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The Lessons I Learned From COVID-19

Original Post:  NAIFA Advisor Today

TellMeSomthingGood

“I need to hear something good.”

This is what a friend of mine said to be about 4 years ago, when we were having a trying time in our industry and just needed an influx of positivity.

Fast forward 3 years and some odd months later, I found I was the one who needed to hear something good.  My husband and I both tested positive for Covid-19, and although the symptoms for us were mild, I found myself being the one that was bummed out.  Days upon days of seeing emails about Covid-19 and what to do and what not to do, and suffering from information overload , and I just needed to hear something good….

This made me hit pause and remind myself, “Innovation is born from necessity.” What a bold statement that just rings so true today!

I’m in New York City, the epicenter of Covid-19, and it is definitely not business as usual.

But we have found new ways to connect with family, friends and clients and also support them in ways we never thought possible.

After doing some brainstorming with my peers, these are the things we started to do to feel more connected:

  1. We did not actively sell.  If people come to us and need coverage, we help them.  We got so many calls at  the  beginning of the quarantine from people who had been laid off and were in need of Individual Insurance. – New York City doesn’t pay brokers for their advice; so, instead of our normal $185/hour, we are dropping it down to $100 flat. But we are finding out that we are using more leeway on just answering some general questions from people and pointing them in the right direction without their retaining us.
  2. We reached out in kindness.  We had a lot of prospective clients who were in the process of setting up new group plans or business insurance policies and we reached out just to check on them, tell them we know things have changed, and want them to know that we can pick things up whenever they are ready
  3. You know those 4,712 emails all of us received about Covid-19?  We pulled out a lot of important information from them , put it into one blog posting, and reached out to all our clients with just a “Checking In” email. – We got a positive response from this email and our clients shared with us what they are going through and what they are doing. One client is writing a new book, one is shifting their cooking classes to online classes, and some have created disaster relief funds for their own staff.  So, what we did with these responses was to ask them to share with us links or information, and then we passed that information on to others.
  4. Whenever a client reached out to us about a fund they have created, we made a donation and shared the information on our Social Media accounts.

One of the things I learned from all of this is that you have to let people do things for you, too.  When my brother was sick with cancer when we were kids, the Chaplain at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital told my mother, “You have to be a gracious receiver.” So, I have eaten a little piece of humble pie and let people do for me.

I can’t tell you how many industry friends have reached out to me just to check on me and offer support.  I have had people send us masks, go food shopping for us, and just “Face Timed” with us to see how we are doing.

It’s been amazing to have Zoom dinner parties and Happy Hours and be able to feel connected when we felt like we were on an island.  There are truly so many incredible people in my life, including many men and women in our industry.   These peers of ours are working hard to make an impact on our industry during this difficult time.  They all serve as a shining light in such a dark time, and I am grateful to all of them.

Stay strong, my friends.

Bio:

Susan L Combs, PPACA, ChHC, is president of Combs& Company, LLC, a full-service insurance brokerage firm. She is a past recipient of NAIFA’s Four Under Forty Award, and past president of Women in Insurance and Financial Services.

 



To the Mizzou Grads of 2020!

Combs 2020

Thinking of all the Mizzou grads this weekend in the class of 2020!

I graduated in 2001 from the Ag School with a Bachelor of Science in Hotel & Restaurant Management. I’ve always described my degree as a business degree with cooking classes and where all the fun people were. I started out at Mizzou with a full ride in Air Force ROTC for a Chemical Engineering degree and had 4 additional declared Majors (Mechanical Engineering, Atmospheric Science, Elementary Education and double Major in Communications & German) until I found my home with the HRM people….hey, it’s not my fault I have so many different interests.

I even remember when I decided to look into HRM, my father was in town for a military ball that was at the main conference center at the time (Holiday Inn Select) and he said “Suz, I was talking to some kids at the Front Desk and they told me their Major was Hospitality, I think you’d really enjoy that and could see you being a meeting planner.” So I went at checked out the program, talked to Professor Michael Keene and Dr. Jim Groves, switched to the program, started showing up on the Dean’s List and served as a TA for Hospitality Accounting and Professional Bar & Beverage Management. I also went back and worked at that same hotel at the Front Desk and in Corporate Sales before landing at the Hearnes Center to work in Events where I got to help plan concerts and sporting events.

