New Stimulus Bill….What’s in it for Me?

Here’s What Is in The New Stimulus Bill

On Monday, December 21, 2020, the Senate approved a massive emergency economic relief package, government funding, and tax cuts designed to counter the effects of the pandemic and stimulate economic growth. The legislation, introduced as a 5,593-page bill, was passed with a 92 to 6 vote following weeks of intense negotiations.

Efforts to pass economic relief measures in the weeks leading to the presidential election had failed despite numerous attempts. But after the election, a bipartisan group of lawmakers teamed up and successfully negotiated for action to spur economic activity by helping businesses and consumers.

Why was the 5,593-page bill passed?

The spike in COVID cases across the country and strong concern that the economy is weakening informed the need for the federal government to intervene — cushioning households and jump-starting the economy. Nearly a year after the first case of Coronavirus was reported, government-mandated restrictions are still in place across the country. Congress is upbeat that the stimulus bill will protect jobs, businesses, households, and livelihoods.

Just hours after the bill was sent to the White House, the President asked Congress to amend the current bill to afford a greater distribution to qualified Americans.

What is inside the $900 billion stimulus package?

As of now, the $900 billion economic relief stimulus includes:

  • $600 direct payments for qualifying adults and children
  • Economic assistance for struggling small businesses, including more than $284 billion for forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans and $15 billion for theaters, cultural institutions, and other venues
  • $300 per week for enhanced Unemployment Insurance benefits
  • $25 billion for rental assistance and an eviction moratorium extension
  • $82 billion for schools and colleges
  • $10 billion to help with childcare assistance
  • $13 billion in increased food assistance and child nutrition benefits
  • $7 billion to bolster broadband access across the country
  • Support for coronavirus vaccine distribution, testing and contract tracing efforts
  • A tax credit “to support employers offering paid sick leave”

The bill extends aid to millions of households and businesses hammered by COVID. The aid is given through stimulus checks, enhanced federal unemployment benefits, and money for small businesses, childcare, and schools. It also covers the funding for free vaccination that will be distributed across states. Additionally, the package will repurpose $429 billion in unused funding provided by the Cares Act for Emergency lending programs run by the Federal Reserve.

Let’s look at the key details of the bill:

Stimulus check

  • The legislation provides a $600 stimulus check for each qualifying American, including children and adults.
  • The size of payment reduces for persons who earned above $75,000 in the 2019 tax year. Anybody who earned above $99,000 in the 2019 tax year will not receive a stimulus check.

Jobless benefits

The legislation extends unemployment benefits of up to $300 per week.

  • The benefits could begin from December 27 and run until March 14.
  • The bill also extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance targeting part-time and gig workers who were left out of the state unemployment insurance benefits. However, applicants are now required to provide documentation that proves employment or self-employment within 21 days of applying for the benefits. Anybody extending their benefits before January 31 have 90 days to provide the documentation.

Relief for business

  • The bill provides over 284 billion for the first and second forgivable paycheck protection program loans. It also expands the PPP eligibility for non-profit organizations and news outlets
  • The bill provides $15 billion for the entertainment industry, including music clubs, cultural institutions, movie theatres, and entertainment venues
  • The package includes $20 billion targeted grants through the Economic Injury Disaster programs
  • The legislation provides a tax break for corporate meal expense

School funding

  • The bill extends aid to colleges and schools, which will receive $82 billion. A $22.7 billion will go to colleges and universities and $54.3 billion for elementary and secondary education.
  • The deal also provides a $10 billion package for childcare assistance.

Transportation

  • The bill provides $45 billion for transportation, including $16 billion for an extra round of airline employee and contractor payroll support.
  • Others are $14 billion for transit, $10 billion for highways, $2 billion for airports, and $1 billion for Amtrak.

More information will be coming on how our businesses can take advantage of the new stimulus package.

 

 

There’s a Pandemic Startup Surge

While some of us were learning to bake or binge-watching Netflix during quarantine, others, especially those who were away from their regular workplace, were doing something entirely different. The number of new businesses that opened during COVID-19 is, well, a start-up pandemic.

