Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Director Nominations

The Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce is putting out a call for nominations for our 2020-2023 Board of Directors. Should you have an interest in serving on the Board of Directors (3-year term), click below to fill out the nomination form. Please respond no later than June 23, 2020. Click Here for the Nomination Form.

Getting Back to Work: A Guide for Employers and Employees

Frequently Asked Questions about Unemployment Insurance (UI) as the Economy Reopens

The following are responses to common questions about expanded support for unemployed workers included in the CARES Act as prepared by the Committee on Ways and Means. States are ultimately responsible for making eligibility decisions based on individual circumstances. Employers and employees in the Clear Lake Area should check the Texas Workforce Commission’s website for specific information.

EMPLOYER QUESTIONS:

One of my workers quit because he said he would prefer to receive the unemployment compensation benefits under the CARES Act. Is he eligible for unemployment? If not, what can I do?

No. Individuals who quit their jobs to access higher benefits, and are untruthful in their UI application about their reason for quitting, could be at-risk of committing fraud.

Eligibility for regular unemployment compensation varies by state but generally does not include those who voluntarily leave employment. Similarly, to receive pandemic unemployment assistance, an individual must satisfy one of the eligibility criteria in the CARES Act. These include the following scenarios:

  • if the individual receives a positive COVID-19 test or is experiencing symptoms and seeking a medical diagnoses;
  • if a member of the individual’s household has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • the individual is caring for a family member or a member of the individual’s household diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • the individual is the primary caregiver of a child who is unable to attend a school or child care closed because of COVID-19,
  • the individual is unable to reach the place of unemployment because of a quarantine due to the public health emergency,
  • an individual’s place of employment is closed due to COVID-19.

EMPLOYEE QUESTIONS:

I was recently offered my job back after having been laid off due to the pandemic, but I make more money now on unemployment. Can I turn the job down and stay on unemployment?

No. States permit a number of valid reasons for turning down a job. But making more money on UI is not one of them. If you don’t take the job and don’t have a valid reason, you are not eligible for UI and could be at risk of committing fraud. States are required to collect overpayments made to individuals that improperly receive benefits.

I was offered my job back but my children’s day care center is still closed down due to the pandemic. Am I still eligible for UI if I turn down the job due to lack of child care?

Yes. You are eligible. The CARES Act provides protections for workers impacted by COVID-19 and in most states, lack of child care due to the pandemic is a valid reason to turn down a job if you are the primary caregiver.

I don’t want to return to work because I am worried about exposure to illness. Wouldn’t it be safe for me to remain on UI?

Your health and safety are very important, and that’s exactly why you should return to work—after all, most Americans receive health care insurance through their employer. Employers are already working to reduce risks of exposure in the workplace, and you should work with your employer directly about any concerns you have. Unwillingness to do so is not a valid reason to stay on UI.

What happens if there is another outbreak this fall and my kids’ school closes and I can’t go to work? Do I have to quit my job and go on UI?

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides access to paid sick and family and medical leave for reasons related to COVID-19 for employees who work at companies with less than 500 employees through the end of the year.

Read the full article here

Four Key Things to Look for as We Return to Business as Usual – Tips from SERVPRO of Clear Lake

As Texas is getting back to business, it is no surprise that some consumers are nervous about rejoining their communities and reentering public spaces.  A recent nationally recognized survey reported that 89% of consumers were hesitant about visiting a brick-and-mortar business and 40% cited cleanliness as a top concern.

As the country slowly begins to reopen, local professional cleaning specialist Susan Meacham from SERVPRO of Clear Lake notes four things people should look for when they reenter their community to help ensure they are stepping into a healthy environment.

1. Look for “signs” of clean.

When you first walk into a building, you should immediately take inventory of whether the space has been cleaned recently. A clean space should be free of visible dirt and trash. Fingerprints on doors and windows and stains on countertops and tables may indicate a relaxed attitude towards cleaning. High-touch surfaces should be disinfected regularly. Oftentimes, you can smell a freshly cleaned facility. Standalone sanitation stations are a good sign that preventing the spread of germs is a priority. You may notice physical signage stating when the space was last cleaned, who is servicing the facility, or details of a regular cleaning regimen. Many businesses are also hanging signage to remind guests and employees of proper social distancing standards.

2. What adjustments have staff made?

Everyone has a responsibility to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The staff of retail businesses, restaurants, or community centers should be properly trained in CDC-approved cleaning methods. If employees are not using proper techniques or products, it might be because of a lack of proper training. Likewise, look for staff who are wearing gloves and masks and who are practicing safe distancing when interacting with customers. It is obvious when the business is not protecting its employees. People should come before profits.

