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Business Planning & Support Services

Where can I find guidance on assessing whether I can reopen safely?
Guidance on assessing whether a business can reopen can be found:

CDC Reopening Workplace Decision Tree

Guidance from the US Chamber of Commerce

If reopening at a reduced capacity or operating under other restrictions is a particular financial challenge, who should I contact for business advice?
The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Entrepreneurial Development Center (EDC) provide consultative services for businesses and are happy to work with businesses one on one offer business advice. Please contact our local offices by visiting: https://iowasbdc.org/regional-center/cedar-rapids-hiawatha/ (SBDC) or http://www.edcinc.org/about-us/curtis-r-nelson/ (EDC).
If I think I might need to change my business plan or my marketing plan, who should I contact for advice?
The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Entrepreneurial Development Center (EDC) provide consultative services for businesses and are happy to work with businesses one on one offer business advice.
If I think I need help with my sales strategy or selling process, who should I contact for advice?
The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Entrepreneurial Development Center (EDC) provide consultative services for businesses and are happy to work with businesses one on one offer business advice.
If I have never had a website or sold my products online before, who can help me understand whether that makes sense for me?
The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Entrepreneurial Development Center (EDC) provide consultative services for businesses and are happy to work with businesses one on one offer business advice.
Who can I contact to give my input about how proposed or existing legislation relating to COVID-19 would impact my business?
All businesses are encouraged to connect with your elected representatives to share your feedback on any legislative issues. The Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance has policy advocates for businesses, as does the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI). 
I would like to stay up-to-date on the governor's reporting of COVID-19 activity and how directives may impact my business. Where can I find this information?
I would like to access economic development programs which could help my business in the recovery process:
Q: Is there a brief summary available for federal programs?
A: View a quick summary of the CARES Act Business Relief Programs and Small Business Administration (SBA) COVID-19 program assistance.

Q: Where can I find information on program support for Iowa businesses?
A: Visit Iowa Economic Development's COVID-19 Iowa Business Recovery Assistance page.

Q: Are there other websites which aggregate the latest business relief and recovery program information?
A: The City of Cedar Rapids and the Gazette have partnered to create a resource directory for businesses. Visit the Coronavirus Business Resource page.

Q: Are there easy-to-use resources specific to the needs of small businesses?
A: View the Coronavirus Small Business Guide from the US Chamber of Commerce, and the Small Business Administration's Disaster Assistance page.

Q: Where can I find data about the local Cedar Rapids market if I am working on applying to business assistance program?
A: Find local market information on the Cedar Rapids Economic Dashboard.

Q: Where can I find information specific to the needs of manufacturers?
A: Visit the Iowa State University Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) COVID-19 Business Resources and COVID-19: Protecting Your Business pages.
I would like to obtain technical assistance about how to expand into new lines of business and enter new markets:
Q: Where can I find information about selling to the Federal Government?
A: View the ISU-CIRAS page COVID-19: Selling to the Government.

Q: My business is experiencing a revenue shortfall: Who can help identify new markets and customers?
A: The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Entrepreneurial Development Center (EDC) provide consultative services for businesses and are happy to work with businesses one on one offer business advice. Please contact our local offices by visiting: https://iowasbdc.org/regional-center/cedar-rapids-hiawatha/ (SBDC) or http://www.edcinc.org/about-us/curtis-r-nelson/ (EDC).
I have a gap in my supply chain caused by the global COVID-19 outbreak.  Where can I find information about substitutes or products manufactured in the United States?
View the ISU-CIRAS page on COVID-19 Supply Chain Disruptions.
Where can I find information on Iowa tax filing deadline extensions?
The Iowa Department of Revenue has this information on their website: Iowa Tax Filing Deadline Extension Information.
I would like to keep up to date on policy in other states where we conduct business. Is there a resource where I can assess up-to-date information? 
The government relations firm Multistate has a tracking tool available here.
What community-based resources are available to help me reconnect with my customer base to inform them of our reopening, hours of operation and new safety policies we have put in place?
This information can be shared via the Love Your Local Iowa website. Another place that has been fairly effective for sharing this information via social media has been the Cedar Rapids, IA Small Business - Delivery/Takeout/Curbside & Other group on Facebook.
I own a restaurant and have never taken reservations. Are there resources restaurants can access to help manage reservations?
Table Agent offers this service for free.  Restaurants can also pay for this service. Popular sites include: Open Table (www.opentable.com), YELP reservations (https://www.yelpreservations.com/), Tock (www.exploretock.com) and ResyOS (www.resyos.com).
Where can I find guidance on assessing whether I can reopen safely?
I am ready to reopen, but I need access to training materials for my staff that will help me communicate new cleaning and sanitizing guidelines. Which reliable sources provide this type of guidance?
What are things I should consider when selecting cleaning products?
View guidance from the EPA on Disinfectants for Use Against COVID-19.
I would like support communicating with my employees about returning to work. What guidelines or templates are available to help businesses?
The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) has assembled resources to help businesses communicate with employees.