Here at the Petal Chamber, we are taking note of how new and existing businesses are taking advantage of the changing economic landscape to serve customers in new and unique ways.

Are you ready to go into business for yourself? If you are, you aren’t alone. The week of August 10th, over 111,000 applications to start a new business were filed, according to the US Census Bureau, with 113,000+ filed the week before. And while the economic climate now may not be a bad time to start your own business, there’s a big difference between vision and success.

We’ll give you some tips on how to start your new business off on the right foot – and we look forward to welcoming you into the Petal Chamber.

Vision Plus Experience Makes the Dream Work

Many small businesses start with a dream, a vision, and an understanding that there’s a niche to fill. Having a “big picture” concept of your business is essential to your purpose and helps shape your business plan (an essential document if you plan to apply for a Small Business Loan).

However, a successful start-up needs three kinds of personalities: Visionary, Expert, and Detail-Oriented.

Your vision for your company launches the blueprint for your purpose and goals. However, to get off the ground, you need the experience of someone who has actually done what you plan to do. They can give you practical advice on how to solve common problems as they come up and reference their own background in dealing with business growth and what their customer experience has been.

Finally, you need someone to mind the details. This is the person who may help balance your finances, spot little things that you miss, and make sure that your vision, plus the expert input, forms into a workable plan.

Watch Actions, Don’t Listen to Promises

When you hire someone for your start-up, it’s important they contribute to getting your business off the ground. You, as the founder and business owner, should be the visionary – and your team is there to help support the purpose of your business. When you set goals for your team, make sure that they follow through with what they say they’ll do, offering practical solutions for problems you encounter.

The advice from your expert should be practical and insightful. The assistance from your detail person should help you put it all together. A successful start-up doesn’t just start – it keeps going, and that’s why you need the expertise of someone who has managed or owned a business in the same field as yours. Your expert creates an action plan for you, and your detailed person puts it all together into a road map that you can all easily follow together.

Starting your own business is hard work, but for many, it’s also a labor of love. We’re all in this together, and at the Chamber, we understand the challenges and the triumphs of small businesses. Our mission is to support local businesses and our community economy whether you’re an online business, a brick-and-mortar, or a click-and-mortar hybrid.

 

Designing the first 15 feet of your store

They say that you only get one chance to make a first impression, and nowhere is that more important than in the retail industry. You’ll need to draw customers into your store from the moment they step foot inside, and this requires care and attention to detail when planning the entrance to your shop. Here’s what you’ll need to consider.

Cleanliness

Of course, you want to keep your entire store clean, but you should pay particular attention to the entrance. If prospective customers see dust and dirt when they first walk into your store, they’ll likely turn around and walk back out again. From their perspective, how can they expect you to offer quality wares when you can’t even care for your store? Dust the shelves and sweep or vacuum the floors daily, and clean any permanent fixtures, like lighting and ongoing displays, at least weekly. Depending on your location and the local weather conditions, you may need to clean more often.

Window Displays

Your store’s front windows are your most powerful tools for drawing in prospective customers. Aim to display your best offerings right at the front so that customers will want to come in to see more. When placing those products inside your store, though, you’ll want to place them near the back so that customers have to walk by all your other wares to find what they are looking for. This encourages impulse purchases, making it more likely that customers will buy more than just the single item they originally sought.

Product Placement

You’ll need to carefully consider the placement of the rest of your products as well. The front of your store should show off some of your most desirable items, but you don’t want the best things to be up front. Aim for a mix of popular items and those that don’t sell as frequently. By dispersing your best products throughout the store, you can guide customers through the aisles so that they’ll see as much as possible.

Be Prepared to Make Changes

Over time, you’ll likely discover that some products do better in particular areas of your store. Try to identify any patterns that emerge so that you can make adjustments to your displays as needed. Take note of customer feedback in this area as well. After all, it is your customers who matter most when it comes to making decisions about purchasing your products. Listen to what they are telling you.

