State by state, city by city, businesses are cautiously reopening their doors. Rather than a celebratory atmosphere across these organizations, there’s a sense of relief, reflection and trepidation. The world they are re-entering is very different to the world they left weeks ago. With 75 percent of small businesses having sought federal aid to keep them afloat, companies are desperate to begin generating revenue once again, but they must do so safely or put their employees and customers at risk.
If your business is in the process of reopening, there are many requirements you’ll be trying to adhere to. These can be confusing – even overwhelming. Each state has different guidelines and timelines, at their governors’ discretion. Many of these will need to be adapted depending on your industry, your workplace and your customers. This is uncharted territory for everyone, so knowing where to look for help is key. We’ve pulled together a list of resources to help you plan for your business’ return, to give you the best chance of emerging strong, safe, positive and hopeful for your company’s future.
The US Chamber of Commerce helps to clarify the different guidance from state to state. This site has a color-coded interactive map, clearly showing the states in which a stay-at-home order is in effect; states which have a limited opening; and states which are reopening. Clicking on states reveals a detailed list of requirements and regulations, which are frequently updated as appropriate.
For each state in the ‘reopening’ category, advice - where available - is listed on:
- Topline guidance
- Employee screening guidance
- Social distancing guidance
- PPE requirements
- Cleaning/sanitization procedures
For the state of Texas, for example, topline guidance advises posting appropriate signage. Employers are advised to screen employees with a checklist as they enter a building and send them home if they have any new or worsening signs or symptoms of Covid-19. The six-foot physical distancing requirements are in place, but if this distancing is not feasible other measures are advised such as face coverings, hand hygiene, cleanliness and sanitization.
Guidance for certain industries is covered, such as restaurants being allowed to offer a dine-in service for 25 percent of its occupancy, which increases to 50 percent of occupancy for counties with five or fewer confirmed cases.
The site also includes links to individual state governors’ reopening plans. Click here to visit the US Chamber of Commerce site and view the map.
Financial support for reopening
For many businesses, reopening will not be a straightforward process. Adjustments need to be made, new processes put in place and robust hygiene measures introduced. Businesses may need to invest in Personal Protective Equipment, employee education and new measures to ensure customer safety. Many of these measures require funds which are already being depleted for many small businesses.
If you were not able to take advantage of federal government assistance programs, there may still be options available to help you including assistance from states and municipalities. City-sponsored initiatives are available for some organizations. For example, San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development lists help available up to $250,000 from sources including the San Francisco Emerging Business Loan Fund. This list of governors’ websites is a good starting point. For information on government assistance including deadlines, click here.
The Small Business Administration, or SBA, has an text area on its website dedicated to small businesses, providing guidance and loan resources. These include:
- Funding options – including information on bridge loans and debt relief
- Recovery information in languages other than English
- Guidance for businesses and employers
The SBA provides local assistance via 68 district offices and a nationwide network of resource partners. To find resources near you, you can go to sba.gov/local-assistance.
Reconnect with your customers
Marketing experts suggest you make sure your customers know when you’re reopening by posting the date on your website and informing them via your social channels and community Facebook groups, as well as using their usual preferred channels to connect. As a priority, tell them what you’re doing to keep them, and your employees, safe. The US Chamber of Commerce has a customizable flyer to help you do this. Either create your own messaging under their advised headings of ‘Keeping people safe, securing a healthy environment and creating a flexible workplace’, or you can use the US Chamber of Commerce’s suggested text if you prefer. Tell your clients how their customer experience will change, and let them know what they should expect and what you expect from them – keeping six feet apart, the need to restrict numbers of visitors in-store, wearing masks, for example - but let them know your business has their safety as its top priority.
Plan for bumps in the road
Businesses and consumers know that it is unlikely to be a smooth path to recovery. Experts cannot rule out a second wave of the virus later in the year, and businesses may experience further temporary closures, delays to their supply chain, and fluctuating rates. Small businesses are also concerned about potential safety risks to their employees and customers. Experts advise allocating one person from your organization to make sure your business is up to speed on the latest advice from OSHA, the CDC, the WHO and local authorities. While no amount of planning can completely eliminate risk, companies that carefully plan their reopening, with a focus on safety, have the best chance of a successful reopening.