Mitigation and Control Best Practices at Business Establishments

Is there a concise overview of some of the issues involved with understanding how social distancing practices may be implemented in retail and service environments?
I would like to require my employees to wear masks while at work:
Q: Where can I purchase masks?
A: Thomas.net: COVID-19 Response Suppliers or ISU CIRAS: COVID-19 Supply Chain Disruptions Program

Q: What kind of mask should I purchase for my employees?
A: OSHA provides recommendations on this topic in the Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 guide.

Q: How do I evaluate mask quality when purchasing?
A: View Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Standards & Specification Summary

Q: Are cloth coverings or masks that individuals bring from home an acceptable safety precaution for my business?
A: If Employers allow employees to wear cloth masks that they bring from home, employers should provide instructions on how to wear, maintain and clean their masks. Please reference these care instructions from the CDC.

Q: Do other types of face coverings work as well as masks?
A: Surgical masks and N95 respirators are the standard, however, these masks are in short supply and should be reserved for healthcare workers. Cloth face masks do help to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. View information from the CDC on this topic.

Q: What other sources of information outline best practices regarding the use of masks or face coverings in retail work environments?
A: The CDC is a great source of information for this. View resources on safe work practices and recommendations on face coverings and masks
I plan to reopen and want to make sure we are following guidelines for safe operation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q: Where can I find general information about maintaining healthy business operations to minimize the chance of COVID-19 transmission among employees?
A: CDC Interim Guidance to Businesses and Employers or Iowa Department of Public Health: Information for Business & Organizations or Linn County Public Health -- Community Resources 


Q: What safety precautions does OSHA require that employers follow in order to protect employees from the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: The OSHA COVID-19 Standards website contains guidance.


If OSHA is notified that our facility has not been following safety practices:


Q: Are there fines, required closure and sanitation or other consequences for not following OSHA’s COVID-19 guidelines?
A: OSHA’s enforcement policies are focused on helping employers focus their response efforts on implementing good hygiene practices in their workplaces, and otherwise mitigating COVID-19’s effects, rather than on making difficult work-relatedness decisions in circumstances where there is community transmission. (source:OSHA COVID-19 Enforcement Guidance)

Q: Will our facility be audited if an employee files a complaint with OSHA regarding COVID-19 safety guidelines?
A: Please see the following guidelines that have been outlined by the United States Department of Labor regarding OSHA’s role in investigating these concerns.
I have employees that would be classified as "high-risk", how can I best support them and keep them safe?
The CDC has backgrounding information regarding extra precautions people at higher risk of infection can take to protect themselves from COVID-19.  The Society for Human Resource Management has released an article on how employers can support higher risk employees in the workplace
I want to ensure that our business has clear guidance for our employees about common areas (ex. break rooms and hallways). Where can I find guidance for my employees?

