the Labor Commissioner’s Office for additional guidance.

Q: What about insurance?

A: If you offer health, dental, vision, and/or medical reimbursement plans, you’ll need to provide terminated employees with a COBRA notice outlining their rights for continued coverage. You’ll also need to contact your insurance carrier and fill out any paperwork necessary to terminate the employee’s coverage.

Q: What other steps do I need to take when terminating an employee?

A: There are a few other housekeeping issues you’ll want to take care of when laying off employees, including:

  • Collecting any company property (cell phones, tools, company computers, etc.)
  • Terminating access to any sensitive company information
  • Cancelling or removing access to any company accounts or credit cards

Q: Is there any support available to help employers prevent layoffs during the coronavirus pandemic?

A: There is. Both the federal government and the state of California are moving forward with initiatives to help employers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Rapid Response Team

If you’re considering large-scale layoffs or closing your business, Rapid Response Services may be able to help. Rapid Response is a business-focused program designed to assist companies facing potential layoffs and closures. If you need assistance, the Rapid Response team can meet with you to discuss your options—including ways to potentially avoid layoffs or closing your business—as well as provide transitional services to affected workers facing job losses.

Payroll tax extensions

If you’re experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, the EDD is allowing businesses to request an up to 60-day extension to file state payroll taxes and/or deposit state payroll taxes without interest, penalties, or fines. In order to qualify, businesses need to request an extension in writing within 60 days of the original due date of the payment or return.

Q: What should I do if I have to slow down operations or cut down on employee hours? Do I have to lay off my team so they can apply for unemployment?

A: The state of California’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) Work Sharing Program is an alternative that may be able to help prevent layoffs in your business—while also making sure your employees are eligible for unemployment benefits while their hours are reduced or cut.

There are strict employer requirements for the Work Sharing Program, including restrictions on how much hours and wages can be reduced. For the full eligibility requirements and to apply for the Work Sharing Unemployment Insurance plan, visit the EDD’s website.

Q: How can I make sure terminating my California employees doesn’t result in legal action or a wrongful termination suit?

Clearly, the coronavirus is the reason behind the vast majority of layoffs at the moment. But regardless of the reason, in order to protect yourself, your business, and your employees, it’s important to make sure you follow California law, federal law, and applicable employment law (state or federal) when ending the employment relationship.

While California is an at-will employment state (which means California employers can end the employment relationship at any time, for any reason), there are certain exceptions. Moving forward with a layoff or a firing for any of the following reasons could result in an accusation of wrongful termination:

  • Discrimination, including based on gender identity, age, race, disability, citizenship status, national origin, medical status, sexual orientation, or religion;
  • Retaliation (for example, for filing a worker’s compensation claim, taking medical leave, or coming forward with sexual harassment allegations); or
  • Violation of Public Policy (for example, refusing to work in an unsafe or illegal work environment or refusing to partake in an illegal activity as part of their job responsibilities)

If you have an employment contract in place with your employees, it’s also important to ensure that you comply with the terms of your contract during the termination process.


This article by Deanna deBarai was originally published at Hourly.io


Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

With coronavirus impacting many small businesses, many have been asking about what’s available in terms of self employed unemployment benefits and small business relief. As part of the Senate’s $2T coronavirus stimulus bill passed on March 25, 2020, unemployment benefits are being extended to all workers including freelancers, gig-economy workers, and other independent contractors. For small business owners, emergency grants of up to $10,000, a Paycheck Protection Program (100% federally guaranteed loans to small businesses), and a payroll tax credit to help retain employees are available.

CARES Act Aid Comparison Chart (PPP vs EIDL vs Unemployment for Self Employed) for Small Businesses

As we’ve heard how challenging it can be to fully understand what’s included in each CARES Act relief option that applies to small businesses, we put together a comparison chart summarizing PPP loan for self employed vs EIDL vs Unemployment for Self Employed Individuals and the differences between them. To view the chart below, click here.

Cares Act Loan Chart

CARES ACT Aid Comparison Chart for Small Businesses

Self Employed Unemployment

If you are unemployed, laid off, or a freelancer (sole-proprietor or single-member LLC) out of work, here’s what’s new:

  • Eligibility for unemployment insurance extended for all workers, not just full-time employees.
  • The federal government will provide an extra $600 per week for up to 4 months on top of your state’s current state unemployment benefits.
  • State unemployment benefits range from $200 to $550 per week on average and collected between 12 and 28 weeks.

For additional information, check out the FAQ below.

Is the coronavirus stimulus package finalized?

Yes. Both the Senate and House of Representatives have passed the plan and Donald Trump has signed the bill as of Friday, March 27.

Can you get unemployment if you are self employed?

Self-employed and part-time workers are not usually eligible for unemployment benefits. However, the new bill extends unemployment to self employed people and part-time workers. Self-employed people include gig workers, freelancers and independent contractors. Basically, those who cannot work due to coronavirus-related reasons would be more likely to qualify for benefits.

Who is eligible?

Under the new plan, you would be eligible if you meet any of the example conditions below:

  • You are self employed or part time and lost work due to a coronavirus reason
  • You received a COVID-19 diagnosis, are experiencing symptoms, seeking a diagnosis or caring for a member of your family/household who received a diagnosis AND you’re unemployed, partly unemployed or cannot work as a result
  • You rely on a facility, daycare or school to care for a child or other family member so you can work, and that facility has closed due to coronavirus
  • You must self-quarantine on the advice of a healthcare provider because of exposure to coronavirus
  • You are unable to get to work because of an imposed quarantine
  • You were about to start a new job but can’t get there now because of an outbreak
  • You were immediately laid off from a job and don’t have enough work history to qualify for benefits under normal conditions
  • You are unemployed, partly unemployed or unable to work because your employer shut down your workplace

Who is not included in the bill?

  • Workers who are able to work from home (Note: This seems to reference corporate workers and not self-employed or part-time workers who work from home.)
  • Those receiving paid sick leave or paid family leave
  • New entrants to the work force who cannot find jobs
  • People who quit (or want to quit) because they are afraid of being at greater risk of contracting coronavirus if they continue to work (However, if you had to quit because of a healthcare provider-recommended quarantine, or something similar, you would be eligible.)

How much would you get?

How much you get depends on which state you live in and would be calculated based on your previous income. Additionally, eligible workers would get an extra $600 per week from the federal government on top of their state’s weekly benefit.

So for example, the weekly benefit in California is a maximum of $450. With the additional $600 from the federal government, eligible Californians could receive self employed unemployment benefits up to $1050 each week. States can send the payment in two separate amounts or in one payment, but it must be paid weekly.

How long would benefits last?

