COVID-19 Small Business Resources

October 12-18, 2020

CDC updates policy again on COVID-19 and airborne transmission


The U.S. Centers for Disease & Control on Monday (Oct. 5) issued an update on how COVID-19 spreads, clarifying an earlier guidance about the potential for airborne spread of the novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2. 


CDC said it continues to believe, based on current science, that people are more likely to become infected the longer and closer they are to a person with COVID-19. The most recent update acknowledges the existence of some published reports showing limited, uncommon circumstances where people with COVID-19 infected others who were more than six feet away or shortly after the COVID-19-positive person left an area.  


“In these instances, transmission occurred in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces that often involved activities that caused heavier breathing, like singing or exercise. Such environments and activities may contribute to the buildup of virus-carrying particles,” said the CDC, which is housed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


CDC’s recommendations remain the same based on existing science and after a thorough technical review of the guidance. People can protect themselves from the virus that causes COVID-19 by staying at least 6 feet away from others, wearing a mask that covers their nose and mouth, washing their hands frequently, cleaning touched surfaces often and staying home when sick, said CDC officials.


Monday’s update removes recently added language noting that it is “possible” for COVID-19 to spread through the air. This is the third major revision to the CDC guidance since early May.



IRS extends Economic Impact Payment deadline to Nov. 21 to help non-filers


The Internal Revenue Service announced today that the deadline to register for an Economic Impact Payment (EIP) is now Nov. 21. This new date will provide nearly six weeks beyond the original deadline Sept. 30 deadline.


The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) said it is continuing efforts to find those people that are eligible to the Economic Impact Payments (EIP), which was part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act approved by Congress in late March. According to IRS, more than 160 million individuals, families and their children have received EIP payments as part of the $2.2 trillion stimulus relief package.


The IRS said in August that it has paid out more than $260 billion in COVID-19 stimulus payments to low and middle-income tax filers with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 for individuals and up to $150,000 for married couples filing joint returns will receive the full payment.  Under the CARES Act, most eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for either 2019 or 2018 have automatically receive an economic impact payment of up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples. Talks have stalled in Congress on another COVID-19 emergency relief bill that includes another economic impact payment to individuals, couples and families making that closely mirrors the CARES Act, along with a $600 per week extended unemployment benefit to millions of sidelined workers.


“We took this step to provide more time for those who have not yet received a payment to register to get their money, including those in low-income and underserved communities,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “The IRS is deeply involved in processing and programming that overlaps filing seasons. Any further extension beyond November would adversely impact our work on the 2020 and 2021 filing seasons. The Non-filers portal has been available since the spring and has been used successfully by many millions of Americans.”


This additional time into November is solely for those who have not received their EIP and do not normally file a tax return. For taxpayers who requested an extension of time to file their 2019 tax return, that deadline date remains Oct. 15. To help spread the word, the IRS sent nearly 9 million letters in September to people who may be eligible for the $1,200 stimulus payment.


“Time is running out for those who don’t normally file a tax return to get their payments,” Rettig added. “Registration is quick and easy, and we urge everyone to share this information to reach as many people before the deadline.”


While most eligible U.S. taxpayers have automatically received their Economic Impact Payment, others who do not have a filing obligation need to use the Non-Filers tool to register with the IRS to get their money. Typically, this includes people who receive little or no income.



Arkansas DWS receives $13.6 million in federal CARES Act funds to train workers for high demand areas


The U.S. Department of Education announced Friday (Sept. 25) that it has awarded more than $126 million in new grant funding will be awarded to eight states to provide students the opportunity to develop new skills in high demand areas amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including nearly $13.6 million to the state Division of Workforce Services.


The recipients will leverage the expertise and facilities available on college campuses to spur entrepreneurship and foster business development and innovation as America begins to recover from COVID-19-related disruptions to education. This funding was made available through the Education Stabilization Fund of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law by President Donald J. Trump in late March.


“America’s workers and entrepreneurs have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic, and this administration is committed to reigniting the entrepreneurial spirit and helping Americans reenter the workforce as the economy recovers,” said Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. “We created this grant competition because we saw the clear need to support lifelong learners who needed a boost to get back on their feet, and I was delighted to see so many states come forward with innovative initiatives and partnerships. By breaking down barriers between education and industry and supporting local entrepreneurs and small businesses, we can help workers thrive and get America’s economic engine running at full speed again.”


The grant awards will support states’ efforts to assist in the development of new education and training opportunities; encourage the engagement of employers and industry sectors in providing high-quality education and training opportunities to improve workforce preparation, and enable innovators in local communities to benefit from access to faculty experts, state-of-the-art equipment, and shared facilities through the development or growth of small business incubators located at, or affiliated with, colleges and universities.