Workplace COVID-19 Screening and Employee Testing

What guidance is available for small businesses and their employees to prepare to reopen while mitigating the effects of COVID-19?
The CDC has released the information to help businesses prepare to mitigate the effects of COVID-19.
I reopened and have become aware of an employee(s) who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are presenting symptoms.
Q: What constitutes an outbreak?
A: Outbreaks are defined by the Iowa Department of Public Health as greater than 10% of employees ill with COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, difficulty breathing, or other respiratory symptoms).

Our business meets the definition of an outbreak:

Q: Who do I report this to, and what documentation do I need to maintain?
A: Please work with the Iowa Department of Public Health when 10% or greater of your employees are reporting COVID-19 symptoms (including fever, cough, sore throat, difficulty breathing, or any other respiratory symptom). Business can report an outbreak to the Iowa Department of Public Health via an online survey.

Q: What is a strike team?
A: Strike teams are made up of nurses and are deployed to communities where virus activity is high. Their job is to conduct surveillance testing among employees that work in long-term care facilities or manufacturing facilities.

Q: Under what conditions will the state send a testing “strike team” to my facility to facilitate rapid screening?
A: On May 5, 2020 during the Governor’s press conference. Governor Reynolds called on counties to partner with IDPH when they feel surveillance testing might be needed.

Q: If my business qualifies, what does this process look like?
A: Please contact Linn County Public Health at 319-892-6050 or health@linncounty.org. Linn County Public Health can work with your organization to respond to a potential outbreak.

Q: Where can I find information about companies that provide cleaning and disinfecting services?
A: The Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) at Iowa State University has assembled a list of industrial cleaning service providers.

CIRAS has also assembled the following resources to help protect businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Q: What is contact tracing?
A: The CDC has provided guidance including an explanation of what contact tracing involves on their website. Can/should we do contact tracing? To be done effectively, it requires people with the training, supervision, and access to social and medical support for patients and contacts, as a result it is best to partner with Linn County Public Health for more information on how contact tracing is being done locally.

Q: Is there guidance for this?
A: The CDC released information on contact tracing, but to ensure contract tracing is done correctly and that your company is best protected, please connect with Linn County Public Health with questions about contact tracing at 319-892-6050 or health@linncounty.org.



Our business has employees who have been exposed, but it is undetermined whether we have an outbreak or our exposures do not meet the definition of an outbreak.

Q: Can we get our employees tested?

A: All Iowans have been encouraged by the Governor’s office to answer a few questions to determine your current risk and provide the Iowa Department of Public Health and government leaders insight into our collective health using www.testiowa.com. The Governor’s office is deploying teams to set up testing locations across the state, if you qualify for testing after answering questions about your current risk, you will be directed to schedule an appointment at one of these locations. Employees can access testing via this site or by contacting their healthcare provider.

Q: What are the standard criteria for testing currently being adhered to by healthcare organizations in Iowa?
A: The CDC has provided guidance on evaluating who should be tested for COVID-19.

Q: What is the process for our employees to receive testing, and what are the proper protocols relating to testing?
A: An individual can use www.testiowa.com to help them identify if they qualify for testing through the state’s initiative. Individuals may also be able to access testing through their healthcare provider. The protocols for testing can be found through the CDC’s testing for COVID-19 resource page. Additional information about testing protocols used by healthcare workers is also available.

Q: If individuals are not presenting symptoms, but have been exposed, can we require them to work or should we require all exposed individuals to self-isolate?
A: The CDC has recommendations for employers on this topic.

Q: As an employer, are there private laboratories that provide testing on a fee for service basis, which would allow me to expedite the testing process? 
A: Private labs are working with federal, state and local governments to assist in testing efforts. If businesses have questions about whether they can access tests privately, a couple of good places to start are: LabCorp or Quest Diagnostics.



Q: I want to make sure that we are reporting information when we learn of COVID-19 positive tests and possible exposures, but have concerns about maintaining medical confidentiality. What guidance is available to address this concern?

A: During the COVID-19 public health emergency, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has provided guidance to help explain the HIPAA Privacy Rule allows patient information to be shared in the outbreak of infectious disease and to assist patients in receiving the care they need.