This also varies by state. Most states provide benefits for 26 weeks, although some provide benefits for less. The new bill adds an additional 13 weeks for all eligible workers. 39 weeks is the maximum time eligible workers can receive benefits, but this may be less depending on the state.

The extra $600 payment would last for up to four months and cover weeks of unemployment ending July 31.

How long would the self employed unemployment program last?

The extended program would be open to workers who were newly eligible for unemployment benefits starting Jan. 27, 2020 through Dec. 31, 2020.

How do I apply?

Unemployment benefits will be administered by your state’s unemployment offices. To Apply, find your state here and click on the link to apply with your state’s office. Or for more information about filing for self employed unemployment benefits, check this unemployment benefits finder.

Please note: According to careeronestop.org, “States are in the process of implementing these new rules and may not have updated information immediately. If you are out of work or have had your hours reduced you should continue to follow your state’s guidelines for filing for unemployment. Many states are experiencing extensive traffic and ask filers to be patient and persistent.”

Coronavirus Stimulus Package

Coronavirus Stimulus Package Relief

If you are a small business owner, here’s what’s new:

  • Emergency grants of up to $10,000 as part of an Economic Injury Disaster Loan
  • Paycheck Protection Program (PPP loan for self employed individuals and small businesses)
  • A payroll tax credit to help retain employees

Economic Injury Disaster Loan (Includes emergency grant up to $10K)

Small businesses may apply directly to the federal Small Business Administration to receive an economic injury disaster loan that may include a grant of up to $10,000 that does not need to be paid back. The money would be paid out to business owners within three days of their application’s submission. It can be used to maintain payroll, cover paid sick leave and service other debt obligations.

Update as of 4/9/2020
The amount of the grant depends upon number of employees in your business. In an email received from the SBA on April 9, they say, “To ensure that the greatest number of applicants can receive assistance during this challenging time, the amount of your Advance will be determined by the number of your pre-disaster (i.e., as of January 31, 2020) employees. The Advance will provide $1,000 per employee up to a maximum of $10,000.”

How to apply? 

Apply online here.

Coronavirus Stimulus package

Paycheck Protection Program Loans (PPP loan for self employed individuals and small businesses)

As part of the Senate bill, $350B is being designated for small business loans (an initiative known as the Paycheck Protection Program) that may be granted and partially forgiven if borrowers maintain their payroll during the crisis, restore it afterwards, or spend their loan money on rent for a leasing agreement or paying utilities, among other things.

Should I apply for PPP?

If you don’t know whether you should apply for PPP, please check the comparison chart of eligibility and benefits for PPP vs. Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) vs. Unemployment and the differences between these options.

Note that we believe you cannot apply for both unemployment and PPP. PPP is used to pay payroll, and if you’re on unemployment you’re saying you’re not on payroll (this would apply to both companies and sole proprietors). Because of this, you may want to calculate how much you would receive from Unemployment and compare that to how much you would receive (and that would be forgiven) in a PPP loan, and apply to the program that provides the greater benefit.

How to apply for PPP loan for self employed individuals and small business?

These new loans will be available through over 800 lending institutions approved by the Small Business Administration. Apply for the Paycheck Protection Loan directly through your local lending institution. Find participating lenders at http://www.sba.gov/.

Here’s the Paycheck Protection Program application provided by the U.S. Treasury.

When to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program?

Small businesses and sole proprietors can apply starting April 3. Independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply starting April 10. Because there is a limit to how much aid is available, be sure to apply quickly.

Who is eligible?

You are eligible if you are one of the following:

  • An individual who operates as a sole proprietor
  • An individual who operates as an independent contractor
  • A small business with fewer than 500 employees
  • A small business that otherwise meets the SBA’s size standard
  • A 501(c)(3) with fewer than 500 employees
  • An individual who is self-employed who regularly carries on any trade or business
  • A Tribal business concern that meets the SBA size standard
  • A 501(c)(19) Veterans Organization that meets the SBA size standard

What will lenders look for?

Lenders will be checking for the following requirements:

  • Your business was in operation before February 15, 2020 and had employees for whom you paid salaries and payroll taxes or paid independent contractors (including yourself)
  • Good faith certification that states
    • The loan is a necessity due to the uncertainty of current economic conditions
    • You will use the loan to retain workers and maintain payroll or make mortgage, lease and utility payments
    • You do not have a pending application for a loan of the same amount or purpose as the PPP loan
    • You have not received a loan for the same amount or purpose as the PPP loan from February 15, 2020 to December 31, 2020.
  • For independent contractors, sole proprietors, or self-employed individuals, you will be asked to provide:
    • payroll tax filings
    • Forms 1099-MISC
    • and income and expenses from the sole proprietorship
    • See below for additional details.

What forms are required for the PPP application process?

  • Payroll summary report for last 12 months
  • IRS Form 940 & 941 (payroll tax forms)
  • 2019 business tax returns (or 2018 return if 2019 is not yet filed)
  • 2019 year-end financials (if tax return is not prepared)
  • Statement of payroll benefits offered to employees
  • Evidence of payroll taxes, insurance premiums and benefits paid
  • Driver’s licenses for all owners with 20% or greater ownership stake
  • Entity formation documents:
    • Articles of Incorporation (or Articles of Organization)
    • Bylaws and Operating Agreement
    • Tax ID Number (Employer Identification Number)
    • Board of Directors Minutes (if applicable)
    • Ownership Verification (if applicable)

How much can I borrow through a PPP loan for self employed people and small businesses?

  • Loans may be approved for up to 2.5x of your average monthly payroll up to $10 million
  • For sole proprietors, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals, your payroll equals the sum of payments of any compensation or income you received that is a wage, commission, income, net earnings from self-employment, and that is in an amount that is not more than $100,000 in one year, as pro-rated for the covered period
    • For example, if you make $100,000 in a year, your average monthly payroll to yourself would be $8,333. 2.5 x 8333=20,833. Your loan amount would be $20,833.
  • For more detail on how payroll costs are calculated and defined, see the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Coronavirus Emergency Loans Small Business Guide and Checklist
  • Additionally, businesses who qualify for the $10,000 grant will see the amount of their loan forgiveness reduced by the amount of their grant

How much will be forgiven?

Part of your PPP loan is eligible to be forgiven. The forgiven amount equals how much you spend on the following items in the 8-week period after the loan origination date:

  • Payroll costs (using the same definition of payroll costs used to determine loan eligibility)
  • Interest on the mortgage obligation incurred in the ordinary course of business
  • Rent on a leasing agreement
  • Payments on utilities (electricity, gas, water, transportation, telephone, or internet)
  • For borrowers with tipped employees, additional wages paid to those employees

Any part of the loan that is not forgiven will have a 1% interest rate.

When will the loan be forgiven?