I still hold dear the friendships I made my Freshman year and beyond. The past 4 years I was lucky enough to be asked to “come back home” and serve on the University of Missouri Alumni Board, work with the Mizzou Law Veterans Clinic and excited to announce that I will be a part of The Jefferson Club Board of Trustees this coming Fall. Every time I think of my professional journey, Mizzou has been in the background as my foundation for my career, my business and my connections. So to the Mizzou grads that have a case of the Ho Hums since they won’t get to cross the stage this weekend, know that you are honored by this Alum and so many others. When I look back, I don’t remember the ceremony, I remember the people that helped make me Mizzou Made.

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Wonder Woman Wednesday: Amanda Kindler

This week’s #WonderWomanWednesday is someone near and dear to us in NYC. Amanda Kindler was a Registered Nurse working in Oncology prior to the Covid-19 Pandemic and was part of the first Covid Unit in the NYU Hospital System. When Amanda has some downtime, which is rare, she’s sure to log in her CrossFit workout from the CrossFit Dutch Kills box in Queens, NY where she has been a member for about 2 years. We salute Amanda and all the other healthcare providers putting themselves at risk during this time to help the people of our city!

Amanda Kindler WWW

 

 



Wonder Woman Wednesday: What’s the good news, ladies? April edition.

Hello from the Covid-19 epicenter, aka NYC.  I don’t know about you all, but the past few weeks have been crazy, exhausting and just plain sad at times.  It is definitely not business as usual here and I know that’s true in many other places as well, but I also know we will all make it through this time.  One of the things that has kept me going during quarantine is connecting with the incredible women from our industry who are still able to share some great ideas with me about what they are most proud of in the last 12 months.  Be on the lookout for another article coming soon that will include many of the featured women in this series who will share what they have been doing to stay connected with their clients during all of this.

This month, I’m going to introduce you to two new friends who have been a great source of information and support for me during this time.  I know I have said it before, but it is so important to develop these peer-to-peer mentorship relationships, because when there are rough times like these, we pull each other up and help each other to excel.  Please join me in welcoming Chelsea and Jennifer to the fold.

Chelsea Whalley,  J Donovan Financial

“In the past 12 months, my biggest accomplishment has been learning that my business is not actually about me.

When I owned my first agency, I was infatuated with the idea of developing other agents. While this sounds admirable, I was truly motivated by the energy rush I received seeing others succeed. Even though I was helping others, at the core of it all, it was still about me.

Even in my second agency, there have been times when I put together the best options for a prospect to save them money and time; yet, I still don’t win. When this would happen, I would make it about me (my presentation skills, my sales skills, etc). Perhaps it was, but there’s a good chance that it was about one of the million other factors that business owners consider when making decisions.

The truth, and my biggest lesson, is that nothing is about me. I have learned that the only way to truly scale my business and help as many employees and clients as possible is to let go of the belief that the outcome is directly tied to my worth as an advisor or as a person. With this, I can finally be present and enjoy the work I am doing.”

Jennifer Warfield, CPF®, National Life Group

“I’ve been in financial services many years and I’ve never been more excited to do what I do.  My passion lies in supporting women and giving back.  In my role, training and developing agents to build their business, I’m able to do both.  I’ve seen great success among the women leaders who count for almost half of my business.  In the last year, I’m pleased to have been highest-producing field leader at my company, hitting record sales. And helping my agents learn and grow gives their clients peace of mind.

One of the best aspects of our industry is the relationships among the women within it. I am fortunate to be supported and inspired by many great women.  In 2019, I was named WIFS Woman of the Year, a wonderful honor. Celebrating success within our field is an important way to create community and inspire the next generation.”

I know that I, as well as the crew here at BenefitsPRO are thinking of everyone during these uncertain times.  As always, if you know of great women in the field who are working hard to make this this industry even better, send an email introduction to me at scombs@combsandco.com. I’d love to connect!  Stay safe my friends.

