FFCRA. CARES. PPP. There are a lot of acronyms floating around since the federal government passed several emergency stimulus packages to rescue the coronavirus-battered economy. The good news is that there’s a significant amount of aid available to both small businesses and their employees. The bad news is that figuring out how it works can be confusing. We’re here to help break it down.

The CARES Act: A lifeline for SMBs

The CARES Act, which President Trump signed into law on March 27, allocates $360 billion in loans and grants for small businesses as well as nonprofits that meet the size requirements. There are two main programs businesses can tap for financial support during the pandemic: The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL). The CARES Act also contains some nifty tax credits we cover in more detail below.

As Vox points out in their excellent guide to the new law, “It’s worth noting that organizations can receive both loans and that an EIDL loan can also be refinanced into a PPP loan.” In other words, organizations can apply for both — and should act fast since both programs are distributing funds on a first come, first serve basis.

EIDL: Emergency cash fast  

$10 billion of the CARES Act stimulus is allocated for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL), an existing SBA program.

Vox explains: “This money will go toward two things: It sets up a grant program that would provide a $10,000 emergency ‘advance’ that businesses won’t have to pay back, and it funds low-interest loans organizations can use to cover operating expenses, though they will have to repay these funds. The loan amount that organizations can request will be based on the amount of ‘economic injury’ that they have sustained because of the coronavirus.” 

Companies located in states that have been declared a State of Emergency (most have) are eligible for Economic Disaster Relief Loans of up to $2 million. 

Businesses that need cash immediately should pursue the EIDL $10,000 grants. Once a business is approved, they will be able to receive funds within three days according to the SBA. 

Who’s eligible? Businesses are required to have been operational on January 31, 2020, and to prove they’ve sustained economic injury. They include:

How do I apply? EIDL is administered directly by the SBA. You apply on their website here.

PPP: More money, more uncertainty

Around $349 billion of the CARES Act is dedicated to establishing the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provides businesses the loans they need to cover eight weeks of payroll, along with some utility and rent costs.

If businesses keep employees on payroll or rehire them by June 30 after they’ve been laid off, these loans could be fully forgiven. Businesses are able to request 2.5 times their average monthly payroll costs for this loan.

It’s worth nothing that there’s a lot of confusion around the PPP because it’s an entirely new program the SBA is trying to get off the ground. Banks were due to start accepting applications today (April 3), but many have said they’re not ready due to a lack of guidance and clear requirements from the Small Business Administration and Treasury Department. We expect that most national banks will release their application processes in the coming week.

Who’s eligible? Businesses are required to have been operational on February 15, 2020, and to demonstrate that the economic fallout from the coronavirus has hurt them. They include:

One of the big questions looming over the program is whether venture capital-backed companies are eligible. Yesterday Congressional leadership indicated that the so-called affiliation rule will be waived for any company with less than 500 employees that doesn’t have a controlling outside shareholder, thus making most VC-backed startups eligible for PPP loans. 

The National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) has been tracking this issue closely, and plans to post additional guidance when available.

How do I apply? Organizations should contact their bank or participating Section 7(a) lender directly to learn about their application process for PPP. While most national banks will issue their own version of the loan application online, the Treasury Department posted a sample application that will give you a good overview of what to expect.

Payroll tax deferral

As Kruze Consulting notes in their guide for startups, companies that do not receive a SBA loan as part of the CARES Act (e.g. PPP loan or EIDL loan) will be able to immediately defer 100% of their payroll taxes for the remainder of 2020.

Normally, companies pay a payroll tax for social security equal to 6.2% of all employee compensation up to $137,700 per employee. Under this plan, those taxes for the remainder of 2020 will be eligible for deferral – with 50% due in December 2021 and 50% due in December 2022.

Employee retention tax credit

Businesses and nonprofits that do not receive an SBA loan will also be eligible for tax credits. Specifically, companies that have had revenues decline by 50% or more due to COVID-19 will be eligible for significant payroll tax credits that can be applied immediately to your payroll runs.

Contact your payroll provider if you’d like to take advantage of the tax deferral or tax credits.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

As devastating as these past weeks and months have been for companies worldwide, small business owners should take heart that there are a growing number of resources to help them stay afloat. In addition to the federal aid programs we discuss here, state and city governments as well as corporations are offering loans and grants for small businesses. Check out Forbes Small Business Relief Tracker for more.

COVID-19 has forced thousands of employees across the United States—from local coffee shops to Apple and Salesforce—to work from home in order to help contain the pandemic. 

Think about that for a second. Millions of people who typically work at their desks in the office are now working from their couches at home. Businesses that never managed a single remote employee now must manage their entire company remotely. It’s a huge challenge. 