The loan will be forgiven at the end of the 8-week period after your loan is funded.

Can you refinance EIDL into a PPP loan/grant?

Yes, as long as you do not duplicate the purposes for the funding and subtract other EIDL grant awards, you can refinance for loan forgiveness purposes.

For more detail

Check out the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Coronavirus Emergency Loans Small Business Guide and Checklist.

Coronavirus Stimulus Package

A payroll tax credit to help retain employees

Businesses that have experienced a 50% drop in gross receipts relative to the same quarter last year may qualify for a payroll tax credit worth up to $10,000 per employee so long as they are still paying their employees wages and/or health benefits.

To read the entire coronavirus stimulus bill, go here for the full text of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.


This article was originally published on Honeybook.com

About the Author:

More than a CRM, HoneyBook is a proactive platform for creative small businesses to create, review, and manage—all in one place. From first reply to final payment, HoneyBook makes it easy for solopreneurs to book their ideal client faster, more frequently, and with less legwork.

Get 50% off your first year of HoneyBook HERE


Featured Image Credits: Pixabay


You May Also Like: Small Business Survival Guide to Combat COVID-19

Right now, every single country is wondering where the world economy will stand in the upcoming months. Families are worried about their loved ones, whether they will make it through the deadly COVID-19 or not. There are numerous possible outcomes of this novel virus that keep spreading further. How the society and governments respond to the coronavirus will pave the way for the fluctuations in the world economy.

One cannot wipe off the image of recession, unemployment, and the rise of patients infected by the COVID-19. News is all about the spread of this virus and how things are getting worse day by day. The main focus is given to the rising number of patients, the global economic crisis, and the rapid decline in productivity. This global dynamic has given a new perspective to everyone –how the world can turn upside down within a matter of days. Keeping this in mind, let’s ponder upon the global side effects of the COVID-19 on the world economy.

The Global Impact:

In the past few weeks, the global economy went through several ups and downs. Due to the COVID-19, financial markets have been at the brink of collapse and industries are now super vulnerable. Since the industry of tourism and travel make up 10% of the total GDP worldwide, almost 50 million jobs can be lost easily. Small to medium enterprises are facing the consequences of the virus outbreak as well, with many people living at God’s mercy.

People who are paid well by their organizations cannot really relate much to the sufferings of SMEs employees. Many states have already announced relief packages for unemployed people, guaranteeing monthly wages to them. Regardless of the current plans in action, economic measures introduced by the governments are not suitable for everyone.

Hand Disincetion

Image Credits

What about the Future?

Well, a fixed pattern can be noticed by various economists which are known as the ‘domino effect’. Factors like financial markets, health systems, employment rates, and world trade getting close down have a significant impact on the economy. Due to the closure or slow growth of economic activities, everything else is getting affected one way or another. What future holds for the human race is still unpredictable, causing fear across the globe. Economic markets are declining at an alarming rate, with a 20% decline recorded in the 52-week turnover. The S&P 500 index decreased over 7% within March, which later postponed trading worldwide. This ‘circuit breaker’ change recorded in the trading index happened for the very first time since the year 1997.

Interest rates have severely decreased, with a lower cost of borrowing in the U.S. government. This is something that will directly hit the liquidity position of the private companies, with little to no benefit to any of these profit-centered firms. The uncertainty of the world economy due to COVID-19 will keep rising, giving birth to deadly outcomes on a mass level. The relationship between the virus and the economy is a direct one. The longer this disease stays in the air, the more time it will take for the economy to get back on track.

By considering the economic viewpoint, we can deduce four future outcomes of this deadly disease:
• People will spiral into insanity over time.
• The state of capitalism will flourish.
• Society’s transformation into a place never seen before.
• The world’s reliance on socialism.

These outcomes may not have a high probability of succession, but relevant desirable outcomes can be expected.

From the Human Perspective:

So far we have learned how to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak, with less human interaction daily. By doing so, non-essential activities will be reduced, as humans now leave their houses only when necessary. Such a conscious measure will keep the virus intact and climate change will occur as well. The emission rate of greenhouse gases has decreased, further preventing the virus from spreading around the world.

In Wuhan, immediate lockdown and social distancing tactics were proven to be effective. Now, China is back in business, with rapid production taking place daily. Indeed, the pressure is building up globally, but we can learn from China and do the needed.

As of now, there is a serious threat of facing a recession in the future. This can only be tackled through efficiently decreasing the coronavirus cases globally. No doubt, every other business wants to generate higher rates of profits, but they are unable to do so in such a global crisis. As mentioned earlier, the domino effect will take place and people are already aware of it.

Moreover, it has been suggested in a recent study that lifting up lockdown in Wuhan too early will cause another COVID-19 crisis within the next months. Countries need to understand the deeper impact of this disease, training people to become resilient towards such pandemics. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, nobody was prepared for the worst-case scenario which severely affected the global economy. Besides the financial loss, there is an ongoing loss of precious lives that cannot go unnoticed.

What to do now?

Due to the frightening future ramifications of COVID-19, some essential plans will be needed to act upon.
• Firstly, health measures should be improved, with greater emphasis given to the safety of health professionals and patients.
• Local communities will be needing our support as well, with the financial backing of small enterprises.
• Sufficient allocation of funds to the Research department, with frequent updates from scientists working on finding a cure.
• Encouraging philanthropists to donate as much as possible.
• Making everyone prepared for the unexpected, just like the COVID-19 outbreak.
• Increasing the warehouses in countries, with higher distribution capacity to cover the underprivileged areas.
• Rigid policies about social distancing and closure of public places.

With so much going on, many countries are already trying to make amends to beat the pandemic. For instance, South Korea, Italy, and Japan announcing effective fiscal measures to reclaim their position in the financial sector. On the other hand, the Bank of England and the European Central Bank will be updating their monetary policies as well. Through doing the necessary, the coronavirus will be easier to control, with adequate spending done to get back in the business.


Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

Congress passes relief bill

By now, you’ve heard about the coronavirus (COVID-19) that is spreading across the globe. As of March 18, 2020, all 50 states are reporting cases of the virus. The total count in the US has reached 5,881 confirmed cases and 107 deaths (source NYTimes). (Up-to-date COVID-19 Tracker)

With city-wide shutdowns, people are spending and earning less, businesses are suffering and it looks like we’re headed towards an economic recession.

Congress just passed the Coronavirus Relief Bill to support citizens and the economy with overwhelming bipartisan support on March 18, 2020. President Trump signed it that night.

What’s included in the bill?

  • Pays for coronavirus testing
  • Requires paid sick leave for those affected
  • Helps businesses pay for sick leave
  • Strengthens unemployment insurance benefits for those fired or have hours reduced
  • Helps low-income families afford food

What’s next?