Click Here for the original article at BenefitsPro



Small Business Exemptions for Paid Sick Leave Explained
Looking for an easy digestible explanation of the exemptions for companies under Paid Sick Leave? Check out this great video from colleague, Chelsea Whalley of J Donovan Financial.
DOL Clarifies Exemptions to Coronavirus Paid Sick Leave Laws
– Less than 50 employees
– Leave is requested because the child’s school or place of care is closed due to COVID-19 related reasons
– An authorized officer of business has determined that at least one of the 3 conditions described below have been met:
1) The provision would result in small business’s expenses and financial obligations to exceed available business revenue and cause business to cease operating at minimal capacity
2) The employee requesting leave has a specific set of skills and knowledge that without it, the business’s financial and operational health is severely threatened
3) There are not sufficient workers who are able, willing and qualified to perform duties of person requesting leave and this would not allow business to operate at minimal capacity.
DOL is encouraging employers and employees to work together to find a solution during this time that allows the business to be maintained as well as the safety of employees.

 

 

 



Federal Loan Forgiveness CARES Act

Curious how the forgivable loans work under the CARES Act?  Check out this great video from colleague, Chelsea Whalley of J Donovan Financial.

Coronavirus Aid and Relief Economic Security Act
Emergency grants: The bill provides $10 billion for grants of up to $10,000 to provide emergency funds for small businesses to cover immediate operating costs.
The application process ends on June 30th (“The Covered Period”)
Forgivable loans: There is $350 billion allocated for the Small Business Administration to provide loans of up to $10 million per business. Any portion of that loan used to maintain payroll, keep workers on the books or pay for rent, mortgage and existing debt could be forgiven, provided workers stay employed through the end of June.
Relief for existing loans: There is $17 billion to cover six months of payments for small businesses already using SBA loans.


Federal Payroll Tax Credits for Paying Sick Leave

Check out this great video from colleague, Chelsea Whalley of J Donovan Financial. Chelsea explains how eligible employer tax credits will fully reimburse employers for all qualifying sick and child-care leave payments mandated under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act by REDUCING PAYROLL TAXES owed to the IRS.

*Employers will be entitled to an ADDITIONAL CREDIT for the cost of MAINTAINING HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE!*

– Employers will be able to file for accelerated payments to refund employers for qualifying leave payments in excess of federal payroll taxes owed.

– Small businesses will be eligible for an exemption to the mandated sick and leave payments if they demonstrate that payment of child-care leave under the Act threatens the viability of their business.

– Enforcement actions will be delayed by thirty days for employers that act reasonably and in good faith to comply with the Act.

*Note: Information is changing daily, please check with Dept of Labor and/or an employment attorney for exact information*



Covid-19: How the CARES Act and Other Recent Legislation Impact Your Business

Federal CARES Act for Nonprofits - Pandemic Stimulus ...

As we know there is so much information out there right now revolving around Covid-10.  If you are looking for how the CARES Act and other legislation will impact your business, please read below for a helpful article we received from Olivera Medenica, Partner of Dunnington, Bartholow & Miller LLP.

Within the past few days—and as recently as 72 hours ago—the United States government, the State of New York and the City of New York adopted legislation intended to provide economic relief to businesses and individuals impacted by the COVID-19 emergency. The following is a review of various loans, loan forgiveness provisions, and other benefits created by these recent acts.*

U.S. Federal Laws

On March 27, 2020, an approximately $2 trillion coronavirus response bill, the Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act (H.R. 748), was signed into law.

The CARES Act:

  1. Provides Forgivable Loans to Small Businesses

Under the CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program, the Small Business Administration (the “SBA”) will back loans of up to $10 million from banks to businesses with not more than 500 employees for those businesses to pay employee salaries, paid sick or medical leave, health insurance premiums, and basic immediate operating expenses like mortgage, rent, and utility payments (“Covered Expenses”).

Borrower Eligibility

There are very few borrower requirements to obtain a loan under the CARES Act. Those requirements include a good-faith certification that the borrower (a) needs the loan to continue operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, (b) will use the funds to retain workers and maintain payroll, or pay the other immediate operating costs, (c) does not have any other pending application under this program for the same purpose, and (d) has not received duplicative amounts under this program from February 15, 2020 until December 31, 2020.

Eligible businesses include private and public non-profits, sole proprietorships, individuals who are self-employed, and businesses with not more than 500 employees (including full-time and part-time employees) per location. For businesses in the hospitality and dining industries, there is a special eligibility rule: if the business has more than one physical location, it employs not more than 500 employees per physical location, and it is assigned to the “Accommodation and Food services” sector (Sector 72) of the North American Industry Classification System, that business is eligible for a loan.