Of course, none of this matters if you don’t offer the products your customers are looking to buy, so take care in choosing the products you offer. Look to strike a balance between quality and affordability. If you notice that the quality of the products from a particular supplier seems to be diminishing over time, it may be time to find a new supplier. Design your store to draw in customers in the first place, and keep up the quality of your products to keep those customers coming back again and again.

 

Find GREAT Gifts at our Local Salons

Buy Local Series

Gifts from salons are ideal for anyone who enjoys pampering themselves, but people don’t often think about stopping by the local salon when searching for the perfect gift. However, the variety of gifts available might surprise you. Learn more about what type of gifts salons offer to determine which of your loved ones would appreciate salon gifts the most.

Gift Certificates

Gift certificates are ideal because they allow the gift recipient to decide which service they want. So if possible, purchase a general gift certificate that can be used on all salon services. If a general gift certificate isn’t available, consider purchasing a gift card for select services. Many salons offer gift cards for facials, massages, and other spa services.

Hair Products

Does your loved one use specific hair products from the salon? Those typically can’t be found in just any store. So consider purchasing a variety of different hair products for your loved one, and then, put them in a gift basket.

Skincare and Beauty Products

Most people purchase their own skincare and beauty products because no one knows their skin like they do. However, many salons keep records that include specific products their customers purchase. So if you know that one of your loved ones enjoys shopping for skincare and beauty products at a nearby salon, consider asking the salon employees if they know which products you should purchase for a gift.

Candles and Scented Oils

Most salon services are centered around relaxation, so it’s not surprising that many salons sell a variety of candles, scented oils, and other supplies typically used for aromatherapy. The good thing about this type of product is that it isn’t as personal, so they can be used as gifts for people at work. If you’re purchasing aromatherapy products for a loved one, consider purchasing a gift card for spa services as well.

Most salons carry several different types of products, making it easier than you think to purchase a gift. As long as you consider the type of products your friend or loved one usually enjoys, selecting the right gift is easy.

Don’t Get Your Dental Floss in a Wad!

Whether you’ve recently relocated, you’re dissatisfied with the care you’ve received at your current dentist, or you’ve just never gotten around to finding one, choosing the right dentist can feel overwhelming. Before you get your floss in a wad, take a look at tips for choosing a great dentist.

Check Your Insurance

If you have dental insurance, then finding out which dentists are in your network should be your first order of business. Most insurance companies provide this information on their website. If you can’t locate this information, then a quick call to your provider will give you the information you need. This will narrow your search considerably, making it easier to quickly find a dentist.

Ask for Recommendations

Once you’ve narrowed your search, seek out recommendations. If you’re searching for a dentist because you’ve relocated, then your current dentist may be able to recommend a dentist that is near to Petal. If you know people in the area, then ask around; oftentimes, you’ll hear the names of one or two dentist offices that people have had consistently good experiences with.

Look at Treatments Offered

Some dentists also have training in orthodontics, while others specialize in oral and maxillofacial surgery. Other dentists have received extra training beyond dental school to provide pediatric care, and still others specialize in periodontics. Consider the unique needs that you and the members of your household have, and look for a dentist that offers the specialized care that you need.

Consider the Location and Office Hours

No matter how wonderful the dentist is, if they’re located 45 minutes away from your home or workplace, then keeping regular appointments will be a challenge. The same goes for office hours. If the dentist you choose is only open three days a week and their hours of operation are also the hours that you will be at work, then you’ll have a difficult time keeping regularly scheduled visits. Look for a dentist that is conveniently located and has office hours that will accommodate your busy schedule.

Personal Comfort

One of the primary things to consider when you choose a dentist is how comfortable you feel with that person. Do you feel free to talk about your symptoms and ask questions? Do you feel as though the dentist rushes through your check-ups rather than taking time to hear and understand your concerns? If you are receiving a procedure like a filling or a root canal, do you feel comfortable expressing your anxiety or asking for more pain medicine? While some discomfort with certain procedures may be inevitable, your dentist should provide attentive and empathetic care.