The bill passed Congress and has been signed into law by President Trump. Trump requested a separate and huuuuuge (like $1 trillion) stimulus package and things like immediate relief in the form of $1,000 checks for all citizens (s/o to Andrew Yang) and bailouts for industries impacted like airlines. That’s what’s coming in part 3.

Recap:

  • Part 1: $8.3 billion to fund spurring coronavirus vaccine research and development (passed March 6)
  • Part 2: $100 billion largely focused on paid sick leave and unemployment benefits for workers and families (passed March 18)
  • Part 3: $750 billion – $1 trillion to prevent a recession (being drafted). This would be larger than the $700 billion economic relief bill passed during the 2008 recession.

What’s the Post-partisan take?

It’s a scary and trying time as information and the world around us seem to change daily. And while we’re in a state of uncertainty, we’re also looking for glimmers of hope. Congress passing a bill with such overwhelming bipartisan support? A huge glimmer. President Trump demanding relief by putting cash in the hands of struggling Americans, with Democrats supporting the demand? Triple huge glimmer.

We’re seeing small examples of what we can happen when we put down political loyalty and pick up protecting the wellbeing of all Americans first. Now imagine if this was how we operated all the time. That’s the post-partisan world we’re fighting to create.

What Does the Coronavirus Bill Mean for Me?

If you get sick…

  • The government will pay for the test confirming you’re sick.
  • Your health insurance (or lack of) determines how much the rest of your care cost.
  • The government will pay your company to pay you for sick leave – if you work at a company between 50 and 500 people
  • If you are told to quarantine the government will cover part of your loss of income

If you get laid off because of coronavirus…

If you are an hourly worker and your hours get cut…


This article was originally published on Changeroots.com

Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

The covid-19 pandemic has changed the world, grinding to a halt increasingly large geographic areas and portions of the economy in an effort to slow the virus’ spread.

The impacts have been profound on the ground, but government-mandated lockdowns have also remade the atmosphere. Satellite data from China, the first epicentre of the outbreak, and Italy, the second hot spot, have shown big drops in pollution following lockdowns that limited the movement of people and goods and factories’ ability to produce stuff. With the pandemic now becoming increasingly prevalent in the U.S., Americans have already started moving less as mayors and governors have turned to similar measures.

In an effort to track the impacts, Gizmodo assembled an interactive map to explore the changes in air pollution not just in the U.S. but globally. The map runs on Google Earth Engine and uses data collected by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-5P satellite, which circles the Earth capturing various types of data. It includes four snapshots from December 2019 through March 20, 2020. The Sentinel satellite data shows nitrogen dioxide, which is a handy proxy for human activity.

“Nitrogen dioxide is produced by fossil fuel burning and therefore often used as an urban pollution tracer,” Barbara Dix, an atmospheric researcher at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, told Gizmodo in an email. “Burning fossil fuels directly emits a lot of nitrous oxide and a little nitrogen dioxide (often referred to as NOx together), but the nitrous oxide is rapidly converted into nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere. Nitrogen dioxide can easily be measured by satellite.”

Given that fossil fuels power everything from cars to electricity, nitrogen dioxide satellite imagery really does show the impact covid-19 is having on society like no other dataset. There are clear signs of the virus’ impact all around the world, and we’ll dive into some U.S. examples below. But it’s also important to note a few small caveats as you scroll around the map and look at the before and after images.

The data presented here is a series of single-day snapshots. Weather patterns can blow pollution around and disperse it while rain and even the level of sunshine can further change readings taken by Sentinel-5P. There are also natural sources of nitrogen dioxide that can affect readings. The data in Google Earth Engine isn’t necessarily quality filtered. Dix noted that means clouds can mess with readings, which may be why on the interactive map there are some rougher-looking areas like northern New England in March or signs of pollution in the Seattle area where there may not be much. It will take researchers time to really dive into the data and filter it to get a fine-scale understanding of covid-19’s impact on air pollution. Despite these caveats, the trends in many major cities around the U.S. are staggering and clearly at least in part tied to the changes forced by the covid-19 pandemic.

“The rapid decrease we see in nitrogen dioxide due to covid-19 is unprecedented,” Dix said. “We are now witnessing a global experiment where one emission source is rapidly turned down (NOx), while other sources are still up or will decrease more slowly. A lot of atmospheric science will come out of this.”

“I imagine that the air pollution monitoring data collected during the covid-19 shutdown will be useful to test our fundamental understanding of the sources of pollutants (economic sectors, natural emissions, etc.), the chemistry of nitrogen dioxide, ozone and particulate matter, and short term health and ecosystem effects of air pollution,” Viral Shah, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard, told Gizmodo in an email.

California Covid-19

California

California became the first state in the U.S. to issue a shelter-in-place order effective on March 19, though many cities made their decision to shut down earlier. The resulting drop in pollution from January to March in the state’s major metro areas is stark. Los Angeles is a huge source of pollution owing to its car culture, and the city’s precipitous drop in pollution is clear. Traffic reports back up the satellite data. The Bay Area and San Diego also saw pollution disperse in the face of a shelter-in-place order.

The impacts extended across the border as well. Tijuana—which is intimately linked to San Diego—saw pollution dissipate to practically nothing. Ditto for El Paso and Juarez visible further east. The Mexican and American governments have agreed to partially close the border in an effort to stop the spread of covid-19.

Even though they’re not in states with lockdowns, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, and Las Vegas all have varying degrees of restrictions on residents and businesses. And once again, the map makes clear that’s likely having an impact on pollution.

Northeast Corridor

The Northeast Corridor

The populous area stretching from Boston to Washington, DC, is the epicentre of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak and also a hub of economic and political activity. It’s also an area where states and cities have moved quickly to shut down non-essential services to slow the virus’ spread.

Though New Yorkers aren’t as car-dependent as their Los Angeles counterparts, there are still plenty of vehicles normally on NYC roads and dense clusters of buildings emitting pollution. Ditto for Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, which normally form a daisy chain of pollution along Interstate 95. With covid-19 lockdowns, the chain has been broken.

The Midwest

Midwest

The area from Minnesota to West Virginia forms the biggest cluster of states with lockdown orders in effect. Six governors have already put their states on lockdown are or will do so shortly.

The data here is a bit noisier, but some clear trends are apparent. Car-centric Detroit has a big dip in pollution. Sprawling Chicago’s pollution also disappears.

The U.S.-Canadian border, like its southern counterpart, is also closed outside of essential services and trade. The province of Ontario called for a lockdown late last week, and the impacts of these moves also show up on the map. Pollution also gets wiped out in Detroit’s neighbour, Windsor, and Toronto further east.