One of the biggest challenges is hiring and onboarding employees 100% remotely. 

Normally, when you think about onboarding a new hire, you envision someone showing them to their desk, helping them fill out forms, setting up their work computer, and so on. But how do you do all that from your home office? How are you supposed to remotely verify someone’s I-9? Or remotely set up and ship their work computer? Or remotely add them to all of the apps they need, like Slack, Office 365, and GSuite? 

In this handbook, you’ll find the answers to these questions and many more. Read on to learn everything you need to know about onboarding new hires 100% remotely.

HOW TO: Remotely manage offer letters and agreements

The Problem:

The worst part of onboarding is the paperwork. So much paperwork. Here are just a few onboarding documents that nearly every company has to manage: 

And every time you hire someone new, the cycle starts again: create the paperwork, send the paperwork, collect the paperwork, manually enter all of the data from the paperwork, and finally store the paperwork.

It’s enough to make you pull your hair out. 

And the problem is even worse for remote employees because you can’t drop off and collect their paperwork in-person. You either have to mail their paperwork or manually coordinate via email.

The Solution:

Modern HR systems like Rippling allow you to automatically create and digitally send (via email) all of the documents you need new hires to fill out and sign. 

Hiring managers just enter some basic hiring info—like their title, salary, and start date—and the system instantly generates all of their paperwork for review and e-signature. It also allows you to see who signed what, when.

Alternatively, you can use standalone electronic signature software like DocuSign or Adobe Sign. But they can’t integrate with your core HR system, which means you’ll have to create, send, and manage employees’ documents in a completely separate system from where you manage all of your other employee information.

HOW TO: Remotely verify I-9s

The Problem:

Nearly all the i’s can be dotted and t’s can be crossed digitally these days—but there is one big exception: I-9 Employment Verification

Federal law requires all U.S. employers to complete an I-9 form within three days of a new hire’s start date and certify an employee’s identification and work eligibility documents in person

The Solution:

On March 20, 2020 ICE released a statement announcing that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will temporarily allow employers with employees working remotely due to COVID-19 to defer the physical review of Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9).

PLEASE NOTE: This temporary provision only applies to employers that are operating remotely. If there are employees physically present at a work location, their I-9s must still be inspected in person.

How the temporary deferment works:

Modern HR systems like Rippling can automate much of this work by requiring employees to upload a picture of their eligibility documentation during onboarding, and automatically assigning tasks to managers (and emailing reminders) to review them within 3 days.

What happens after the deferment ends?

Once ICE’s deferment ends, you can remotely verify employees’ I-9s by assigning an Authorized Representative to visit the employee at their home, view their completed I-9, and physically inspect their eligibility documents.

An Authorized Representative is anyone you trust to review and confirm their documentation in-person. While you can technically assign anyone, you’re still legally liable if they incorrectly confirm a new hires’ information. So make sure to train whoever you assign or confirm in advance that they know how to properly review I-9 documents.

Here are a few possible solutions that might work for you.

1. Remote Notaries. If you Google “remote notary near me”, you can find and book a local notary to visit the employee at home. A formal notary seal does not need to be (and should not be) applied.

2. Co-Workers: If another employee lives close to the new hire, they can visit them and verify their documents (or vice versa).

3. Friends or Family: If you have a trusted friend or family member who lives close to the new hire, they too can visit them and verify their documents.

HOW TO: Remotely upkeep payroll

The Problem:

Fortunately, most payroll systems nowadays can be managed online. That said, there are a few advantages to using a newer, more modern payroll system like Rippling or Zenefits rather than a legacy system like ADP or Intuit. 

The Solution:

Modern payroll systems can integrate with your 3rd party systems — like your 401(k), insurance carriers, time and attendance software, and more — so no one has to enter any data in order to run payroll. By eliminating payroll data entry across every department, you eliminate the need to coordinate with people to run payroll, regardless of whether they’re in the office or at home.

HOW TO: Remotely enroll employees in benefits

The Problem:

Most businesses still use offline processes to enroll new hires in some (or all) of their benefits — medical, dental, vision, 401(k), commuter, life, disability, and so on.

Offline enrollments usually look like this:

The whole process reads like an Abbott & Costello skit. It’s inefficient, prone to error, and becomes even harder when your employees aren’t in the office because you (or your broker) will either have to mail their forms or coordinate manually via email.

The Solution:

Modern HR systems like Rippling allow you to enroll new hires in all of your benefits, all online and in one place. If you already have a broker, they can also use the system to manage your employees’ benefits—whether they’re on-site or remote.

Alternatively, you can ask your broker to implement a standalone system like Ease or Employee Navigator, though they require more manual data entry since they aren’t built into your core HR system.

