Weekly Digest – August 11 2021
What sets the Delta variant apart from other strains of the COVID-19 coronavirus is the amount of virus produced by those infected, a measure called viral load. One recent study found that people with the Delta variant had viral loads up to 1,260 times as high as the original strain. Higher viral loads make the Delta variant more transmissible and can also make infected people sicker. However, the CDC has also found that vaccines protect people from serious illness, hospitalizations, and death.
THE AMERICAN RECOVERY PLAN ACT (ARPA)
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
Last week, the SBA opened a portal that allows businesses to apply for forgiveness of PPP loans of $150,000 or less directly. Lenders must agree to use the portal, or this simplified option won’t work for the borrower. While about 900 lenders have so far signed on, the big banks are opting out. Some lenders prefer to stick with their own forgiveness processes because they don’t want to confuse borrowers. The SBA’s poor track record with technology and buggy portals is making other lenders cautious. However, some lenders are enthusiastic about the time they will be able to save by turning the process over to the SBA.
Monthly Child Tax Credit Payments
As a reminder, if you want to opt out of future payments, you must use the IRS portal for the advance Child Tax Credit 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.
At present, the portal only allows taxpayers to verify enrollment status, update banking information and to unenroll from payments. For more information, taxpayers should consult the IRS webpage for this credit.
REOPENING THE OFFICE
Many companies were confident that returning to the office in September would be the ideal timeframe. However, the resurgence of COVID-19, and especially the Delta variant, has them questioning those plans. Wells Fargo has already pushed its reopening date to October, and many other large corporations, including Amazon and Lyft, do not plan to bring people back until sometime in 2022. Some companies, such as Bank of America, are requesting that employees wear masks when not at their desks. Health advisory consultants are advising companies to reinstate the plexiglass barriers and wellness checks they used earlier in the pandemic.
Besides concerns about the Delta variant, one in three employees said that returning to the office had a negative impact on their mental health. That’s according a McKinsey survey performed in June. Nearly half of workers who were remote but scheduled to return anticipated a negative impact on their mental health, a challenge that employers will have to address when – and if – employees eventually do return. The biggest concerns of workers are their physical health and safety and losing the sense of autonomy they had when they worked remotely. Adding safety protocols such as regular COVID-19 testing, social distancing and mask wearing can help with the physical health concerns, while creating flexible and hybrid work options can help with the mental health concerns. Managers who opt in to a flexible work option and who model a better work-life balance can help employees feel more comfortable in their choices.
The pandemic has made many question the tradition of a five-day, 40-hour work week, and some companies are experimenting with offering their teams a four-day work week for the same pay as a way to ease employee burnout. While shorter work weeks have been contemplated in the U.S. since at least 1933, experiments in the U.S. and around the world have had uneven results. Some companies find that coordinating meetings and days off led to extra stress, while others have found an increase to productivity and employee well-being. Hourly workers may not be able to make ends meet with shorter hours. Some sectors, such as finance and law, have a culture of working late nights and weekends, so a shorter workweek may be a hard sell.
If you do need to return to the office, that might mean adjusting to getting up earlier in the morning. Here are some tips for getting your sleep schedule back on track. For example, establish regular and consistent times to go to bed and to wake up. Another suggestion is developing a regular exercise routine to help with insomnia.
July’s jobs report from the Labor Department showed hiring rising faster than any time since August 2020. While economists had been hoping for 845,000 new jobs, nonfarm payrolls rose by 934,000 during July, with unemployment dropping to 5.4%. Average hourly earnings also rose by 0.4% for the month, although those gains are uneven across industries. The leisure and hospitality sector, which has been hard hit by the pandemic, led in job creation by adding 380,000 positions. However, there seem to still be more jobs than job seekers: job placement site Indeed estimates there are 9.8 million job openings, but there are only 8.7 million considered unemployed.
A new moratorium on evictions from the CDC is aimed at hard-hit areas in an effort to buy more time for states and local areas to distribute $47 billion in rental assistance. Many landlords and tenants are not aware that funding is available. Tenants are being disqualified for problems completing their applications, and some landlords say the money has too many strings attached.
To attract workers, many companies are offering new hires higher wages. However, those higher wages for new employees can be nearly the same as the wages paid to long-term employees, also known as job compression. Overall, job-switchers are receiving a 5.8% pay increase while those who have been in the same job are only gaining 3.1% in pay over the last year. This disparity is prompting many companies to study compensation across their organizations and to develop new compensation models that reward long-time employees for remaining loyal.
- 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!