One odd blip is a hot spot of pollution in Kansas near Emporia. That could be one of the data artifacts Dix mentioned or nitrogen dioxide emissions possibly tied to fires that burn through the state’s grasslands each spring.

The South

Even though the South is has been slow as hell to act, and Texas’ lieutenant governor spent Monday actively advocating for letting old people to die to save shareholder value, the impacts are still notable there. While the data is a bit noisy, nitrogen dioxide emissions in Houston, a hot spot for the petrochemical industry, appear to have declined. New Orleans—another petrochemical hot spot that’s located the only southern state to call for a total lockdown—appears to have seen a drop in pollution as well.

That may be tied to the fortunes of fossil fuels, which have dropped due to a price war sparked by Saudi Arabia and plummeting demand as the world economy slows. Sharp dives are also visible in Mexican cities like Monterrey, which may be tied to the border closure.

Explore the full map here.


This article by Brian Kahn and Dhruv Mehrotra was originally published on Gizmodo.com.au


Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

1 Thing Thursday : Un-Sexy Primaries

Welcome to our weekly breakdown of political issues within a post-partisan context that puts our well-being over political loyalty, today’s topic is primaries.

TL;DR: A Better Way To Primary

The way we choose presidential nominees is like using a flip phone in the iPhone era. Statewide elections held at different times that require voters to pick one candidate lead to shitty outcomes. Don’t fret, there is a way to make primaries sexy: have each state vote on the same day using ranked-choice voting.

How Primaries Work

Honestly, it’s a mess. In simple terms, delegates are chosen by the voters, and the candidate with the most delegates wins. Voters chose delegates in state primaries which are held over the course of four months from Feb to June.

Alas, it’s not that clean (of course), because how states do delegates is weird. First, the number of delegates a state gets to award is based on population and voter turnout (weird). You can also get “bonus” delegates if you hold an election the same day as other states (hence “Super Tuesday” where 14 states held their primary on March 3rd). Some state delegates are awarded based on how districts within the state voted while others are awarded based on how the state voted overall.

Here’s a great breakdown of the primary process. 

Sketchy tiebreaker: Superdelegates

If no candidate has been awarded more than 50% of delegates by the end of primaries, the Democrats have a sketchy tiebreaker process using super delegates. Super delegates are roughly 400 party elites (wealthy donors, former politicians, etc.) who get to award 15% of all delegates to whoever they want to. This last happened in 1952.

Primaries Don’t Work So Good

The main ways in which primaries are flawed:

People don’t vote for who they think is best. 

We are more likely to vote for the candidate who other people voted for, rather than who we individually think is best. We do this because social influence undermines our ability to make independent decisions. When we learn lots of other people made a specific decision, like voting for Joe Biden, we become far more likely to vote for Biden. This is a well-studied behavior in humans. Having states vote at different times amplifies this effect.

States who vote later have fewer choices

Staggering when states vote for candidates leads to fewer choices for voters in later-voting states. Voters in South Carolina had 12 options in the Democratic primary. Only three Democratic candidates for President are still running. This is after less than half the states have held their primaries.

Primaries

Image Credits

Some votes don’t count

Approximately 2 million ballots were cast in the Democratic primary in advance of their state’s election day in various states. Judging from polls, somewhere between one-eighth and one-fifth of these voters chose Amy Klobuchar or Pete Buttigieg, and then learned that their favorite had dropped out of the race after they sent in their ballot. In other words, at least 240,000 people’s votes around the country now don’t count. Woof.

People don’t vote in primaries

Less than 30% of eligible voters vote in primary elections. Our guess, voters don’t feel like spending their valuable time participating in something that doesn’t make sense to them.

USA Primaries

Image Credits

Post-Partisan Take

Sexy Primaries Use Ranked-Choice Voting

The confusing, drawn-out way we do primaries ain’t a good look, but there’s hope. What is sexy is using ranked-choice voting where each state votes on the same day and voters rank candidates in order of preference.

Ranked-choice voting explained

Voters rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes, the last-place candidate is eliminated and those who marked that candidate as No. 1 get their second choice counted instead. That can go on for several rounds until a candidate emerges with a majority.

Ranked Choice Voting

Here are more reasons why it’s great:

People vote for who they think is best

We increase the likelihood people vote for who they think is best by having every state vote on the same day. Voters won’t see the results of other states and be influenced by whose winning elsewhere.

More choices

Voting on the same day means all voters across the country would get the same candidate choices rather than candidates dropping out after early state results.

All votes count

Ranked-choice voting ensures that people have at least one of their preferences counted in the final tally. Also, voting on the same day ensures no candidates are on the ballot that are no longer running.

Increase voter turnout

Eliminating multiple rounds (days) of voting and allowing voters to better express their preferences using ranked-choice voting increases turnout.

Increase civility / reduce negative campaigning

Under ranked-choice voting, candidates vie for non-core voters to rank them second. Therefore candidates don’t want to offend voters who might rank them second by attacking voters’ preferred candidate.

Reduce polarization

By increasing turnout and incentivizing candidates to earn second place ranks by voters leads to a reduction in polarization in elections using ranked-choice voting.

Sounds too good, why aren’t we using it?

The people in power were elected using the current system, so they are scared of something new. It’s like that friend who refuses to download the latest Apple update…their battery drains super quick and their apps don’t work, but they’re too scared of change to update.

The operating system of our democracy is outdated, we need an #upgrade.

What can I do about it?

Glad you asked. On the ChangeRoots app, we calculate a post-partisan score for each politician. Politicians who support ranked-choice voting get mad points. So, go to the app, find politicians with a good score, show them some love by micro-donating to their campaign.


This article was originally published on Changeroots.com

Featured Image Credits: Changeroots

The novel coronavirus that causes the respiratory disease COVID-19, and that was first detected in China, has now been detected in 60+ locations internationally, including in the United States. In response, some Americans are cancelling and/or limiting both domestic travel and travel to outbreak hotspots (including Italy, China, Iran, South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong) and preparing for what might happen if the virus becomes widespread.

For freelancers and small businesses, especially those in the events industry, this may mean an uptick in rescheduled/cancelled events and/or a decline in business due to community-based interventions and general fear, uncertainty and doubt among many people.

While it’s natural to feel nervous about what’s to come, there are steps you can take today to minimize the potential impact coronavirus (and actually any type of health emergency or natural disaster) has on your business. Think of this as a business continuity plan for small business to strengthen your business during times of uncertainty.

