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Private unemployment insurance exists – it’s limited, but it exists!

(FINANCE) Entrepreneurs – you know you’re supposed to have six months of income saved up in case of emergency, but another cushion is private unemployment insurance – it exists!

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Everyone knows that it’s important to have that reserve of funds stashed away in case of an emergency or a layoff, but it’s often hard to establish it—especially as a young professional or an entrepreneur. Even more daunting is building that reserve of funds to cope not only with a potential emergency, but a job loss.

If you lose your job, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits from your state — depending on a whole host of factors, including cause of termination and your classification as an employee. Often those state benefits are very limited in either duration or in payment, which doesn’t provide the newly minted job seeker with much in the way of time or funds to keep things afloat while they look for their next job. To offset that limitation, there are private unemployment solutions that do exist, albeit limited in scope.

For years, IncomeAssure, which began in 2011 and was issued by SterlingRisk and backed by Great American Insurance, was the largest private unemployment insurance policy. With about 1,000 active policyholders and over $1 million in claims paid out as of 2016, the policy is no longer accepting new applications for coverage as of late 2018, but is still insuring those with an active policy.

“It has been disappointing that we haven’t been able to find a cost-effective way to get the word out that this exists,” David Sterling, SterlingRisk’s Chairman and CEO, said, speaking to The New York Times in 2016. “It’s also understandable. If nobody is aware that something exists, it’s hard for people to find it if they don’t know to look for it in the first place.

With the closure of IncomeAssure as an avenue for new coverage, SafetyNet is another possibility for private unemployment insurance, depending on where one lives. Presently available in 10 states, SafetyNet provides their policyholders with a one-time lump sum payment between $750 and $9,000, depending on the coverage option selected at the time of inception. The monthly cost of SafetyNet varies by state and protection level, and is far less than the traditional policy that was offered by IncomeAssure, as the payment is correspondingly reduced as well. However, as a lump sum option, the ability to quickly access needed cash is a boon to those who may find themselves in need of it.

As with most insurance plans, there are certain exclusions to the SafetyNet policy. These include:
• A pending job loss that the client was informed of prior to purchasing the coverage, or job loss due to acts of war, criminal misconduct, or nuclear/natural disasters
• Job loss due to quitting or retirement, or are termination for cause, including for poor job performance and improper workplace behavior
• Any job loss within the first 90 days of coverage
• Any disability that starts within the first 6 months of coverage if caused by a pre-existing condition treated in the 6 months prior to coverage
• Any disability that occurs in the first 90 days of coverage, or any disability due to normal pregnancy, alcohol or drug use, or elective surgery
• Normal and routine downtimes and workforce reductions for seasonal and other jobs (like construction) or job loss because the task the employee was hired to do was completed or the time period covered by the employment agreement came to an end.

While no one would argue an insurer’s right to protect itself against issuing a policy to cover employment loss for those who sought to quit, retire, or get fired through poor choices on the job, some of these terms should be a caveat emptor for those who have medical conditions that may extend beyond FMLA coverage or whose workplaces are in areas prone to natural disasters, as neither of those conditions may be covered.

For those who are classified as independent contractors, however, the market for private unemployment insurance remains limited. In most states, independent contractors aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits, and neither IncomeAssure nor SafetyNet extended their protections to that segment of the workforce either.

For independent contractors, facing periods of unemployment is one of the hazards of the role. When such a period comes, the independent contractor should invest the time to review the conditions of the work that they did for their last employer to ensure that they were classified correctly as independent contractors, and weren’t mis-classified employees, who would be then eligible for state unemployment protections. (The IRS has simplified the independent contractor test to three broad factors with 11 conditions: behavioral control, financial control, and type of relationship).

Although the marketplace for private unemployment insurance appears to be limited, it’s worth it to ask your insurance professional of any options that may be available to you in your segment of the workforce as a part of your annual insurance review.

Roger is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds two Master's degrees, one in Education Leadership and another in Leadership Studies. In his spare time away from researching leadership retention and communication styles, he loves to watch baseball, especially the Red Sox!

Business Finance

Politicians reconsider PPP rules too cumbersome for small businesses

(BUSINESS FINANCE) The PPP loans may have some changes coming soon, to help small businesses even more by extending the time they have to spend the money.

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Congress has reported talks over fixing parts of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a key program designed to help businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. Changes could range between small tweaks to an overhaul of program requirements. Congress remains divided over a phase four relief bill (passed in the House last week) which includes several of those PPP changes.

The PPP was created to provide forgivable loans to businesses with fewer than 500 employees. Although the Treasury is continuing to offer updated guidance, any significant changes will require approval from Congress.

One of the major potential changes is an extension to the eight-week time frame for businesses to spend their loan money. Senator Marco Rubio (R.-Fla.) is advocating the change. He told reporters “I think the more important thing to change is the time frame in which they can use it for,” Rubio told reporters. “We do need to give them more time to spend those monies.” The hope is to pass those changes before the first PPP loan recipients reach their deadline in early June.

Other changes proposed in the House bill include extending the spending time period to 24-weeks and eliminating the requirement for 75 percent of loan spending on payroll in order to qualify for full forgiveness. The flexibility could allow recipients to allocate money towards rent, another challenge facing small business owners. While Senate Republicans haven’t shot down that option, they’ve voiced concern on the spending rule which was originally designed to keep workers employed. Meanwhile, Democrats argue for flexibility which could support businesses with fixed costs. Both sides are open to discussing a 50 percent payroll and 50 percent additional cost breakdown in a new PPP changes.

