COVID-19 Small Business Resources
August 3-9, 2020
Arkansas courts receive 240,000 face masks, largest supply of PPE to fight COVID-19
Arkansas courts across the state will be receiving additional personal protective equipment (PPE) to help keep citizens, judges and staff safe at local courthouses across the states, Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Dan Kemp announced on July 23.
The Arkansas Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), which supports the state’s court system, has acquired its largest batch of PPE to date, including 240,000 face masks. This is the third round of protective equipment that the AOC has distributed to the state’s circuit and district courts.
The cost and availability of PPE have been significant barriers to normal court operations in many parts of the state. “Courts provide essential services to the public and must be safe and accessible. Our task continues to be trying to achieve a balance between maintaining access to the courts and protecting public health,” said Kemp.
The AOC will be distributing the following to each of Arkansas’s 75 counties:
• 1,000 blue disposable masks
• 200 reusable cloth masks
• 2,000 cardboard disposable one-time use masks
• 100 16oz bottles of hand sanitizer
• One large 1L bottle of hand sanitizer
Gov. Hutchinson issues executive order on mandatory face coverings in public
Faced with the continued spike in positive coronavirus cases across the state, Gov. Asa Hutchinson on July 18 issued an executive order calling for Arkansas residents to wear a face covering completely over their mouth and nose while in public.
The public directive, which excludes private homes, went into effect on July 20 and affects any indoor or outdoor public space where an Arkansas resident is exposed to non-household members and social distancing is not practical.
In line with recommendations from the U.S. Center for Disease and Control (CDC), the face mask must completely cover the mouth and nose or can be purchased commercially with an ASTM rating of at least Level 1, or homemade using at least two layers of material. The governor’s executive followed similar mandates in larger states and actions taken by Walmart, Kroger’s, Target, Amazon and other major retailers to stem the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases.
Hutchinson executive order, however, those exempt the following shall be exempt from wearing a face covering in Arkansas, including:
• Persons younger than 10 years of age (This requirement shall not supersede any decision by the Secretary of Education, public school district, or private school to require masks for children younger than 10 years of age while attending school);
Persons with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a face covering;
• Persons performing job duties where a six feet distance is not achievable, but a mask is inhibitory to the ability to safely and effectively perform the job duty;
• Persons participating in athletic activities where a six feet distance is not achievable, but a mask is inhibitory to the activity or active exercise;
• Persons consuming food or drink;
• Persons driving alone or with passengers from the driver’s household;
• Persons receiving services that require access to the face for security, surveillance, or other purposes may temporarily remove a face covering while receiving those services;
• Persons voting, assisting voters, serving as poll watchers, or actively performing election administration duties; however, face coverings are strongly encouraged;
• Persons engaged in religious worship activities; however, face coverings are strongly encouraged; j. Persons giving a speech or performance for broadcast or to an audience; however, those persons shall safely distance from nearby individuals;
• Persons in counties where the Department of Health has certified that risk of community transmission of COVID-19 is low. To be considered low risk, the county must not have a newly identified case of COVID-19 for twenty-eight (28) consecutive days, assuming there has been adequate testing in the county.
IRS provides guidance on recapturing excess employment tax credits
The Internal Revenue Service on Monday (July 27) issued a temporary regulation and a proposed regulation to reconcile advance payments of refundable employment tax credits and recapture the benefit of these credits when necessary.
The regulations authorize the assessment of erroneous refunds of the credits paid under both the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Families First Act) and Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).
The Families First Act generally requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide paid sick leave for up to 80 hours and paid family leave for up to 10 weeks if the employee is unable to work or telework due to COVID-19 related reasons. Eligible employers are entitled to fully refundable tax credits to cover the cost of the leave required to be paid.
The CARES Act provides an additional credit for employers experiencing economic hardship due to COVID-19. Eligible employers who pay qualified wages to their employees are entitled to an employee retention credit.
The IRS has revised or is in the process of revising the Form 941, Form 943, Form 944 and Form CT-1, so that employers may use these returns to claim the paid sick and family leave and employee retention credits.
Employers may also receive advance payment of the credits up to the total allowable amounts. The IRS has created Form 7200, Advance Payment of Employer Credits Due To COVID-19, which employers may use to request an advance of the credits. Employers are required to reconcile any advance payments claimed on Form 7200 with total credits claimed and total taxes due on their employment tax returns.
Any refund of these credits paid to a taxpayer that exceeds the amount the taxpayer is allowed is an erroneous refund for which the IRS must seek repayment.
Free crisis counseling available for those struggling with stress from COVID-19
Arkansans dealing with anxiety or other mental health struggles brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic can get free crisis counseling through a new grant funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“This pandemic is unlike anything most of us have seen in our lifetimes. For many people, it has resulted in anxiety, fear, stress, and literal isolation. All of those things can contribute to a mental health crisis,” said Tammy Alexander, Assistant Director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Aging, Adult, and Behavioral Health Services (DAABHS), which is administering the grant.
The Promoting Positive Emotions program provides free education and confidential crisis counseling for individuals and families impacted by the current pandemic.
Crisis counseling encourages people to talk about their experiences and concerns in the process of teaching healthy ways to manage stress. Crisis counselors do not label or diagnose people, but they do work with the individual or family to identify needs and assist in connecting them with community resources.
“Some individuals may not want to seek help because they are embarrassed or can’t afford it. That’s why the Promoting Positive Emotions program is free and confidential,” Alexander said.
The Promoting Positive Emotions program provides free confidential crisis counseling as well as useful information and resources, but it does not cover traditional mental health diagnosis or treatment, psychiatric services, medication, or assistance for food, childcare, or financial support.
To learn more about other mental health services, call the DHS Mental Health & Addiction Support Line at 1-844-763-0198. For information about childcare, food, or financial assistance during COVID-19, visit humanservices.arkansas.gov/resources/response-covid-19.
For free crisis counseling through the Promoting Positive Emotions program, call the Crisis Support Line at 1-833-993-2382, or visit the website at www.staypositivearkansas.com.