3. What adjustments has the business made to the physical space?

Many businesses and facilities have made physical changes to their buildings to help reduce the risk of spreading illness. The business may adjust the traffic flow of patrons to prevent congested areas. Contactless points-of-sale are becoming more common, and many businesses are constructing barriers between employees and guests. Some are even adding markers on floors to indicate safe distances. One good way to help prevent the spread of infection is to reduce the number of touch points, such as propping doors open and opening windows to increase airflow. Some businesses are going a step further and reducing the number of guests allowed inside the space at one time.

4. Does it look like “business as usual?”

In the same way that the country changed following 9/11, what we once knew as “normal” may change forever. If a facility is still operating in the way it did before the coronavirus pandemic, there is a good chance the managers or staff are not taking the illness seriously and are not prioritizing the health of their employees and guests. Many have reduced their hours of operation or offered times when they are open only for at-risk individuals, such as senior citizens or those who are immune-compromised. Before stepping out of your door, check the company’s social media pages or their website for communications about their hours and the steps they are taking to protect patrons. These locations should be following federal, state, and local mandates with regard to safety.

SERVPRO of Clear Lake, Thank you so much for these helpful tips. 

Are You Ready? 5 Steps to Prepare Re-open

Governor Abbott has announced plans for Texans to get back to business. Tomorrow, restaurants, retailers, malls and movie theaters will all start the process of reopening with a limited capacity.

What is your business plan for reopening?  Here are 5 simple steps to help you create your plans and be ready to once again open for business.

#1:  Build a COVID-19 Plan

Have you reviewed re-opening guidelines?  Have you taken time to write your COVID-19 plan of action?  This plan should include your re-opening checklist, new protocols and safety procedures, marketing and communications, and social distancing.  Most importantly, what is your internal and external communications plan to staff and customers? 

#2:  Respect Social Distancing

We have all seen it, stickers on the floor, signs that say no more than 10 people at a time, and even plastic shields in front of counters.  You need to consider similar procedures.  Start gathering supplies and signage to accommodate your COVID-19 plan.

#3:  Create a Cleaning Schedule

Customers and staff will notice if your store or office is clean and organized and decide if it is safe to enter.  Your new cleaning plan will have a new schedule – add it to your daily calendar!  Make sure staff is fully aware of the new procedures and has all the necessary supplies to comply.  Build in inspection times and quality control. 

#4:  Market Your COVID-19 Plan

As businesses begin to re-open, customers will be aware of what businesses have communicated their safety plan.  When you begin to market your business as back open for business, follow-up with your plans and protocol.  Your marketing efforts should assure customers that you are serious about safety. 

#5:  Respect the Process

The process of re-opening will constantly adjust as our leaders evaluate the current data.  Just as many people who are ready for business as usual, there are others who will remain very cautious for a while.  If you cater your plan to the cautious, more open consumers will respect those procedures.  The lack of a plan will undoubtedly lose some customers.  The faster we adhere to safety protocols, the faster we will get everyone back to business.

For more resources on COVID-19 and other re-opening tips, visit our resource page here.

COVID-19 Financial Resources | Paycheck Protection Program Loans

The CARES Act established a new $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program to provide relief to millions of small businesses so they can sustain their businesses and keep their workers employed. 

“This legislation provides small business job retention loans to provide eight weeks of payroll and certain overhead to keep workers employed,” said Secretary Mnuchin. “Treasury and the Small Business Administration expect to have this program up and running by April 3rd so that businesses can go to a participating SBA 7(a) lender, bank, or credit union, apply for a loan, and be approved on the same day. The loans will be forgiven as long as the funds are used to keep employees on the payroll and for certain other expenses.”

The Paycheck Protection Program is specifically designed to help small businesses keep their workforce employed. More details are available at SBA.gov/Coronavirus. It is important to note, the new loan program will be available retroactive from Feb. 15, 2020, so employers can rehire their recently laid-off employees through June 30, 2020. 

There are several Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce members that can assist you with the Paycheck Protection Program. 

Click here for more information on how to connect with these local lenders.

Loan Terms and Conditions

  • Eligible businesses: All businesses, including non-profits, Veterans organizations, Tribal concerns, sole proprietorships, self-employed individuals, and independent contractors, with 500 or fewer employees, or no greater than the number of employees set by the SBA as the size standard for certain industries
  • Maximum loan amount up to $10 million
  • Loan forgiveness if proceeds used for payroll costs and other designated business operating expenses in the 8 weeks following the date of loan origination (due to likely high subscription, it is anticipated that not more than 25% of the forgiven amount may be for non-payroll costs)
  • All loans under this program will have the following identical features
  • Interest rate of 0.5%
  • Maturity of 2 years
  • First payment deferred for six months
  • 100% guarantee by SBA

We received the below resources from Senator Cornyn’s Office. 

