Earth Day 2020
Wednesday was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. With large gatherings banned in most places, organizers brought it online this year for the first time as a 72-hour livestream.
Most of us are tired of sheltering in place by now, but one unexpected benefit has been the chance to see how quickly the planet can heal itself when we give it a rest. Air pollution is down in cities from Beijing to Los Angeles, ducks and cormorants have returned to Venice’s canals (but no dolphins – that was a hoax) – and we’re even seeing more wildlife in big cities, where the absence of people is an open invitation for nature to return. Have you seen the footage of monkeys in the streets of Thailand, or pigs strolling in Paris and Barcelona? Look them up – it’s a great pick-me-up for the quarantine blues.
In the meantime, much of the country continues to work remotely, including all of us at Marcum. One of the things keeping us busy is maintaining our Coronavirus Resource Center, which contains an extensive and growing archive of tax and other regulatory updates as well as industry-specific analysis that you may find useful. And it seems to get updated on an hourly basis. We also continue to offer a robust program of webinars to help you understand the changes and opportunities available to you. I encourage you to visit our resource center daily to stay abreast of critical information.
The big news this week was that the House voted yesterday to approve a $484 billion coronavirus aid package that looks like it will include $310 billion for additional Paycheck Protection Program loans to small businesses – and sets aside an additional $60 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. As of this writing, it was being sent to President Trump to be signed into law. So if you missed it the first time, get your application in now, before the money runs out again.
Notably, $60 billion of the PPP money will go to community-based lenders, smaller banks and credit unions to aid smaller businesses that don’t have relationships with big banks. Many small businesses got squeezed out of the first round of loans and are in serious distress at this point.
It’s a shame that so many businesses have had to sweat it out, hoping for an additional round of funding. Hopefully, the new funds will be flowing soon. They were originally told that the EIDL money would come within three days, a promise the SBA backpedaled on. Then when it came time to apply for the PPP, many banks weren’t ready. Only a small percentage of the businesses that applied have gotten their funds.
Missing that lifeline could be devastating for many small businesses. I know all too well the strains and stresses of being a small business and remember how hard it was. Marcum had just 20 people and 1 office when I became managing partner in 1990. I know exactly what it’s like to have a big vision and to put everything you’ve got into building your business. I hate to hear about small businesses hanging on by their fingernails or, worse, closing their doors permanently. And when we hear from clients who are struggling under the mounting financial pressure of this pandemic, I feel it personally.
Fortunately, we are seeing signs that the number of COVID-19-related deaths in hospitals has been stabilizing and in fact declining in many areas, and some states are starting to talk about re-opening (although how wise or realistic that is at this stage remains to be seen). And the FDA just approved an at-home coronavirus test that could be critical to slowing the spread of the virus and getting people back to work. Hopefully, this will turn out to be the beginning of the end for this crisis.
But it’s not over yet. Much as we all wish life would return to some semblance of normal (remember what that was like?), we just announced to our team that, in an abundance of caution, we won’t be reopening most of our offices until May 26, the Tuesday after Memorial Day. It’s possible we’ll open some offices sooner if local laws and health agencies allow it, but those decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.
Speaking of which, stay safe and stay healthy! We are all in this together.