Choosing a dentist can feel like a daunting task, but by taking these things into consideration, you can pick one that will fit your needs and lifestyle.  Luckily, the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce has several dental clinics as members.  Not only are they great dentists, but they have also committed to making Petal a better place to live.  Out teeth are in good hands!

How the talent shortage affects your kids

The talent shortage is affecting businesses across a variety of industries. As our world has moved firmly into the digital age, more and more companies are looking to hire employees who have digital skills, including web design, digital marketing, social media, and more. However, many businesses are finding that there aren’t enough job applicants who possess the required skills, resulting in a talent shortage.

It is not that recent graduates aren’t getting quality educations, but rather that educational institutions have not yet incorporated the needs of today’s job market into their curricula. The end result is that there are numerous jobs available in the digital areas of business, but those applying for the jobs don’t have all of the skills required.

If you have children, of course, you want them to have the best possible chance of success in their future careers. Particularly in the digital space, it is essential not to rely solely on formal education to develop the skills needed to be successful in the modern business world. Until the world of education catches up with the rapid pace of growth in this area, students may need to take it upon themselves to learn these crucial skills.

Encourage your children to expand their knowledge outside of traditional outlets. The more experiences you can expose them to, the greater their chances of discovering where their passions lie. Take the time to sit down with each of your children individually to discuss their goals for the future. Then, you can advise them on which skills will be most desirable to employers.

Of course, finding employment is not the only goal of getting an education, but it will help your kids find a way to get paid for doing what they love. Encourage your kids to think outside the box in terms of career opportunities and courses of study. When your child finds what he or she is genuinely passionate about, you’ll know which avenues of education make the most sense and which areas may need to be studied independently.

Talent shortages are not uncommon in the business world and most often occur after rapid advances in technology and techniques. The current workforce must act quickly to adjust to the latest trends, and those just entering the industry are in the best position to make the most of the latest developments. Because they won’t be bogged down by the way things were done in the past, your children can focus on driving future development and growth.

If your grown children are struggling to find employment in today’s rapidly changing business environment, don’t let them get discouraged. With a bit of creativity and effort, they can find a suitable job that makes the most of their innate talents and personal passions. Taking some time to further their education with the most in-demand skills in today’s market is often a better choice than trying to force-fit themselves into a job that isn’t quite right. Although we may never be able to eliminate the skills gap, our children have the chance to minimize it as best they can.

What if Your Customer Has a Point After All?

Sometime back in the early seventies, I was getting in our family car in a Kmart parking lot when I looked down and found a badly weathered eight-track tape (ask your mom) on the ground next to the car. The tape was in bad shape but closer inspection revealed that it was The Turtles’ Greatest Hits album.

I didn’t mention the find to my mom, because she would have made me report my find to a Kmart sales associate. “Uh, hello. I want to turn in a badly mangled eight-track tape that I found in your parking lot. Do I get a reward or anything?”

At the time, I had no idea who The Turtles were, but it was a free rock ’n’ roll album so I wasn’t going to be picky. When we got home, I begged my mom to let me sit in the car and play the tape on the car stereo, and guess what? I found that I actually liked two or three cuts on it, including the song that was written out of sheer spite.

There is hardly anything musicians hate more than getting notes from the suits, telling them how to make their music. Just after the Beatles’ huge hit, Eleanor Rigby, The Turtles received such a note from their label that said something like, “How about you guys writing something that makes lots of money like Eleanor Rigby?” If there’s anything musicians dislike more than being told what to do by record labels, it’s being compared to (who they believe to be) the competition.

The members of The Turtles were incensed. How dare those business people dictate how the band expressed themselves musically! Why didn’t they stick to running the business end of things and let them handle all the music stuff?

So, to make their point, they conceived an ingenious plan. They would outwardly comply with their label, while giving them the worst Eleanor-like song they could compose. The result was a song titled Elenore in which they included sappy, ridiculous lyrics like,
“I really think you’re groovy.
Let’s go out to a movie.”
Laughing in their sleeves because they had pulled one over on the record company, they recorded the silly song and presented it to their label.

Fortunately, the folks at the record company didn’t get the joke. In fact, they loved the song and released it for airplay. Elenore became one of the Turtles all-time biggest hits.