Paycheck Protection Program Overview

Payment Protection Program Fact Sheet

Payment Protection Program Lender Information

Payment Protection Program Application

Other SBA Financial Resources:If you do not qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program, you might be eligible for other SBA financial assistance. Our local SBDC office is operating and available to answer your questions. They have compiled a comparison chart for different loan options click here to view. For more information, please email Herb Hildebrand, Director, at Herbert.Hildebrand@sjcd.edu.   

Please continue to reference our COVID-19 Resource Page for more information. 

Note: This email contains the most current information received from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the SBA. Information is subject to change. We will communicate as additional details are available. 

Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

Hello Everyone – Hope this may be helpful to our members as they try to keep up with the latest regulations on Emergency paid leave, Emergency family and medical leave, unemployment issues and how the new law signed last night by President Trump may affect your business and employees.

FAMILY FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT (FFCRA)

A BRIEF SUMMARY FOR EMPLOYERS

The President signed into law a new act to provide relief for employees which will go into effect on April 2, 2020. All employers with fewer than 500 employees (employers) are affected by the provisions of the FFCRA, although the Secretary of Labor may exclude healthcare providers and emergency responders from the definition of employees and may exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees if the required leave would jeopardize the viability of their business. We will need to watch for regulations that will explain how this exemption will work for employers, not yet published.

Employers should be aware that there are two parts of the FFCRA which may require them to provide temporarily until the end of December 2020, coverage for employees under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act (EFMLA) and Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA).

EFMLA changes who is an employer that must provide coverage from one with 50 employees to any employer with fewer than 500 employees.

Eligibility: Employee:

1) must have worked for an employer for 30 days before the first day of the leave.

2) may take up to 12 weeks of job protected leave, if an employee is unable to work or work remotely to care for the employee’s child (under 18 years of age) if the child’s school or place of care is closed or the childcare provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency.

3) may receive paid leave (for full time employees equal to two-thirds the employee’s regular rate for the number of regularly scheduled hours or for part time or irregular schedules pay based on the average number of hours the employee worked for six months prior to taking emergency FMLA, paid leave is subject to caps). The first ten days are unpaid and an employee may use accrued paid leave like PTO or vacation to cover those days.

4) except in cases of employers with less than 25 employees, the employee must be returned to the same or equivalent job upon returning to work. For less than 25 employees, the employer may be excluded from job restoration if the employee’s position no longer exists due to an economic downturn or circumstances due to a public health emergency. However, the employer must make reasonable efforts to return the employee to work for up to a year following the leave.

For the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA)

An eligible employee may take paid sick leave for the following reasons:

1. subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;

2. advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns;

3. experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking medical diagnosis;

4. caring for an individual subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order or advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns (not limited to family members);

5. caring for the employee’s child if the child’s school or place of care is closed or the child’s care provider is unavailable due to public health emergency; or

6. experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.

Eligible means any employee of an employer with fewer than 500 employees (no prior work duration requirement prior to leave) who meets one of the above reasons, will receive 80 hours of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate (or two thirds of the employee’s regular rate for qualifying reasons 4,5,6). Part-time or employees with an irregular schedule will be paid based on regular rate determined from the average number of hours the employee worked for the 6 months prior to taking paid sick leave. An employee may also request to use this paid sick leave to cover the unpaid 10 days under the EFMLA. There are caps on the paid sick leave allowed.

Paid sick leave does not carry over to the next year and may be in addition to any paid sick leave provided by the employer.

UNEMPLOYMENT – no 7- day waiting period in Texas. Employer must notify employee of the availability of unemployment when they are separated from work. State’s action in accordance with the FCCRA where there is at least a 10% increase in claims over the same quarter last year will allow for payment of an extra 26 weeks of unemployment paid solely by the federal government. Keep in mind if your facility is ordered to close by a government entity, the Department of Labor may allow for chargeback protection. In addition, unemployment due to medical reasons may prevent a chargeback.

TAX CREDITS FOR EMPLOYERS WHO ARE REQUIRED TO PAY EMERGENCY PAID SICK LEAVE AND EMERGENCY PAID FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE

FFCRA provides for a series of refundable tax credits for employers who are required to provide the Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Paid Family and Medical Leave described above. These tax credits are allowed against the employer portion of Social Security taxes. While this limits application of the tax credit, employers will be reimbursed if their costs for qualified sick leave or qualified family leave wages exceed the taxes they would owe.

This is a summary of some of the key provisions for employers under FFCRA. The FFCRA has other provisions such as coverage for testing for insured, self-insured and grandfathered plans. Notice to employees of their rights under this new law is also important. For assistance with information, compliance with notice and any other requirements, please contact Carol Keough at the Keough Law Firm, 713-239- 5617 or email at carol@keoughlawfirm.com.

