Our small business clients and community partners are feeding us their most urgent questions at surveymonkey.com/r/NorthCoastBizCOVID19 Keep them coming and keep an eye on northcoastsbdc.org/covid19 for frequent updates. 


  1. What is an “Essential Business” during the Shelter in Place order?
  2. SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans
  3. What do I need to know about the “Paycheck Protection Program”(PPP)?
  4. How do I get my PPP loan forgiven?
  5. Can I apply for both a EIDL and a PPP loan?
  6. How to keep my employees safe?
  7. How to keep my food manufacturing business customers safe?
  8. How to keep my office, retail, and food service business customers safe?
  9. When should I send an employee home?
  10. When should I close?
  11. What do I do if I have to lay off employees or close?
  12. Employee Sick Leave
  13. Paid Family Leave
  14. Unemployment Insurance
  15. Temporary Disability Insurance
  16. I’m Self-Employed – Is there help for me?
  17. State Income Tax Extension
  18. State Payroll Tax Extension
  19. Protection for commercial renters who can’t pay

What counts as an “Essential Business” during the Shelter in Place order?

All businesses, essential or otherwise, are instructed to follow social distancing and safety recommendations as outlined in their county’s Shelter in Place order.

Humboldt businesses: To figure out if yours is an “essential business” take a look at Section 9 h of the shelter-in-place order issued by Humboldt’s Department of Public Health. If your type of business is not specifically addressed in the order, or if the language is unclear, please use your best judgement and self-adhere to the order until more information or guidance is provided to the public. In Humboldt County you can also call the Office of Emergency Services business services hotline to see if they can clarify.

FAQ on the Paycheck Protection Program Loans

Deadlines: Lenders can start accepting applications from small business owners and sole proprietors on Friday, April 3, 2020, and from independent contractors and self-employed individuals on April 10. The application deadline is June 30, 2020, but we urge businesses to apply asap since the program is currently capped at $349 billion

Please also download this fact sheet from the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship answering questions like: 

  • Where can I apply for the Paycheck Protection Program?
  • Who is eligible for the loan?
  • I am an independent contractor or gig economy worker, am I eligible?
  • What is the maximum amount I can borrow? What is the covered period of the loan?
  • How can I use the money such that the loan will be forgiven? When is the loan forgiven? Am I responsible for interest on the forgiven loan amount?
  • What are the interest rate and terms for the loan amount that is not forgiven?
  • When is the application deadline for the Paycheck Protection Program?

If the PPP Loan is forgiveable as long as I keep employees on payroll. What does that mean?

Payroll, mortgage interest, rent and utilities covered by a PPP loan will be forgiven, as long as (a) 75% of that comprises payroll, and (b) the full-time headcount and payroll stay the same as they were on average between February 15, 2019 and June 30,2019 (or January 1, 2020 to February 15, 2020 if you launched your business just this year). Businesses that have already let employees go or cut salaries have until June 30, 2020 to rehire or reinstate salaries.

Can you apply for both federal COVID-19 loan programs: Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)?

  • You may apply to both programs but you may not not take out an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for the same purposes.
  • If you took advantage of an emergency EIDL advance of up to $10,000 for payroll protection, that amount would be subtracted from the amount forgiven under PPP.
  • If you received a COVID-19 related EIDL between January 31, 2020 and the date at which your PPP loan becomes available, you would be able to refinance the EIDL into the PPP for loan forgiveness purposes.

Sources: Norcal SBDC EIDL v PPP comparison & US Chamber of Commerce Fact Sheet

How can I keep my employees safe?

These three web pages have the most up to date and pertinent information:

How can I keep my food manufacturing business customers safe?

The FDA reported on 2/27/2020 that there is no evidence COVID-19 can be transmitted via food or food packaging as of this alert, so the advice is just to have your team follow standard food and personal hygiene and manufacturing facility food safety protocols. See the food supply chain update from CDPH.

How can I keep my public office, retail, and food service business safe?

