COVID-19 Small Business Resources
November 30 - December 6, 2020
Gov. Hutchinson announces 11 p.m. curfew for businesses licensed to sell alcohol amid COVID-19 spike
As COVID-19 cases continue to spike in Arkansas, the Arkansas Health Department has issued a directive that Arkansas businesses licensed to sell and allow consumption of alcohol on their premises must close by 11 p.m. through the new year.
The directive was first initiated earlier this year in conjunction with Gov. Hutchinson executive order on March 11 that covers restaurants, bars, and private clubs with “on-premise” permits after COVID-19 was declared a public health emergency in Arkansas. That earlier curfew was extended on May 5 by 45 days and eventually terminated after June 19. The updated directive went into effect on Nov. 20 and will remain in place through Jan. 3, 2021.
The ADH rule also notes that any person violating this directive during the ongoing public health emergency may be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars ($100) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500) or by imprisonment not exceeding one (1) month, or both.
“In an effort to reduce the spread of the virus as a result of prolonged social interaction in group settings, I am accepting the recommendation of the Winter COVID Task Force to require bars, restaurants, and clubs that sell alcohol for consumption in their establishment to close at 11 p.m.,” Hutchinson said during his Nov. 19 press briefing. “This is a balanced approach that is limited and targeted as we work to reduce new COVID cases in our state.”
On Nov. 13, Hutchinson announced that he was creating the COVID-19 Winter Task Force as the number of coronavirus cases in Arkansas touched record one-day levels three times in one week. The new task force includes 19 physicians, state officials, and health care executives to advise Hutchinson as the state combats the likely additional challenges of the pandemic this winter.
Concerning the newly created task force, Gov. Hutchinson will serve as chair, and Dr. Greg Bledsoe, Arkansas Surgeon General, will serve as vice chair. Additional members could be added to the citizens’ task force as the governor deems necessary.
Separately, the Arkansas CARES Act Committee has established a Business Interruption Grant program to support businesses in the service & hospitality industries negatively impacted due to government COVID-19 directives. Eligible businesses include those that were closed and/or had restricted operations due directly to the executive order by the Governor or an Arkansas Department of Health directive. Learn more about eligibility and how to apply at ArkansasReady.com.
The Arkansas Business Interruption Grant Program has the following requirements:
• Eligible businesses include hotels, hair salons, nail salons, restaurants, health clubs, bars, spas, large indoor and outdoor venues
• Grants can be awarded for up to $250,000
• Applications will be accepted online until Wednesday, Nov. 25 at 11:59 pm CST
• Funds will be distributed by Dec. 31, 2020 via direct deposit.
Applications will not be reviewed until after the application period has ended but interested small businesses should apply as soon as possible to ensure they have all documents required, state officials said.
Emergency Physicians urge Thanksgiving Day precautions to avoid “COVID-19 Super Spreader” event
The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) is recommending that holiday hosts and guests heed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s holiday safety recommendations this year by prioritizing efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and take steps to protect the health and safety of friends and family.
“If you are planning to get together on Thanksgiving, it is a good idea to reduce the risks that invite COVID-19 into your home,” said Dr, Mark Rosenberg, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). “Even a small gathering of family or close friends can still contribute to the spread of the virus.”
Emergency physicians makes these specific recommendations:
• Remember anyone can get or spread COVID-19. Close friends and family with whom you don’t live with can still contract and spread the virus to you the same way a stranger could.
• Trim the guest list. Rather than a specified “safe” number of guests, public health experts suggest that hosts determine the size of a gathering by how many guests from different households can remain at least six feet apart. Note that a “household” is made of people who live in the same house every day. Family members who are close but don’t live at home, such as college students visiting for the holiday, are considered a separate household in public health terms.
• Cover your face and maintain your distance. It may be difficult but try to avoid hugs and handshakes. People should also cover their face when they are not eating or drinking.
• Stay outside and stay safer. If it is possible, hosting a small event outside instead of inside is preferable.
• Encourage good hygiene. Hosts should make sure that bathrooms have plenty of soap so guests can frequently wash their hands and single-use towels.