The Small Business Administration has reported $195 billion from the $310 billion of the second tranche of PPP has been approved. With no defined plan to reopen the country, small businesses are counting on relief programs. Senior White House advisor Kevin Hassett has said the government can’t continue to lend money to businesses indefinitely. “It is something we can do through Jun, I would, guess if there’s enough cash for that.”

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Business Finance

Unless you call your representative, the IRS will be forced to screw PPP recipients

(BUSINESS FINANCE) Small business owners, can your Covid-19 loans really be forgiven? “Free money” never sounded so good…or bad. The CARES act missed a vital tax hole.

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The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) portion of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) was hailed as a revolutionary life line to small businesses that had to shutter their doors against the plague.

Basically, the Feds said: Keep your expenses up, pay your staff so they don’t have to go on assistance, and not only will we loan you the cash to do so, so long as you can prove it was spent stimulating your business, we’ll not only forgive the loan, it won’t be taxed as income.

Right said, Fed. But some sharp-eyed readers of the letter of the law say they’re too savvy for these loans, and here’s why.

It was announced on April 30th that anything paid with PPP payments won’t be tax deductible.

Specifically, the IRS says, expenses that qualify a business owner loan forgiveness cannot be deducted from 2020’s tax filings, in order to keep people from getting “double tax benefit[s].” You can read up on the tax code citations and legal precedents right here, straight from the tax horse’s mouth.

So what’s happening here is you can “enjoy” free money from the government, but if you were counting on it being non-taxable income, then you’d best count again.

I may be a simple country (adjacent) April, but is the purpose of handing out money somehow… NOT to put business owners AHEAD?

This move strikes me as a ship throwing someone in the water a life-vest… then sailing off without reeling them in.

‘Well you don’t want people to double-dip,’ is a rebuttal I’d expect. Or ‘that’s how the CARES Act was written,’ but right now we’re dealing with people and their businesses needing EXTRA. Not ‘a bit,’ not ‘enough,’ but quantifiably EXTRA help in order to do better than just tread water. We NEED that extra dip… and individual bowls for everyone while we’re at it.

“No half measures,” as a wise, narcissistic fictional criminal once said. Brian Cranston won an Emmy for delivering that line, so I figure it’s stand-by-able.

As of right now, there’s not much that can be done except for business owners to gather and lobby their representatives en masse to alter the language of the CARES Act, or add an amendment to it that allows the IRS to let the deductions business owners need to slide.

As is, strict interpretation of the law doesn’t give our beloved agents enough wiggle room to LET this money be deducted. And I’m guessing that the IRS isn’t really the type of agency to DO interpretative judgements as a matter of course so… the ball is in Congress’ court on this one.

Fortunately, it seems like they’re taking it and running with it!

On May 12, a bill aptly named the HEROES Act was proposed in the house, and it clarifies: “For purposes of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 and notwithstanding any other provision of law, any deduction and the basis of any property shall be determined without regard to whether any amount is excluded from gross income under section 20233 of this Act or section 1106(i) of the CARES Act.”

They’re reaching past the last stimulus bundle (that I haven’t received my share of yet by the way, cough cough) with a total of three trillion as a distribution goal. That’s a three followed by twelve zeroes, sweeties. And this is all cold, hard, tax free, DEDUCTIBLE cash.

My advice here? Get your letter-writing hands ready, business owners! It’s not a law YET, so keep pushing your politicians as best you can, and telling your friends, (and sharing our articles) And best of luck.


Sidenote from the Editor: Research for this story includes insights from Caleb Ellinger at Ellinger Services (CPA wizard (our word, not his) in Austin who is very well known as serving startup and freelance communities).

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Business Finance

Companies seek brownie points by returning PPP cash they shouldn’t have applied for

(BUSINESS FINANCE) It turns out some large national companies received millions of dollars of the PPP loans that were pitched as for small businesses, what gives?

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The CARES Act, passed last month in response to the COVID19 pandemic, allocated over $370 billion to small businesses in the form of PPP loans. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was hastily ran through Congress, with many of the small details left for the SBA, IRS and other entities to iron out, even though the legislation was over 800 pages.

Now, Bloomberg is reporting that many small businesses are returning loans as the Trump administration issues new guidance for these loans.

PPP loans- confusion over eligibility, rules and restrictions

The PPP was designed to incentivize employers to maintain payroll through the pandemic. The law’s intent was to help small businesses, non-profits and smaller organizations without other resources.
Within just a few days, the money was exhausted.

As Congress allocated more money for the program, it came to light that many larger businesses made requests for the money. Shake Shack, a national chain, received $10 million. Ruth’s Chris steakhouse received $20 million. Even the Los Angeles Lakers received about $4.6 million through the PPP. It should be noted that each of these entities returned the money. Technically, each of the entities qualified under the PPP, too.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the SBA announced that all PPP loans over $2 million will be reviewed to ensure borrower eligibility. The SBA continues to provide guidance for the PPP loans. One financial expert likened it to building the plane while it was still in the air. Some companies are receiving guidance that no publicly traded companies qualify, even though these companies have received PPP funding, and some intend to keep it.

If a company doesn’t qualify for the PPP, they could face criminal charges for making false certifications on their loan applications. This could include statements that indicate the PPP funding is necessary to support ongoing operations.

Return the PPP money or not?

The SBA is giving borrowers a deadline of May 14 to return PPP loans without any legal trouble. Some companies are returning the money, not only because of public backlash, but to avoid problems. The government is sending a message that it will be vigilant over the use of PPP funding. There are still so many questions about how the loans will work and will be forgiven, it pays to tread carefully if you’ve received more than $2 million in funding under PPP.

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