A business continuity plan for small business:

How to prepare your business for coronavirus

  1. Get and stay informed
  2. Revisit your cancellation and rescheduling policies
  3. Add three clauses into your contract templates: Force Majeure Clause, Safe Working Environment Clause, and Failure of Company to Perform Services Clause
  4. Create a strategy to battle cancellations
  5. Proactively manage your client relationships
  6. Issue a message to inquiries/clients
  7. Know how to enforce retainer payments for cancelled events/projects
  8. Plan for backup help
  9. Get video meeting software
  10. Understand your financial position
  11. Identify new revenue streams
  12. Pivot your business strategy
  13. Create a playbook
  14. Identify ways to supplement income
  15. Tap into city resources
  16. Start saving now
  17. Take care of yourself, your family and your team
  18. Lean on community

Meeting  about coronavirus

Image Credits

Business continuity plan for small business: Things you can do right now

1. Get and stay informed

Stay up to date with official news sources, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). By staying informed, you can better prepare for what’s coming and gain a sense of control (even if just a little) over the rapidly evolving situation. And being equipped with the facts will help you educate (and calm) any nervous inquiries and clients.

2. Revisit your cancellation and rescheduling policies

Wondering how to legally protect your business from unforeseen circumstances like the coronavirus? We went straight to an expert to find out and consulted attorney Paige Griffith of The Legal Paige

“First and foremost, a service provider’s cancellation and rescheduling policies should still be laid out very clearly with deadlines,” says Paige. “Industry standard is generally 30 days prior to the event/session/wedding date for your clients to be able to cancel or reschedule and only forfeit the retainer, but not incur any remaining fees. However, ‘Force Majeure Events’ are different. Thus, if you or your clients want to excuse performance to an unforeseeable, unavoidable, or impossible event, that’s where a Force Majeure Clause would kick in to protect you.”

Paige recommends people include a Force Majeure clause that clearly explains your business’s policies for excusing performance related to such events and, specifically, include “epidemics and pandemics” as qualified Force Majeure Events (see #3 for more details). Paige notes, “Oftentimes Force Majeure clauses are more basic and include occurrences such as ‘acts of God, natural disasters, government orders or laws, or strikes.’ It’s better to list out all qualified Force Majeure events and include the language ‘including, but not limited to’ to expand the types of Force Majeure events under your contract.”

Essentially, a cancellation and rescheduling clause is in place for any other reason that your client may cancel or reschedule. But Force Majeure Events are not part of that and have a different procedure in place for cancellations and rescheduling situations. The non-refundable retainer still applies under both clauses so long as you expressly delineate that policy under your contract, but Force Majeure provides additional protection because it requires you to excuse performance under the contract until the Force Majeure Event is resolved.

Also important to note is that we are NOT in Force Majeure land right now.

Paige explains, “Right now, coronavirus is likely not going to be interpreted as a qualified ‘Force Majeure Event’ under most contracts. There has been no official national government order regarding the outbreak. Thus, if a client wants to cancel or reschedule your services and cries ‘Force Majeure!’ and wants a full refund, it won’t hold up. Hysteria or fear of traveling does not qualify as Force Majeure. A Force Majeure Event quite literally has to make the performance by a party impossible and right now you can still travel, get on a plane, and be in person-to-person contact. Thus, we are still in the land of general cancellation and rescheduling situations, so your policies expressed in your contract apply as well as your non-refundable retainer.”

Want to learn more about protection clauses that you should have in your contract to protect yourself from unforeseen events? This checklist from The Legal Paige will tell you what clauses are needed and describes what they mean to you and your business. Get Checklist >

3. Add three clauses into your contract templates

As part of a business continuity plan for small business, Paige recommends modifying or adding three big clauses into your existing contract templates: (1) Force Majeure Clause, (2) Safe Working Environment Clause, and (3) Failure of Company to Perform Services Clause.

Wondering what all that means? Let’s break down each one below:

A Force Majeure clause (1) specifies the events which enable either party to declare a force majeure/act of God event, (2) how a party should notify its counterparty about the occurrence, and (3) the consequences after a force majeure event has occurred (see #4 for ideas on consequences you could consider). A force majeure clause should apply to each party to the agreement.

“Most often I see contracts missing parts 2 and 3 in their force majeure clause,” says Paige. “People should be sure to spell out that ‘epidemics and pandemics’ are included as qualified Force Majeure Events, and indicate the number of days following the Force Majeure Event that the other party may terminate and the remedies allowed. Also, as it stands [at the date of publication March 9, 2020], the COVID-19 outbreak and its consequences are no longer fully unpredictable and may therefore not qualify as a ‘Force Majeure Event’ in contracts that are entered into right now. Be sure to have other clauses in place such as Safe Working Environment Clause and Failure of Company to Perform Services Clause to protect yourself in case the Force Majeure Clause is not applicable.”

Need a Force Majeure clause for your contracts? Just copy and paste the Force Majeure clause language below into your own existing contract templates.

Force majeure clause:

No party shall be liable or responsible to the other party, nor be deemed to have defaulted under or breached this Agreement, for any failure or delay in fulfilling or performing any term of this Agreement (except for any obligations to make payments to the other party hereunder), when and to the extent such failure or delay is caused by or results from acts beyond the impacted party’s (“Impacted Party”) control, including, but not limited to, the following force majeure events (“Force Majeure Events”): (a) acts of God; (b) a natural disaster (fires, explosions, earthquakes, hurricane, flooding, storms, explosions, infestations), epidemic, or pandemic; (c) war, invasion, hostilities (whether war is declared or not), terrorist threats or acts, riot or other civil unrest; (d) government order or law; (e) actions, embargoes or blockades in effect on or after the date of this Agreement; (f) action by any governmental authority; (g) national or regional emergency; (h) strikes, labor stoppages or slowdowns or other industrial disturbances; and (i) shortage of adequate power or transportation facilities. The Impacted Party shall give Notice within [number] days of the Force Majeure Event to the other party, stating the period of time the occurrence is expected to continue. The Impacted Party shall use diligent efforts to end the failure or delay and ensure the effects of such Force Majeure Event are minimized. The Impacted Party shall resume the performance of its obligations as soon as reasonably practicable after the removal of the cause. In the event that the Impacted Party’s failure or delay remains uncured for a period of [number] days following Notice given by it, the other party may thereafter terminate this Agreement upon Notice.

Disclaimer: This force majeure clause template is provided for your convenience to help protect your business and minimize the impact from coronavirus and other types of health emergencies and natural disasters as part of a business continuity plan for small business. We consulted with attorney Paige Griffith, J.D., of The Legal Paige, who wrote the Force Majeure clause. While a professional was consulted, this is not provided as a substitute for legal advice. If you have any questions about this template or your finished contract as it relates to your specific business, please contact a licensed attorney.

A Safe Working Environment clause tells your clients that your company maintains a safe work environment at all times and complies with all health and safety laws, directives and rules and regulations. Thus, you can reserve the right to discontinue service in the event some unsafe conditions arose such as areas affected by communicable diseases.

