To say that we’ve gone through a difficult period is an understatement. The pandemic ravaged the economy last year, and unfortunately, with the rise of the Omicron variant, it looks poised to do so again. Fortunately, strategies are being considered, and measures are actively being sought to help stem the fallout from the spread of the Omicron variant.
One favorable to this situation is that we’ve been here before. President Biden is currently developing a multi-stage plan to address small businesses’ growing fears of COVID and Omicron. According to the White House, the emphasis will be on boosters. Increasing access to supporters and encouraging more Americans to get this third vaccination are a central part of the president’s plan moving forward. In that sense, we are more prepared for what could potentially happen than we were in early 2020.
Among some of the other initiatives the White House will be actively pursuing are:
Requiring employers to give paid time off for vaccinations
Expiring December 5, the current mandate holds that federal employers must give paid time off for vaccines. Biden wants to extend this and also broaden this to include all employers—not just national employers. According to statistics put out about the White House, approximately one-third of US workers are concerned about getting time off to go and get the shot. This would help to alleviate those worries.
Provide free at-home tests to people
Another part of the president’s plan to deal with the Omicron variant is to ensure more widespread access to at-home testing kits. This would help employers ensure that their workforce is vaccinated and thus better adhere to any relevant mandates on that front. The plan is to distribute such tests at various community sites. Currently, getting an at-home test costs around $25 per box.
Encouraging small businesses to mandate the vaccine
As Omicron gains momentum, Biden wants to make it so that smaller businesses (with fewer than 100 employees) require their employees to be vaccinated. The fear is that as the winter months come, the incidences of COVID will continue to rise, thereby forcing small companies to shut their doors once again. By mandating vaccines, these companies, the White House explains, have a much better chance of staying open.
This is just the start of what the White House hopes to see in the next few weeks. Before an uptick that we can’t control, the key, according to Biden, is to be proactive and, in this way, try and shut down potential avenues that the Omicron variant can take into our society. There are also steps that individual small businesses can start to implement to protect themselves this winter.
1) Consider more remote work time
We discovered during the pandemic that many businesses (even those who didn’t think so before) could be largely remote. Especially during the more vulnerable winter months, it may be worth asking yourself if it is feasible to have the better part of your workforce work remotely. Look at your community infection rates; this may be the best decision moving forward if there is a noticeable increase.
2) Put best pandemic practices in place
While many of us are mask-weary, it is crucial, now more than ever, to be diligent about enforcing masking and social distancing policies in the workplace. The last thing a small business needs is to deplete its workforce because people have fallen ill to COVID. Put signs up around the office. Continuously encourage employees regarding proper mask-wearing and standing six feet apart.
3) Revisit your ventilation system
There are many older buildings, especially with less than ideal ventilation systems. The circulation of air and the intake of fresh air really can make a difference in your efforts to curtail the Omicron variant. You may even consider hiring a specialist or consultant to help you figure out the best way to approach in-office ventilation. It will be a worthwhile investment.
4) Encourage or require testing
Some workplaces do require testing, particularly of unvaccinated employees. Such testing is mandatory at the federal and state levels in most places. Even better, figure out a way to offer the testing at your place of business and thus make it easy on your employees.
Unfortunately, we are not out of the woods yet. With the Omicron variant on the rise, things change every day. The key is to be proactive and put measures to help protect against infections.
First Union Lending Can Help
We have a variety of loan programs for just about any type of small business. If you need additional working capital, even to weather a more difficult economic time, we can help. Call today and let’s get started!