The latest direction from CA Gov. Gavin Newsom is for bars, wineries, and pubs is to close. Restaurants are asked to reduce capacity to ensure customers sit at tables at least six feet apart and to offer curbside take out service instead if possible. 

For brick and mortar businesses who can’t deliver services virtually, The Department of Industrial Relations has compiled some very useful guidelines.

Local North Coast businesses have started following some of these following the extra hygiene protocols for public spaces

  1. the usual touching, sneezing/coughing protocols
  2. requiring hourly handwashing for employees who work with the public
  3. scheduling multiple daily disinfectant wipe-downs of door handles, faucet handles, front counters, and other areas subject to frequent touching or droplets from coughs and sneezes
  4. providing kleenex, hand sanitizer, and open (no-touch) trash cans in public areas
  5. requiring employees to bring their own cups, dishware, and silverware or use disposable materials instead of communal kitchen items
  6. using work sharing/flex work and self-isolation protocols to make sure employees remain at least six feet away from each other and from customers 
  7. sending sick workers with any respiratory illess symptoms home until they’re fully recovered
  8. instituting a policy that requires employees in vulnerable groups to stay home
  9. instituting a policy that asks any employee returning from international travel self-quarantine for 14 days

When should I send an employee home?

Business owners who are able to run a business with virtual workers are encouraged to do so. If the employee is showing signs of a respiratory infection or is a member of a group most vulnerable to COVID-19 typical guidance is to send them home until the symptoms pass or the disaster declaration is repealed. See below for the support (sick leave, unemployment insurance, temporary disability) that might be available to help your employee get by. 

Some businesses are reducing employee or opening hours now because sales have dropped so far and so fast that they’re not able to keep up with operating expenses. If that’s you, reach out to layoffhelp@northcoastsbdc.org so we can help you figure out how to support your employees and connect you to a business advisor if applying for a SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan makes sense. And remember--there are rules about how many hours you must pay an employee if they show up to work and are sent home.

When should I close?

Again, unless there is a directive from the federal or state government (check here at the CDPH COVID-19 web page), it’s up to you. Some businesses are closing now because sales have dropped so far and so fast that they’re not able to keep up with operating expenses. If that’s you, reach out to layoffhelp@northcoastsbdc.org so we can help you figure out how to support your employees and connect you to a business advisor if applying for a SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan makes sense. 

What if I have to lay off employees or close?

Employers who have been affected by COVID-19 but want to avoid permanent layoffs might consider the Unemployment Insurance Work Sharing Program. This program allows you to retain your workers by reducing their hours and wages no more than 60 percent and partially offsetting the wage loss with UI benefits. More information at the EDD web site here.

Employers planning a definite closure or layoffs can get help through the Humboldt County Layoff Management & Rapid Response program. A Rapid Response team member will meet with you to discuss your needs, help avert potential layoffs if possible, provide you with information for your employees, and coordinate an event to assist workers facing job losses who need help understanding their options. Email layoffhelp@northcoastsbdc.org or call (707) 445-9720 x210 Anything you share with SBDC is kept strictly confidential unless you give us written permission to share it.

Employee Sick Leave

If your employee has paid sick leave the law requires that they can choose to use it for illness, diagnosis, care, or treatment; preventive care for themselves or a family member–including self-quarantine after possible exposure to COVID-19. Review this helpful guidance on the Department of Industrial Relations COVID FAQ page.

Paid Family Leave

Employees who are unable to work because they are caring for an ill or quarantined family member with COVID-19 (certified by a medical professional) can file a Paid Family Leave (PFL) claim. This provides up to six weeks of benefit payments to eligible workers who have a full or partial loss of wages because they need time off work to care for a seriously ill family member or to care for a child home from school due to COVID-19 related closure. Benefit amounts are approximately 60-70 percent of wages (depending on income) and range from $50-$1,300 a week. Learn more at the Employment Development Department COVID-19 home page

Unemployment Insurance

If the COVID-19 pandemic forces you to shut down or reduce operating hours, your employees may become eligible for unemployment insurance. The same is true if your employee’s children’s school is closed and they have no other option but to stay home to provide child care. If you plan to reopen when you can, your temporarily unemployed workers are not required to actively seek work each week. The state has also waived the one-week unpaid waiting period, but your eligible laid off employees may still have to wait a few weeks before receiving payment on their first claim. Learn more at the Employment Development Department COVID-19 home page.

