Weekly Digest – September 1 2021
While businesses have been mandating vaccines for employees for some time now, they are now beginning to take a harder line. Some, like Delta, are charging unvaccinated employees an extra $200 per month for health insurance, and some are firing unvaccinated employees. Companies that require employees to be vaccinated face several risks. First, the divisive nature of the covid vaccine may lead to workplace bullying or retaliation of unvaccinated employees by vaccinated co-workers. Second, some employees may leave if they are required to take the vaccine. This may also make it harder to find new employees in a tight job market. Employers also need to consider the possibility of workers’ compensation claims in case of a severe adverse reaction to a required vaccine.
THE AMERICAN RECOVERY PLAN ACT (ARPA)
Only 11% of the $46.5 billion in rental assistance has so far gone out. While some states are moving quickly, others are moving slowly. While the Treasury Department is easing some of the eligibility requirements, including allowing tenants to self-assess their income and their risk of becoming homeless, state and local governments have been slow to set up programs to distribute the cash. Some states and localities are concerned about fraud, so have their own requirements which may take weeks for verification.
Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG)
The SBA is relaunching the SVOG program with a supplemental grant program to disburse the remaining $7.2 billion. Supplemental grants are available only to qualifying live entertainment and other related businesses that already received funding. Eligible organizations will receive invitations to apply for additional funding, up to 50% of their original award amount. The SBA plans to start disbursing funds in two weeks. The timeline for spending the funds has been extended from 12 to 18 months from receipt. Eligible expenses include payroll and rent.
Monthly Child Tax Credit Payments
Monday, August 30, 2021, was the deadline to unenroll from the September payment of the advance Child Tax Credit. Families with complex tax situations or shared custody may want to opt-out of payments or they may receive a smaller refund or even need to repay a portion when filing their 2021 tax returns.
You can update your mailing address at the IRS Child Tax Credit portal. The IRS will use the most up-to-date address they have to send out paper checks to those who request paper checks. The agency will also use this address to send out an end-of-year summary of the payments received, which will be needed for filing 2021 tax returns. This portal can be used to verify enrollment status, update banking information and mailing addresses, and to unenroll from future payments.
As a reminder, if you want to opt out of future payments, you must opt-out by the deadline for the next month’s payment. Check out the IRS FAQs where you’ll find everything you need to know about opting out in Section J.
More than a third of Millennials, burned out from working at home, are planning on looking for new jobs post-pandemic. Some are taking time off to learn new skills and start a new career path, while others are moving immediately into better-paying jobs.
REOPENING THE OFFICE AND REMOTE WORK OPTIONS
Many employers are ready to bring team members back to the office, and many employees are ready to return, but the rise of delta variant cases is slowing down the return. This article in U.S. News includes 7 strategies companies are using to help make that transition happen. The most basic is simply communicating with employees about expectations and about the changes that team members may have made in the previous 18 months. Workers will also need additional support for health and safety, including assistance with mental and emotional health. Hybrid work schedules and additional flexibility will also help keep people on board.
Will the future of work be a shorter workweek? Studies from around the world seem to indicate that fewer hours spent working may increase productivity or make no difference in the accomplishment of the most important work tasks. Fewer hours can mean streamlined meetings and less time for lunches or breaks. Employees benefit from reduced stress, less exhaustion, and better sleep. Healthier employees also tend to need less time off, which reduces employer costs.
While many millennial women prefer the flexibility of a remote work schedule, many fear they may miss out on advancement opportunities if their male colleagues spend more time in the office. Creating performance metrics and workplace practices that treat all employees as equals can benefit women who have caretaking responsibilities. Evaluating performance without measuring the time spent in the office levels the playing field, as does making sure to include remote workers in meetings.
Supply chains face a new disruption as the delta variant is disrupting manufacturing in parts of Asia with low vaccination rates. Strict containment policies in Vietnam, where only 3% of the population has been fully vaccinated, mean that entire factories are being shut down or strictly limited in headcount. Since Vietnam produces more than 30% of American shoe imports and is a large supplier of US apparel, companies are scrambling to find other suppliers.
Meanwhile, COVID-related closures at other ports in China combined with congestion at California ports may make it difficult for retailers to stock their shelves for the holiday shopping season. Shortages of truck drivers are further compounding the problem. Companies such as Hasbro, maker of toys and games, are increasing prices to compensate for rising costs for shipping and raw materials. The combination means that retailers may not have as many items to fill shelves and that delivery times for online presents may stretch into four to six weeks.
In the U.S., despite sharply rising cases of the delta variant, new jobless claims remained steady at 353,000 for the week ended August 21, while GDP grew at 6.6% for the second quarter. These reports show that the economy is growing.
Sales of new homes increased in July but increasing prices and a limited supply of new homes are making it hard for some first-time buyers. While the supply of new homes rose, most of that increase has yet to be built. Builders are taking longer to complete homes due to expensive raw materials and a shortage of workers. Prices for new homes are up 20% compared to the pre-pandemic levels. Sales of new homes are up in lower-cost states such as Arizona, Utah, Texas, and Florida, and down in areas where housing prices are high.
- IRS resources for stimulus payments:
- The best source for up-to-date and accurate health information is the Center for Disease Control (CDC)
- Entrepreneur put together a listing of free tech resources for remote work
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has warnings about COVID-related scams
- Fast Company has a listing of the best productivity apps for 2020
- The Wall Street Journal has a collection of articles on education
- The Louvre has digitized 482,000 artworks from its collection
- PC Magazine explains how to carry your vaccination card on your phone
- How to create a strong password
We sincerely hope that you and your family are well and remain well. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are all in this together!