HOW TO: Remotely manage employees’ computers 

The Problem:

When Zendesk hired their first marketing executive, she showed up on her first day to discover nobody had thought to get her a laptop. CEO Mikkel Svane recalls in his book Startupland that he had to run out to the Apple store and buy one. But what if their CMO worked from a different location? She would’ve had to go buy a laptop on her own, or wait several days for one to be delivered — missing critical time she needed to get up to speed. 

Fortunately, there’s a better way to manage your employees’ devices now.

The Solution:

Rippling Device Management Software allows you to remotely manage employees’ devices right from your core HR system. When you hire and onboard a new employee, you can easily buy, set up, secure, and ship any device — from their computer to monitor — right to their home.

And if someone loses their laptop or leaves the company, you remotely lock it, wipe it, and re-assign it to another employee.

Alternatively, you can use a standalone mobile device management (MDM) solution like JAMF or Manage Engine but they typically require a dedicated IT team to help set up and manage.

HOW TO: Remotely add new hires to every app they need

The Problem:

The average company uses well over 20 cloud apps and systems. And odds are your new hire will need (and want) access to many of them. In particular, remote employees need access to communication and coordination apps right away — think Office 365, Slack, Zoom, Loom, Dropbox, and Asana.

For new hires, getting access to all the tools and systems they need to start working is one of the most tedious parts of joining a new company. And it’s even more frustrating when they’re remote. They can’t just walk over to someone to get help. So what do they do?

The Solution:

Rippling is the only HR software that allows you to remotely provision new employees’ apps in one-click — with or without a dedicated IT team.

For example, you can create a new employee’s Slack account and add them to #slack channels. You can create their GSuite account and work email. If it’s a salesperson, you can create their Salesforce account. 

Alternatively, you can use a standalone identity management (IDM) solution like Okta or OneLogin into provision apps. Note that they require a dedicated IT team to set up and manage this software.

HOW TO: Remotely manage passwords

The Problem:

Employees (and human beings in general) are notoriously bad at sharing passwords. That’s because more often than not, people take the path of least resistance. 

When everyone’s in the office, people tend to share passwords in-person or on post-it notes. And when everyone’s out of the office, it gets even worse. That’s when people share their passwords over non-secure channels like email and Slack.

The Solution:

Rippling is the only HR system that comes with a password manager built-in. It’s called RPass and it’s the first password manager built for team password sharing. Employees can securely share their login credentials with specific people or whole departments, right from their Chrome browser window.

Alternatively, you can use 1Password and LastPass — both of which integrate directly with Rippling.

HOW TO: Remotely welcome new hires with swag

The Problem:

Some companies — especially tech companies — like to make employees feel welcome by welcoming them with corporate swag: a company t-shirt, backpack, and other fun stuff. 

But how do you welcome new hires with swag when every new hire is working from home?  

The Solution:

Rippling is the only HR system that integrates with corporate swag apps like SwagUp, which allow you to order and ship individual swag bags to new employees. 

You can still use apps like SwagUp and Social Imprints without Rippling to help manage your swag, but it requires a bit more work, because they aren’t integrated with your core HR system so the sends can’t be automatically triggered.

HOW TO: Remotely assign and manage tasks

The Problem:

Onboarding employees is a team sport. Every department needs to do something to set up a new employee. HR needs to prorate their first check. IT needs to ship their laptop. Finance needs to add them to the expense system. The list goes on and on. It’s hard enough to coordinate this cross-departmental dance in-person, let alone remotely.

The Solution:

Modern HR systems like Rippling and BambooHR allow you to automatically create and assign tasks to managers and new hires across every department, whenever someone new joins.

Alternatively, you can use a standalone task management app like Asana or Trello to help manage everyone’s tasks. But again, they don’t integrate with your core HR system, so they require a bit more work to manage.

HOW TO: Remotely collaborate and build culture

The Problem:

It can be tough to build trust with new hires and make them feel invested in the company when all of their relationships are virtual. One study of 1,100 remote employees found that they are much more likely to feel left out, mistreated, and ignored. 

The Solution:

Given that dynamic, it’s critical to build a strong collaborative environment so remote workers feel connected, supported, and engaged. Here’s how you can help make employees successful on their first day and every day after that.

Act now. Don’t wait to future-proof your company.

COVID has forced businesses across the world to acknowledge an uncomfortable truth: They simply can’t manage remote employees well using their legacy systems and processes. Fortunately, if you just follow this guide, you’ll be able to onboard anyone, anywhere, without missing a beat.

And if you want to go more in-depth into the ins-and-outs of onboarding employees remotely, be sure to register for our upcoming webinar: How to Onboard and Hire Remote Employees During COVID-19.