A Failure of Company to Perform Services clause ensures that your clients understand the procedure should you not be able to perform your services. “It’s important under this clause to allow your clients to agree to the substitution of another professional and not require such substitution,” Paige says. “And, in the event they do not allow you to substitute or you cannot find a substitute, you will issue a refund or credit based on the percentage of the services you’ve rendered thus far.”

4. Create a strategy to battle cancellations 

If you’re worried about cancellations, the best strategy is to be prepared and proactive.

Be prepared by thinking through “the consequences after a force majeure event has occurred.” Let’s say a client wants to cancel within 30 days of the event (even if your cancellation policy states they need to provide at least 30 days) due to an unforeseen event. What does that mean for you and your business?

As a best practice, we recommend doing everything in your power to work with your client to reschedule for a time when everyone is confident about moving forward and healthy enough to do so. If a mutually agreed upon date cannot be reached, your client will be able to cancel and forfeit only the retainer, but not incur any remaining fees under the Agreement. (See step #7 for how to enforce retainer payments for cancelled events/projects.)

In addition to identifying what you’ll do in the face of an unforeseen event, be sure to proactively communicate with inquiries and clients. This can help set their minds at ease, reducing your cancellation/chargeback risk. (See #5 for more details.)

5. Proactively manage your client relationships

Strong relationships are everything in the face of uncertainty, especially with setting expectations and avoiding cancellations. Now is the time to foster and lean on your client relationships as part of your business continuity plan for small business. “Over communication in these situations is also helpful so if a client is feeling unsure, they can lean on the professional to help lead in making decisions,” says Reina Pomeroy of Reina + Co.

If you’ve been doing a good job of relating to your clients and building that trust, it should be easier to reach an ideal outcome for both you and your client if the event can’t take place. Hopefully that outcome is in the form of rescheduling the event and is reached before you ever get to a conversation about chargebacks or cancellations.

Nichole Beiner of Nichole Gabrielle adds, “Being flexible with rescheduling or being creative about how to interact may be appreciated, especially by clients with compromised immune systems or who care for those with compromised immune systems or elderly people.”

So reach out to your booked clients to schedule a check-in and have a conversation. Get a feel for if they have any concerns or are thinking about cancelling (especially if you deliver your services in-person or work in the events industry).

If your clients were thinking about cancelling, getting a call from you to reassure them, might be just what they need to keep their event on the books.

For example, you could say:

Hey XX,

I hope planning your [insert event name here] has been going smoothly! I wanted to check in and see how you were doing in light of the recent coronavirus outbreak updates. As of right now, the U.S. is in a place of relatively low risk. However, I know how stressful [event name] planning can be, and this certainly doesn’t help!

I wanted to let you know that as of right now our area has had little to no impact from the coronavirus and because of this I have every intention of fulfilling my role at your [event name]. Of course, if anything should change with my plans, you will be the first to know.

If you have any intention of changing or altering the date of your [event name] please let me know as soon as possible so we can work on rescheduling to a date that works for everyone. If you do plan to change the [event name] date, please refer back to our contract for the proper steps.

Thanks,

XX

If your clients weren’t thinking about cancelling at all, tread lightly. You don’t want to give them a reason to worry, but use this as an opportunity to let them know you’re on top of the situation; considering the health and safety of all your clients; and what you’re doing to ensure that.

For example, you could say:

Hello XX,

I hope your [event name] planning has been going smoothly! I wanted to check in and see how you were doing in light of the recent coronavirus outbreak updates. As of right now, the U.S. is in a place of relatively low risk. However, I know how stressful [event name] planning can be, and this certainly doesn’t help!

I wanted to let you know that as of right now our area has had little to no impact from the coronavirus and because of this I have every intention of fulfilling my role at your [event name]. Of course, if anything should change with my plans, you will be the first to know.

Thanks,

XX

If they inquire about cancelling, be ready with your responses (see step #4).

6. Issue a message to inquiries/clients

Similar to step #5, this step focuses on proactive communication but is a bit more passive, and is designed to reach your broader audience, not just booked clients. Set your audience’s minds at ease and let them know that you’re prepared to handle whatever comes your way. Acknowledge the coronavirus and that it’s something your business is aware of and thinking about.

You can create a video message that you put up on your website, on social media or in an email. You can create a blog post. Or you can create an FAQ page for your website.

Wondering what to say? Here’s a swipe copy example:

Hey everyone!

I wanted to take a quick minute to talk about something important. By now, I’m sure you’ve all heard of the coronavirus and its impact worldwide. While at the very least this is distressing, I wanted to assure you that my business and I are prepared. I’m staying updated on the latest information, acting responsibly by avoiding travel to outbreak hotspots, meeting clients/vendors/employees online instead of in person if someone isn’t feeling well, and swapping hugs for a friendly wave. Additionally, I’m making sure that all of my clients know what to expect from me as per contract.

If you are a fellow business owner who would like a resource of best practices *click here/swipe up/link in bio* to read @honeybook’s latest blog post: How to Prepare Your Business For Coronavirus – 18 Steps.

If you are a client and have any concerns about your event and any details pertaining to cancellation and rescheduling practices, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me, or refer to our contract.

Thanks!

7. Know how to enforce retainer payments for cancelled events/projects

Again, the first (and best) line of defense to keep your retainer payments (and avoid cancellations altogether) is to proactively manage your client relationships, maintain open communication and try to reach a solution that works for the both of you before the topic of cancelling comes up.

But if cancellations do happen, here’s what you should know to keep/receive your retainer payments.

“This really depends on the situation,” Paige says. “But, in most cases so long as the language in your fee section states ‘non-refundable retainer’ you should be able to keep the retainer. If you used the wording ‘deposit’ instead of retainer, under some states it is required to give back deposits if services have not been rendered. Thus, if you have the word ‘deposit,’ it’s likely best to refund the amount. Also, remember that at the end of the day, it’s your livelihood and business on the line if you have a really sticky client who wants their money back and is ready to pursue legal action if you don’t give it back. It’s way easier, more efficient, and more cost effective to give a refund under these circumstances than to go to court and battle whether the retainer/deposit is refundable.”

If you’re worried about retainer chargebacks (a chargeback happens when a client asks their credit card to reverse the money transfer from their account), remember that if a chargeback does happen through HoneyBook, HoneyBook works side-by-side with you to resolve the dispute. Unlike other platforms (like PayPal, for instance), HoneyBook will not automatically refund your client.