Temporary Disability Insurance

Employees who are unable to work due to having or being exposed to COVID-19 (certified by a medical professional) can file a Disability Insurance claim. This provides eligible workers who have full or partial loss of wages due to a non-work-related illness, injury, or pregnancy. Benefit amounts are approximately 60-70 percent of wages (depending on income) and range from $50 – $1,300 a week. Note: the one-week unpaid waiting period has been waived, so employees can collect DI benefits for the first week they are out of work. But: the EDD processes and issues payments within a few weeks of receiving a claim, so the employee may still face a period of time without cash coming in. Learn more at the Employment Development Department COVID-19 home page.

I’m Self-Employed – Is there help for me?

Yes, if you signed up for the state’s optional Disability Insurance Elective Coverage (DIEC) program for self-employed individuals who want to be covered by Disability Insurance and Paid Family Leave? Learn about from the EDD about that. If not, this may be a good time to explore state benefits. We have asked County and City officials if more local resources will be freed up, too.

State Income Tax Extension

California business and individual tax filers affected by COVID-19 now have an extra 60-90 days to file and pay state income taxes. Learn more here and below:

  • Partnerships and LLCs who are taxed as partnerships whose tax returns are due on March 15 now have a 90-day extension to file and pay by June 15.
  • Individual filers whose tax returns are due on April 15 now have a 60-day extension to file and pay by June 15.
  • Quarterly estimated tax payments due on April 15 now have a 60-day extension to pay by June 15.
  • The FTB’s June 15 extended due date may be pushed back even further if the Internal Revenue Service grants a longer relief period.
  • Taxpayers claiming the special COVID-19 relief should write the name of the state of emergency (for example, COVID-19) in black ink at the top of the tax return to alert FTB of the special extension period. If taxpayers are e-filing, they should follow the software instructions to enter disaster information.

State Payroll Tax Extension

Employers directly affected by COVID-19 may request up to a 60-day extension to file their state payroll reports and/or deposit payroll taxes without penalty or interest. A written request for extension must be received within 60 days from the original delinquent date of the payment or return. More on the EDD web site here.

I am a small business owner who can’t pay my commercial rent. What are my options?

Per GO-Biz (Governor’s Office of Small Business Development): “Is there any relief for small business owners who pay rent for their space but have had to close due to the coronavirus? ANSWER: Governor Newsom’s March 16th executive order suspends all state laws that would prevent local governments from enacting policies to protect you as a resident or business owner from eviction because of nonpayment of rent due to COVID-19. As a resident or business owner, a financial institution holding your home or commercial mortgage is requested to implement an immediate moratorium on a foreclosure involving you, when the foreclosure or foreclosure-related eviction arises from economic hardship caused by COVID-19 conditions. In order to protect renters, homeowners and commercial tenants during this pandemic, Governor Newsom’s executive order has removed state-law limitations on local governments to halt evictions in the midst of the outbreak.”

Other Questions

We’re working hard and fast to answer questions as they come in to surveymonkey.com/r/NorthCoastBizCOVID19. Questions like these…

  • How to best handle remote work?
  • How to help other businesses?
  • How I will be able to continue paying rent, payroll etc when sales decline?
  • I’m not able to restock some of my merchandise due to other countries’ shut down – what do I do?
  • How do I increase my customer base and sales to keep money flowing into my business?
  • What is appropriate messaging to relay to the community about safety?
  • How do we stay open and generate revenue when everyone is being told to avoid public places?
  • At what point would it be necessary to close my office or retail store and stop providing services?
  • What would make it necessary to shut down my food manufacturing facility?
  • What do I do if we’re forced to close? My employees will be out of work and my clients/customers will not make payments?
  • How long should employees stay home if they show symptoms of a cold or flu?
  • How can employees receive sick pay beyond the 3 days mandated by the state?