State and Regional Workforce System Resources

Is there required labor information that I must post resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic?
Yes. Please access this required posting here
I plan to reopen, but have concerns about how that will impact my employees receiving unemployment benefits.
Q:  If I can only offer part-time hours, is there a program that will off-set the wages for the hours I can offer?
A: Yes. The Voluntary Shared Work Program available through Iowa Workforce Development helps employers to offset the cost of wages for an employee if there is a reduction in hours.

If an employee refuses to return to work:

Q: What conditions should I consider? 
A: The following conditions are protections under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and should be considered when an employee refuses to return to work:

Under the FFCRA, an employee qualifies for paid sick time if the employee is unable to work (or unable to telework) due to a need for leave because the employee:
  1. Is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  2. Has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;
  3. Is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  4. Is caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2);
  5. Is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19; or
  6. Is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Treasury.

Under the FFCRA, an employee qualifies for expanded family leave if the employee is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19.

Q: What protections do employees have resulting from COVID-19 legislation? 
A: A complete listing of COVID-19 related labor provisions available for Iowa’s workers is available through Iowa Workforce Development. 

Additional information can also be found via the Department of Labor’s FFCRA page.


Q: What process do I follow if an employee refuses to return to work and does not meet the protected conditions? 
A: Please report job declines to Iowa Workforce Development by using the following online form.

Q:  What do I do if an employee is classified as a voluntary quit and I get notification that they have filed for unemployment?
A: When an individual files a claim, Iowa Workforce Development will notify their most recent employer. If it is determined that an individual voluntarily quit without good cause, they are not eligible for benefits. This information can be found through Iowa Workforce Development’s Unemployment Insurance FAQ.

COVID-19 and Business Travel

My company has multiple locations, clients within and outside of the state or requires employees to travel.
The CDC has created a resource to help inform travelers and provide recommendations.

Q: Are there restrictions around travel within Iowa?
A: For up-to-date travel Iowa information please visit Travel Iowa.

Q: Are there restrictions around travel within the United States?
A: See CDC guidance on this topic which presents a summary of travel safeguards and encourages travelers to look at state and local public health websites if they must travel.

Q: What are the current international travel bans?
A: The United States Department of State - Bureau of Consular Affairs has provided the follow up-to-date site regarding international travel. A complete listing of international travel restrictions can be found here.

Q: Are there precautions that we should take if an employee has traveled (i.e. restricting the employee from returning to work for a period of time)?
A: This information can be found on the CDC Travelers FAQ. Additionally the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) published an article on March 5, 2020 that contains considerations for employers to consider regarding travel. This information can be found here.
How can I travel safely and continue to respect the travel restrictions that other states may be enforcing?
The CDC recommends checking with the state or local authorities where you are, along your route, and at your planned destination to learn about local circumstances and any restrictions that may be in place. The CDC has created a directory with this information that can be accessed here.

Information for Human Resource Managers

I would like guidance on how the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) will impact my business.

Q: What additional protections are outlined in this legislation?
A: An outline of the employee protections covered in the FFCRA can be found here.


Q: How is EFMLEA different from FMLA? 

A: The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) requires that certain employers provide up to 10 weeks of paid, and 2 weeks unpaid, emergency family and medical leave to eligible employees if the employee is caring for his or her son or daughter whose school or place of care is closed or whose child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

 

What protections does an employee have under EFMLEA if they:

 
Q: Contracted COVID-19 and are receiving care?
A: Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a healthcare provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis.

Q: Are caring for a family member who has contracted COVID-19?
A: Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider.

Q: Are unable to access childcare due to COVID-19 related closings?
A: Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

Q: Are a part-time employee or employee that does not qualify for standard benefits?
A: The Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) provides part time employees the equivalent hours of two weeks’ paid leave. EFMLEA provides part time employees with up to 12 weeks of leave to care for a son or daughter whose school or place of care has been closed or whose child care provider is unavailable due to COVID 19 paid at 2/3 the employee’s regular rate of pay. 