Business continuity plan for small business: Things you can do in the next few days/weeks 

8. Plan for backup help 

If you don’t already have one as part of your business continuity plan for small business, create a backup plan in the event that you get sick and are unable to perform your job. Identify and lock in a few people whom you can trust to step in for you if needed. (Need help finding someone? Try reaching out to someone in your community or a fellow creative at your local TuesdaysTogether. See #18 for more detail.) Make sure to add this into your contracts, as you want your clients to be aware of this possibility. And see step #3 for more details about what to include in that clause.

9. Get video meeting software

With the possibility of people increasing the amount of time they spend at home (known as social distancing), you may want to move more of your in-person meetings to video meetings. Make sure your phone and computer equipment are set up to work for video. In terms of video meeting software, FaceTime is a popular option for iPhone users, but if you need to show your screen, you can also consider Zoom or Google Hangouts. According to The Verge, Google said “that it would be rolling out free access to ‘advanced’ features for Hangouts Meet to all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers globally through July 1st. That means organizations can host meetings with up to 250 participants, live stream to up to 100,000 viewers within a single domain, and record and save meetings to Google Drive.”

10. Understand your financial position

An important part of business preparedness in the face of coronavirus and creating a business continuity plan for small business is knowing the ins and outs of your finances. This will help you to understand how much business you can afford to lose each month and start making plans if needed. Answer the following questions to start getting a better picture of your finances.

  • What is your projected monthly revenue each month over the next 3-6 months?
  • What are your monthly costs (business and living expenses) each month over the next 3-6 months?
  • How many projects/events/clients do you need at a minimum each month over the next 3-6 months to maintain a positive cash flow?
  • Are any projects/events/clients at risk of getting cancelled or postponed within the next 3-6 months? (If so, see what you can do in steps #4–5.)
  • If your projected cash flow is in the negative over the next 3-6 months, see what you can do in steps #11–12.

11. Identify new revenue streams

While you may be a ways away from needing to implement the next two steps, they’re still worth thinking about now to help increase your preparedness. With that in mind, start thinking about other ways you could bring in revenue if business slowed way down or if cancellations went way up.

Here are a couple ideas:

  1. Check HoneyBook Opportunities. Other creatives post opportunities of all kinds, and you can post if you have one as well. Searching by your zip code makes it easy.
  2. Get a side gig on platforms like Upwork or Fiverr.
  3. Tap into your network and see if anyone needs extra help. Since many events are likely to get rescheduled, take advantage of the shuffle and make yourself available for these dates.
  4. Turn your existing service into a digital or remote offering.

12. Pivot your business strategy

Again, it might not make sense to start pivoting at this very moment, but making plans to do this now can be very helpful if this may be needed in the future. If your business is internationally based, perhaps consider focusing on local markets. Or if your business is focused on servicing large events, consider niching down. Some HoneyBook members have started focusing on more intimate-sized events that are less prone to being impacted by travel restrictions. Another idea is to introduce lightweight services that are easy for you to implement, and that requires less planning ahead, like one-off coaching sessions.

Don’t forget to think through the impact on your brand and what would need to be updated, including messaging and imagery on your website and social channels.

Business continuity plan for small business: Things you can do as a general best practice

13. Create a playbook

Documenting your entire process in a playbook will make it easy to hand a project/event off to someone who needs to step in and take over for you in the event that you get sick. Think through every little step and include it! Imagine that you won’t be there to answer questions and that everything they need to know would be included in your documentation. (Need some help? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Boosting Work Efficiency Through Business Systems and Automation.)

The cool thing about managing your business in HoneyBook is that all your client and project information is kept in one place, which makes it easy to hand over projects. Other team members (or an external person added to your project if you don’t have team members and need to add a back-up contact) can jump in and quickly get up to speed. They can see the communication history between you and your client and access all files to see all relevant information. (Team members can see private notes from all client meetings; external people added to your project can see all files and client communications, just not private notes you’ve taken.)

“Take a deep breath and don’t panic if you don’t have any of these best business practices in place,” says Diana Fang from The Finer Points. “If someone cancels, this would be a good time to use that extra time to beef up your own internal systems (especially for points #10-15).”

14. Identify ways to supplement income

It’s always good to know how you can supplement your income if you truly need to. Research the different options available for small business loans (this is a great resource), as well as a withdrawal from your 401K if you have one. But because of the hefty fees associated with an early withdrawal, this should be saved as a last resort.

15. Tap into city resources

Some cities are offering financial aid to specifically help small businesses during this trying time. For example, in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said “the city will offer no-interest loans to small businesses with fewer than 100 employees that could show a 25 percent reduction in sales since the coronavirus outbreak and grants of up to $6,000 for businesses with fewer than five employees.” Check with your city’s Small Business Administration office for more details.

16. Start saving now

Having an emergency fund to tide you over for 3-6 months is important for a solid business continuity plan for small business. If you don’t have one, start today. Take a look at your financial position from step #10. How much do you need to maintain a positive cash flow each month? Use that as a starting point to set your monthly savings goal.

Once you’ve set a goal, identify ways to save. Perhaps you allocate a percentage of each paycheck to set aside. Or maybe you aim to save $X amount each month by avoiding indulgent expenses (like that new camera or dinners out) for the time being.

17. Take care of yourself, your family and your team

Follow best practices issued by the CDC/WHO to stay healthy and minimize the spread of the virus, including:

  1. Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  2. Coughing/sneezing into a flexed elbow
  3. Avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands
  4. Staying home if you feel unwell
  5. Encouraging team members and vendors to stay home if sick
  6. Social distancing (swap a handshake for a friendly wave!)

18. Lean on community 

In a world where toilet-paper runs are a thing and entire towns are getting locked down, don’t forget you’re not alone. The HoneyBook and Rising Tide community are here to help (even if just to lend a commiserating ear about why there’s no hand sanitizer available anywhere). Here are a few ways to get the most out of the community:

  1. Join your local TuesdaysTogether. We have chapters around the globe. Connect with other creatives online through your local TuesdaysTogether Facebook and Instagram groups. Building relationships with those in your area can help if you find you need to cancel on a client and need to refer someone you trust (or vice versa). Please note: Some in-person meetings may be postponed out of caution for the health and safety of our members as the coronavirus progresses. Check in with your city to find out details.
  2. Check in on one another. Identify a handful of people to follow up with as the situation unfolds. Knowing how coronavirus is impacting others, and knowing people are also checking in with you, can help you feel less isolated.
  3. Share your wisdom with the community. Don’t feel like you have to go through this alone; we’re all in this together. Tag @honeybook and/or @risingtidesociety to share your tips and tools for how to best prepare and maintain not only your business but your day-to-day client interactions.

Disclaimer: The advice featured in this post was sourced from our community members for sharing of general information and knowledge. For specific legal, tax, mental health, and professional advice, please consult an authorized professional.


This article was originally published at honeybook.com


Featured Image Credits: Pixabay


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