Notably, the CARES Act includes a “Sense of the Senate” that the SBA should issue guidance to lenders to ensure that the processing and disbursements of loans prioritizes small businesses in underserved and rural markets, small businesses owned by individuals who are socially or economically disadvantaged, women owned businesses, and businesses that have been in operation for less than two years.

The Loan Amount

The maximum loan amount (the “Loan Amount”) is the lesser of (a) 2.5 multiplied by the average total monthly payroll costs incurred from the previous one-year period (plus the outstanding amount of any loan that the business received under the SBA’s Disaster Loan Program between January 31, 2020 and the date on which that loan may have been refinanced as part of the Paycheck Protection Program (“Prior SBA Loan Amount”)), or (b) for businesses that were not in existence from February 15, 2019 to June 30, 2019, 2.5 multiplied by the average total monthly payroll costs incurred from January 1, 2020 to February 29, 2020 (plus any Prior SBA Loan Amount), or (c) $10 million. Payroll costs include compensation to independent contractors (including compensation based on commission) up to $100,000 in one year.

Loan Forgiveness

A borrower is entitled to loan forgiveness in an amount equal to Covered Expenses paid during the 8-week period following loan origination (the “Loan Forgiveness Covered Period”). Forgiveness is subject to reduction based on a reduction of the business’s employees, and wages and salaries as explained below (the “Forgiveness Amount”).

To calculate the Forgiveness Amount, the Act instructs to multiply the total of the Covered Expenses incurred during the Loan Forgiveness Covered Period by the result of dividing the average number of full-time equivalent employees (“FTEEs”) that the business employed per month during the 8-week Loan Forgiveness Covered Period, by (at the election of the borrower) either (a) the average number of FTEEs that the business employed per month from February 15, 2019 to June 30, 2019, or (b) the average number of FTEEs that the businesses employed per month from January 1, 2020 to February 29, 2020. The Act also provides that employees whom the business laid off between February 15, 2020 and April 26, 2020, but rehired by June 30, 2020 will, in effect, be treated as employed individuals during the 8-week Loan Forgiveness Covered Period so as not to reduce the Forgiveness Amount.

The Forgiveness Amount will be reduced by the amount of employee salary reduction in excess of 25% of that employee’s total salary during the most recent full quarter during which the employee was employed before the Loan Forgiveness Covered Period. Thus, if the business did not reduce employee salary or wages during the Loan Forgiveness Covered Period by more than 25%, the Forgiveness Amount will not be reduced in this manner.

It is important for businesses to document the use of its funds received under the program pursuant to the documentation provisions in the CARES Act because businesses that to do not properly document their use may be ineligible for loan forgiveness.

Application Process

Businesses can apply for the loans through private sector lenders authorized by the SBA who can use their own paperwork to process the loans. It is estimated that it will take about two weeks for the SBA to approve each loan, and to guarantee it against default. Lenders will not distribute the loan money to businesses until the SBA has assured it that each loan is fully backed, so it may take at least two weeks from applying for the loan for businesses to start receiving the loan money.

Business owners are not required to provide personal guarantees or use their assets as collateral for the loan. There are no fees associated with obtaining the loan, and interest rates are capped at 4%.

  1. Provides Emergency EIDL Grants

The CARES Act provides, in certain circumstances, emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) grants of up to $10,000 from the SBA to small businesses for those businesses to use the funds for, among other things, providing paid sick leave for employees, maintaining payroll, meeting increased costs due to an interrupted supply chain, and making rent or mortgage payments. It is currently uncertain as to what impact, if any, obtaining an emergency grant under this provision may have on applications made under the Paycheck Protection Program.

  1. Expands Unemployment Benefits

Under the CARES Act’s temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, workers not usually eligible for state and federal unemployment benefits—such as independent contractors, and people who are self-employed or who have a limited work history—may receive unemployment benefits if they are unable to work because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Anyone who self-certifies that they are able and available to work but is unemployed or partially unemployed because of the COVID-19 pandemic is considered a “covered individual.” If workers have the ability to work remotely with pay, they are not eligible for these benefits.