What is Leave as a reasonable accommodation?
Leave as a reasonable accommodation includes the right to return to the employee's original position.

Q: In lieu of leave, are there some best practices or recommendations when considering making reasonable accommodations? 
A: Yes. The EEOC has assembled a resource for employers exploring reasonable accommodations for their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What resources are available to support employees that may need help with their mental health during this time?
The CDC has assembled two resources that employers can provide to their employees to support their mental health:



These resources include a link to distress services provided through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Guidance for Reopening Your Building

What should I know about water quality if my building has been closed for an extended period of time?

While Coronavirus has not been proven to be transmitted through water systems, due to efforts to stop the spread of COVID19, the extended closures and low occupancy in many businesses and buildings may have compromised the quality of water within these structures. Reentering and using water within these businesses will require some steps to restore normal high water quality. During periods of stagnation and low use, water and moist environments can naturally promote bacterial growth, creating potential health risks.

Points susceptible to bacterial growth:

  • Faucets, aerators and shower heads
  • Drinking water fountains/coolers
  • Water filter systems
  • Ice Machines
  • Hot water heaters
  • Eye wash stations
  • Hot tubs/Saunas

A systematic approach to restore quality water and reduce risk can be accomplished in a few steps. Contact an experienced contractor if you need assistance in proper flushing, draining and refilling hot water heaters, or for maintaining ice machines. Follow all instructions provided with whole house, premise, and point of use filtering systems:

  1. Remove whole house, premise, and point of use filter cartridges. Replace with new.
  2. Remove aerators and screens from the end of water faucets and clean with a weak bleach solution such as 10% bleach in water. Soaking the aerator/screens and o rings in the weak bleach solution for a minute will be sufficient.
  3. Flush cold water for 2-5 minutes at each point of use.
  4. Replace aerators and screens.

Additional resources can be found at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/building-water-system.html

What should I know about the dangers of mold?

The temporary shutdown or reduced operation of a building and reductions in normal water use can create hazards for returning occupants. One hazard is mold, where a “prolonged period” may be days, weeks, or months depending upon building-specific factors, season, and weather variables.

Mold will grow on building materials where there is moisture, produced from leaks or condensation from roofs, windows, or pipes, near fixtures where water stands, or from a flood. Mold can grow on a variety of surfaces, such as ceiling tiles, wallpaper, insulation, drywall, carpet, and fabric. People with asthma and other respiratory conditions and those with mold allergy or weakened immune systems should avoid buildings suspected or confirmed to have mold contamination. Ensure that your building does not have mold after a prolonged shutdown to maintain a safe working environment for returning occupants.

Find steps to minimize mold risk from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. [Source: CDC]

What should I know about the dangers of Legionella?

The temporary shutdown or reduced operation of a building and reductions in normal water use can create hazards for returning occupants. One hazard is Legionella, where a “prolonged period” may be weeks or months depending on plumbing-specific factors, disinfectant residuals, water heater temperature set points, water usage patterns, and preexisting Legionella colonization.

Stagnant or standing water in a plumbing system can increase the risk for growth and spread of Legionella and other biofilm-associated bacteria. When water is stagnant, hot water temperatures can decrease to the Legionella growth range (77–108°F, 25–42°C). Stagnant water can also lead to low or undetectable levels of protective disinfectants, such as chlorine, which are meant to guard against bacterial growth. Ensure that your water system is safe to use after a prolonged shutdown to minimize the risk of Legionnaires’ disease and other diseases associated with water by following these steps:

  1. Remove whole house, premise, and point of use filter cartridges. Replace with new.
  2. Remove aerators and screens from the end of water faucets and clean with a weak bleach solution such as 10% bleach in water. Soaking the aerator/screens and o rings in the weak bleach solution for a minute will be sufficient.
  3. Flush cold water for 2-5 minutes at each point of use.
  4. Replace aerators and screens.

Find more from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. [Source: CDC]

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