While you’re digesting that, chew on this for a minute. In 1853, Chef George Crum was attempting to satisfy the complaint of a cranky diner. The restaurant patron kept demanding that the potatoes he had ordered be sliced thinner and thinner. Finally, an exasperated Chef Crum sliced the potatoes as thin as possible, fried them, and sent them out to the diner to make his point.

The diner loved the chef’s sarcastic invention, and a new snack food was invented.

But what do potato chips and a song by a rock ’n’ roll band you probably haven’t heard of (or didn’t remember) have in common?

They both were phenomenal successes produced in response to annoying customer suggestions. Yes, they were produced in spite, but get this: it turned out that the customer was right after all. Sometimes, it pays to listen to the customer even when we are sure they are dead wrong.

The question we need to ask ourselves is: what if? What if we listened to input we receive from those we don’t like? What if we opened ourselves up to the innovation that comes from hearing other people out?

It might be the thing that propels your career, business, or relationships forward is the very thing that you least want to hear.

© 2020 Charles Marshall. Charles Marshall is a nationally known humorous motivational speaker and author. Visit his Web site www.CharlesMarshallSpeaker.com or contact him via e-mail at Charles@CharlesMarshallSpeaker.com

Should you lower prices now?

The impact of COVID-19 will go well beyond the pandemic itself, with serious effects expected on the global economy as well as on people’s lives. During periods of economic downturn, people’s incomes are limited, and their spending habits change significantly. To stay afloat and retain customers, some businesses will choose to revise their prices and fees downwards. Naturally, with the stiff competition that characterizes many markets, you may be tempted to follow suit. Even as you strive to make the right decisions for your business and customers, it would be essential to understand the visible and hidden adverse effects of lowering prices.

The negative effects of lowering prices

The negative effects of lowering prices can be categorized into visible and hidden outcomes—the visible results related to profits and sales volumes. While a good number of business owners think that lowering prices will help to drive sales, the move can lower your earnings by a significant margin. Reduced profitability will have a substantial negative impact, particularly on startups and small businesses. For any business to enjoy the same level of profitability after lowering prices, they will need to sell more products to customers. In a shrinking economy, it may be difficult to sell more than you used to do previously.

Apart from the visible effects, the hidden ones can have a considerable impact on your business. Cutting your prices may lead customers to believe that they will get lower quality from you. This notion could affect your reputation as a business that sells high-quality products or services. Another possible outcome is that long-term customers will feel that you have been overcharging them, a factor that could see you lose some of your current customers. Also, customers who think that they overpaid will not refer others to your business. You may also not end up attracting more new customers if your competition lowers their prices as well since things will still be the same.

With these effects, adjusting your prices downwards could be counterproductive, effectively dealing a blow to your efforts to drum up business, and as such, lowering prices during a recession would not be a smart strategy.

What you should consider doing

To help you get through the tough times, there are several steps that you can consider taking. With declining demand, you will need to come up with smart and innovative ways of keeping your business going. If you only handled big projects in the past, it would be time to consider taking on smaller projects with smaller budgets. Taking on more modest projects will not only keep you going but could also earn you new customers. Another option would be to provide free consultations while maintaining the prices of your products and services at the same level. Since the value defines the amount that customers enjoy, you can also choose to increase price and value simultaneously. However, this will require that you pick the right time and decide how much to change the prices. In the end, you will want to make changes while ensuring you encounter the least resistance from your customers.

In the long run, the pandemic will ease off, and the global economy will rebound. However, adjusting prices can have long-term effects that will take a long time to rectify. Provided you deliver value to your customers, we recommend that you charge what you believe is a fair price.

 

Rent Due? Renegotiate?

Should You Renegotiate with Your Landlord and Vendors in the Wake of COVID?

COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges for small and medium-sized business owners and managers. While we’re still learning what the true economic fallout of this pandemic will be, one thing is clear: companies that want to survive, and even thrive, need to double-down on efforts to manage cash flow. That means finding ways to deal with big-ticket expenses such as rent, contracted services and wholesale orders.