Under the CARES Act, unemployment benefits are available for the weeks of unemployment, partial unemployment, or inability to work caused by COVID-19 beginning on or after January 27, 2020 (the date on which the Secretary of Health declared COVID-19 a public health emergency) and ending on or before December 31, 2020, and shall continue to be available as long as the individual’s unemployment, partial unemployment, or inability to work continues, for up to 39 weeks. Individuals will receive the amount that would be calculated under state law plus $600 each week for up to four months, as opposed to the usual three months. Additionally, the standard one-week waiting period is waived, so laid off employees immediately qualify for benefits.

  1. Provides Refundable Payroll Tax Credit to Employers

For businesses whose operations were fully or partially suspended by a government entity due to the COVID-19 pandemic or had a decrease in gross receipts of 50% or more compared to the same quarter last year, the CARES Act provides for a refundable payroll tax credit equal to 50% of the first $10,000 in wages per employee. This payroll tax credit can be claimed for employees who are retained but who do not work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses with 100 or fewer full-time employees can claim the payroll tax credit for all employees’ wages—whether the employer is open for business or has been ordered to close. Businesses with more than 100 full-time employees can claim the credit for employees who are retained but who do not work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

New York City and New York State Laws

Employers that employ at least two employees in New York State seeking to avoid layoffs should also know about the Shared Work Program, which provides partial unemployment benefits to employees who are working reduced hours. To participate, employers must design a “Shared Work Plan” and apply to participate here at least one week before the proposed effective date. After an employer’s plan is approved, participating employees must file unemployment insurance Shared Work claims. Eligible employees include those who qualify to receive unemployment insurance benefits in New York state and who normally work no more than 40 hours per week. Covered employees may receive up to 26 weeks of regular Shared Work benefits in one year. Currently, it is unclear how employers would take advantage of the New York State Shared Work Program and the Federal Paycheck Protection Program simultaneously. One potential scenario is that the reduction in salary and wages under the Shared Work Program may reduce the amount of the loan forgiveness under the Paycheck Protection Program.

Under New York City’s Employee Retention Grant Program, small business in New York City (including nonprofits) that have been in operation for at least six months, with one to four employees that can demonstrate at least a 25% decrease in revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic may be eligible to receive a grant covering up to 40% of their payroll for two months, for a maximum of up to $27,000. This program was implemented to help New York City businesses retain employees. More information can be found here.

Under New York City’s Small Business Continuity Loan Program, businesses in New York City with fewer than 100 employees that can demonstrate at least a 25% decrease in revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that it has the ability to repay the loan, may be eligible for an interest-free loan up of up to $75,000 to help retain employees and continue business operations. More information can be found here.

*Evolving Regulation and Implementation Procedures

The foregoing is intended as a summary of the various measures enacted within the past few days. The legislation examined above was understandably passed under exigent circumstances. Most, if not all, of the above will be subject to rule-making and interpretation. Therefore, implementation structures, procedures and subsequent regulations may vary from the analysis presented above.

For questions about the foregoing and further developments, please contact us. We also have assembled resources and alerts for COVID-19-related legal issues and considerations on our website under “News – COVID-19 Guidance.” Please check there for useful information and updates as events evolve.

*Required Disclaimer: This alert is provided for informational purposes and does not constitute, and should not be considered legal advice. Specific facts and circumstances will differ. Neither the transmission nor the receipt of this information shall create an attorney-client relationship between the transmitter and the recipient. You should not take, or refrain from taking, any action based upon information contained in this alert without consulting legal counsel of your own choosing. Under applicable professional rules of conduct, this informational publication may be considered attorney advertising.

Dunnington, Bartholow & Miller LLP is a full-service law firm providing corporate, employment, litigation, arbitration, mediation, intellectual property, real estate, immigration, trusts and estates planning services for national and international clientele. Find out more at www.dunnington.com.

 



Families First Coronavirus Response Act Simple Flow Chart

Family_PortraitWe’ve been receiving many questions regarding the Emergency FMLA and Emergency Paid Sick Leave Provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. To help you and your clients understand this new law one of our industry partners, Professional Group Plans, has put together a simple flow chart that makes it easy to determine who qualifies and the benefit required for each provision.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act Simple Flow Chart



Insurance 101: What is a Formulary Drug

pexels-photo-259027.jpegCheck our our quick video to understand what you need to know about Formulary Drugs!

For more Insurance 101, check our our Combs & Co YouTube Channel!