Even with these recommendations during the holiday season, the safest option for some will be to stay home. Do not attend an in-person gathering if you or anyone in your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and has not met the CDC’s criteria for when it is safe to be around others, ACEP officials said. Stay home if you show symptoms, if you are waiting for COVID-19 test results, or if you have been exposed to somebody with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
“Unfortunately, the safest option for older individuals or people with weakened immune systems is to skip in-person gatherings this year,” said Dr. Rosenberg. “It may be disappointing to adjust traditions or modify plans in the short-term, but these decisions can save lives.”
Remember, emergency physicians work 24/7, even on holidays. Do not ignore your symptoms if you think you are having a medical emergency—if something is wrong call 911 or visit your closest emergency department. Emergency departments across the country are taking extensive precautions to adapt and protect patients. If holiday plans go awry, emergency departments are safe and ready for anything or anyone that comes their way.
Federal housing officials extend COVID-19 related loan flexibilities through end of 2020
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced on Nov. 13 that federal mortgage servicers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will extend several loan origination flexibilities that were set to expire at the end of November until Dec. 31, 2020. The changes are to ensure continued support for borrowers during the COVID-19 national emergency, FHFA officials
The FHFA’s extended flexibilities related to the COVID-19 pandemic include alternative appraisals on purchase and rate term refinance loans; alternative methods for documenting income and verifying employment before loan closing; and expanding the use of power of attorney to assist with loan closings.
The FHFA regulates Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the 11 federal Home Loan Banks, including the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas that supports housing and community development by providing competitively priced advances and other credit products for nearly 815 members and associated institutions in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas.
Freddie Mac also released the weekly results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey, showing that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 2.72%, the lowest rate in the survey’s history which dates back to 1971.
“Weaker consumer spending data, which accounts for the majority of economic growth, drove mortgage rates to a new record low,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist. “While economic growth remains unstable, strong housing demand continues to have a domino effect on many other segments of the economy.”
Below are details from the recent survey.
• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.72% with an average 0.7 point for the week ending Nov. 19, up slightly from last week when it averaged 2.84%. A year ago, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.66%.
• 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.28% with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.34%. In the same period of 2019, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.15%.
• Five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.85% with an average 0.3 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.11%. In November 2019, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.39%.
On Aug. 27, Freddie Mac extended its nationwide suspension of single-family foreclosures and evictions on mortgages and real estate owned or guaranteed by the company through Dec. 31, 2020. The suspension of evictions applies only to homes owned by Freddie Mac and does not apply to tenants in homes that have not been foreclosed. Made in conjunction with the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the announcement extends the timeline of the current foreclosure moratorium, which was set to expire on Aug. 31.
Formally known as the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC), Freddie Mac is a public government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) that is ranked among the top 50 largest U.S. corporations. The McLean, Va.-based financier was created by the federal government in 1970 to expand the secondary market for mortgages that was monopolized by its bigger sibling, Fannie Mae, or the Federal National Mortgage Association.
Little Rock traffic court canceling in-person trials through early 2021 due to COVID-19
The second division of the Little Rock District Court is canceling in-person trials and hearings that had been set for January and February 2021. The cancellation only applies the Little Rock District Court, Second Division, which handles all traffic tickets issued inside the city limits of the state’s largest city.
The updated policy is part of the District Court’s traffic division’s response to COVID-19, said District Court Judge Vice Fleming. Clerks will be contacting defendants and their lawyers to schedule later dates for either virtual or in-person hearings, he said.
“Based on numbers we were seeing in July and August, we had thought the new year would be a safe time to return to in-person hearings,” Judge Vic Fleming said. “But the state at large is now reporting hundreds of new cases per day, and the numbers keep growing.”
Court officials are asking traffic court litigants with in-person hearings scheduled to email the court at TrafficCourtContact@littrock.gov to reschedule matters. Or to call (501) 371-4733. Court officials say that email is the preferred mode of communication, because of a limited number of incoming phone lines. Some court employees spend the entirety of each day responding to phone calls, and dozens of recorded messages outnumber the matters handled each day by phone.
The court is still convening on Mondays through Thursdays at 8:20 a.m. every week and handling cases via a virtual teleconferencing platform and speakerphone. In recent weeks, the court has been handling about 200 cases per week, resulting in a significant backlog that is being addressed vis telephone and email and that will be further addressed with “walk-in docket days” that had been planned to start in January, but now will not start before March.
“We are monitoring the situation as best we can,” Fleming said. “I anticipate a time, hopefully before spring, that we can open the doors again - literally.”