Awardees include Alabama, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Michigan, Nevada, New York, and Hampton University in partnership with the Commonwealth of Virginia. Congress set aside 1% of the $30.75 billion allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund through the CARES Act for discretionary grants to fulfill unmet needs related to burdens caused by the pandemic. 


The Department of Education announced the Reimagine Workforce Preparation (RWP) grant competition in late spring 2020, inviting any state to apply. Specifically, it called for projects that expand educational opportunities through short-term, career pathways or sector-based education and training programs or support college sustainability and local entrepreneurship through small business incubators.



CMS releases new tools to cut red tape, streamline COVID-19 lab testing certification 


The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released new tools on Sept. 25 to reduce burdensome paperwork and authorization delays for laboratories seeking Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certification to test for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).  


CMS’s quick-start guide helps laboratories with the application process for CLIA certification and includes information on the expedited review process implemented at the beginning of the public health emergency that allows labs to start COVID-19 testing before the official paper certificate arrives by postal mail. Laboratories also have a new option to pay CLIA certification fees on the CMS CLIA Program website. Online payments are processed overnight, which is substantially faster than hard-copy checks. Today’s actions are part of the Trump Administration’s efforts to expand testing in the nation.


“At President (Donald) Trump’s direction, CMS has left no stone unturned in helping fight this highly contagious, dangerous disease,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “An obscure process and outdated modes of payment have too often caused needless delays in certifying lab testing facilities.  Today’s announcement will allow testing laboratories to promptly and painlessly register with CMS so they can get to work, focusing on providing reliable information to combat the spread of this disease.”


CMS regulates all laboratory testing performed on humans for the purposes of diagnosis, prevention, or treatment in the U.S. through the CLIA program.  To become CLIA-certified, laboratories must meet performance and quality assurance requirements aimed at ensuring they are able to deliver reliable and accurate test results for the purpose of proper diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases like COVID-19.  


This new guide provides laboratories with the resources they need to reduce paperwork and streamline the CLIA application and certification process.  This quick-start guide outlines the steps laboratories must follow to apply for and receive CLIA certification, including ensuring the form is submitted to the correct state agency. Prior to receiving certification, laboratories must also pay a user fee to cover the costs of administering the CLIA program, which also includes inspection costs.  Laboratories can now pay CLIA certification fees through a secure platform hosted by the Treasury Department on the CMS CLIA Program website.



State Health Department officials say influenza vaccine now available as “flu season” begins


As the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) has warned that flu viruses and COVID-19 will both spread this fall and winter, state Department of Health (ADH) officials announced Monday (Sept. 21) that flu vaccinations are now available on a walk-in basis at Local Health Units across the state.


According to ADH, there is no out-of-pocket expense for the vaccine, and appointments are not required. Arkansas residents should bring their insurance cards to the unit, but the flu vaccine will still be available at no charge if they do not have insurance coverage. There are 93 health clinics across the state, including at least one in each of the 75 counties across the state.


“This year it will be especially important to get a flu shot,” said Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, state epidemiologist. “This is mainly for two reasons: You don’t want to have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. The second reason is because flu vaccinations can go a long way to keeping people out of the hospital. And we want to decrease the number of hospitalizations in Arkansas as much as possible because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”


While seasonal influenza is detected year-round in the U.S., flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter. The exact timing and duration of flu seasons can vary, but influenza activity often begins to increase in October. Most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, although activity can last as late as May.


CDC officials have said that the flu vaccine could help reduce the overall impact of contagious respiratory illnesses on the population and decrease the burden on the health care system during the overlapping flu season and COVID-19 pandemic. Those who have or may have COVID-19, however, are encouraged to postpone their visit to an immunization clinic.


Annual flu vaccination is recommended for most adults and children six months and older. The flu virus changes from year to year and this year’s vaccine protects against flu viruses expected to cause the most illness this flu season.


State health officials said people of all ages can get the flu, but certain people are more likely to have serious health problems with it. This includes older adults, young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease, people who smoke, and people who live in nursing homes. 


Therefore, ADH strongly recommends that people in these groups get a flu vaccine. It is also recommended that friends, family members and people who provide care to people in these groups also get a vaccine, not only to protect themselves but also to decrease the possibility that they might expose their loved ones to the flu.


Downplaying ongoing myths, ADH officials noted that the flu vaccine is safe and does not cause the flu. Some people may have mild soreness and redness near the site of the shot and a low fever or slight headache. Reasons to skip the flu vaccine include life-threatening allergic reactions to a previous dose of the flu vaccine or an ingredient in the vaccine. However, people with allergies to vaccine ingredients can often receive the vaccine safely if it is given in a doctor’s office where they can be monitored.


The flu is easily spread through coughing and sneezing or by touching something with the virus on it, such as a doorknob, and then touching the nose or mouth. Good hand washing habits are important in preventing the flu, but the best way to prevent the flu is to get the vaccine.