Should you try to negotiate a rent reduction?

One of the obvious strategies in light of the pandemic-related restrictions on businesses is to try to negotiate a rent reduction. This provides immediate financial relief, giving you time to reconfigure your business in a way that meets the current economic realities.

When deciding whether to seek a rent reduction or rent deferral from your commercial landlord, consider the following:

Who owns your building?

Is it a private investor, a property developer or a commercial investment firm? Understanding the short and long-term goals of your landlord will help you know whether they’re likely to accept a reduced rent or rent deferral arrangement.

What has your relationship been like with your landlord?

If you’re a good tenant with a positive tenant-landlord relationship, chances are good your landlord will want to work with you. On the other hand, if the relationship has been rocky, don’t be surprised if your landlord uses COVID as an opportunity to terminate your tenancy.

What are your long-term business plans?

Even if you’re unable to pay your full rent right now, you may be able to negotiate reduced or deferred lease payments with your landlord in exchange for extending your lease. From the perspective of the landlord, this may be a better option than losing you as a tenant, which means they’ll have to try to recruit another tenant — that’s not something most landlords want to do during a recession.

During the recession of the 1980s, commercial property vacancies nationwide skyrocketed from 4.9% to a staggering 18.9%, so there’s a good reason for your landlord to want to retain their existing tenants.

Can you enter into an income-sharing agreement?

Rather than thinking of your landlord-tenant relationship as an us-vs-them situation, consider proposing an income-sharing agreement. This arrangement involves paying a percentage of gross revenues rather than a set rental rate, and it’s commonly used in the agricultural industry where the landowner crop shares with the tenant farmer. Not only can this type of agreement help you stay in business, but it can also align the goals of all parties involved.

What about vendors?

Rent or lease payments aren’t the only big-ticket expense that many businesses can’t afford during COVID-19 — a number of companies are unable to meet their contractual obligations to their vendors. Whether or not you should try to renegotiate vendor contracts depends on a number of factors, including if your contract contains a Force Majeure clause.

A Force Majeure is an extraordinary event or set of unforeseen circumstances that prevent one or more parties to a contract from fulfilling their contractual obligations. If the right conditions exist, the contract will be temporarily suspended for the duration of the event that triggered the Force Majeure clause, and in some cases, one or more parties may be entitled to compensation.

Even if your contracts don’t contain a Force Majeure clause, you should be proactive by starting a conversation with your vendors about how COVID-19 has impacted your business. Given the global nature of this crisis, everyone has been impacted, so chances are good your vendors will be open to working out a plan that is viable for everyone involved.

Petal Area Chamber of Commerce

 

 

Our Task Moving Forward

Moving forward and accepting new realities is the task businesses, churches, non-profits, corporations, and individuals face ahead.   The destructive path of COVID-19 is much broader than health concerns.  It hasn’t left anyone behind, and in one form or another, we will all be affected.

There is a silver lining to the devastation that has struck.  It has brought out the best in many of us, as did Hurricane Katrina, tornados, floods, 9/11, and many other disasters.  But, the problem is that once we meet the challenge, we seem to revert to pre-disaster days, and our collective memory fades.  We move on, but don’t change.

This COVID event has demonstrated many inequalities and inadequacies in our country.   We now have an opportunity to do better and be better.  We have witnessed our abilities and talents redirected to face current challenges.  We have seen communities taking responsibility for meeting the demands of caring for each other.  We have observed heroes at work and at home.

From this point on, we need to face the realities before us and deal with the challenges.  Just re-opening our businesses is not enough.  It’s not enough to shop locally. More stimulus programs and strategies are not enough.  We must re-envision our role in moving forward.

We must envision who we are as an individual, business, or organization.  What is our worth to our community?  What do we do that is essential?   How can we leverage the partnerships and common goals which formed during the crisis?  How are we relevant?

Our task is not to simply get back to normal.  Our task is to build a better normal.  What must we do to make a better community and country?  It is our responsibility to seek, learn, and commit to practices that will uplift our nation.  The process has begun.