*information submitted by: Carol Keough | Keough Law Firm

COVID-19 Facts vs Myths: Insight from an Infectious Disease Specialist |SOURCE: MemorialHermann.org

Each day brings new details about COVID-19, and the amount of information available can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, much of what you read or hear may not be accurate. Misinformation is spreading throughout communities, leaving people with false details about how to protect their families.

How do you know who to trust? Memorial Hermann-affiliated infectious disease specialist Dr. John Butler helps identify the facts and the fiction about COVID-19, based on official information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the
World Health Organization (WHO).

Here are some common beliefs about COVID-19. Are they true or false?

There’s a vaccine for COVID-19, so I have nothing to worry about: FALSE

As of now, there is no vaccine for COVID-19. Researchers are working to
develop a vaccine, but there is nothing currently available. According
to the CDC, the best way to prevent infection is to take simple steps
like washing your hands with soap and water, and avoiding contact with
people who are sick.

Wearing a face mask will protect me from COVID-19: FALSE

If you are not sick, there is no known benefit to wearing a face mask. The
only time that wearing a mask is beneficial is if you are sick with
COVID-19 symptoms, including coughing. The WHO warns that if you wear a
mask, but are not sick or caring for someone who is sick, then you are
wasting that mask.

Older and sicker people are more likely to get COVID-19: TRUE

Elderly people and those with underlying health conditions usually show more
severe symptoms than younger and healthier people. The CDC identifies
these groups of people as being at a higher risk:

  • Older adults
  • People with serious chronic medical conditions, including heart disease, lung disease and Diabetes

Children are immune from getting COVID-19: FALSE

Although children are less likely to have severe symptoms, they are not immune.
Anyone can contract COVID-19. According to the CDC, adults appear to be
at a higher risk than children.

Younger people may only have mild symptoms: TRUE

The CDC says that children with confirmed cases of COVID-19 have generally presented with mild symptoms.

Hand sanitizer is better than washing your hands with soap and water: FALSE

Both hand sanitizer and hand washing are helpful in preventing the spread of
COVID-19, but the CDC recommends hand washing as the first choice. The
best way to clean your hands is by washing with soap and water for 20
seconds. If soap and water are not available, you can use hand sanitizer
that is at least 60% alcohol. Soap and water are best because they can
reach areas of your hands that hand sanitizer cannot always get to.
Also, hand sanitizer cannot clean visibly dirty hands.

Antibacterial wipes and disinfectants kill COVID-19: TRUE

Standard antibacterial wipes and household disinfectants can stop the spread of
COVID-19. The WHO  says that if you think a surface may be infected, you
should clean it with a simple disinfectant to kill the virus.

COVID-19 will get better when the weather gets warmer: UNKNOWN

Other coronaviruses have been less prevalent during warm weather, but we do
not know if COVID-19 will respond the same way. According to the CDC,
other viruses like the common cold and the flu spread more easily during
cold-weather months, but this does not mean it is impossible to become
sick during warmer weather.

My pet can spread COVID-19: PROBABLY FALSE

There is no reason to think pets in the United States are a source of
infection for COVID-19. So far, the CDC has not received any reports of
pets becoming sick with or spreading the virus. However, if you are
diagnosed with COVID-19, you should limit your contact with pets while
you are sick, just like you would limit your contact with people.

The flu shot prevents COVID-19: FALSE

The flu shot is specific for the flu virus, and is not effective against
other viruses, including COVID-19. The WHO confirms that COVID-19 needs
its own vaccine, and researchers are working to develop it.

COVID-19 will eventually become so widespread that everyone will contract the virus: FALSE 

Dr. John Butler says that the greater-Houston region is taking containment
measures that have shown to be effective in stopping the spread of
COVID-19.

What Should You Do Now?

The best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to practice healthy habits. These
suggestions may seem basic, but they are some of the best defenses we
have against the spread of the virus:

  • Practice social
    distancing. As a reminder, social distancing is a public health practice
    that aims to prevent sick people from coming in close contact with
    healthy people in order to reduce opportunities for disease
    transmission. It can include large-scale measures like canceling group
    events or closing public spaces, as well as individual decisions such as
    avoiding crowds.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Wash your
    hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water
    are not available, another option is hand sanitizer. Read the label to
    be sure it contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • If you cough or
    sneeze, cover your mouth with a tissue (not with your hand). Wash your
    hands with soap and water immediately after coughing or sneezing, and
    throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Do not come in close contact with people who are sick.
  • Use
    household disinfectants to clean things in your home that are
    frequently touched. This could include doorknobs, countertops, tables
    and light switches.

5 simple tips to support your local business community during the Coronavirus pandemic.

With the spread of COVID-19, we find ourselves in a time of global uncertainty. As of now, a good handful of states and cities have even closed bars and restaurants in an attempt to slow down the spread of the virus.

We realize that small business owners worried about the future of their establishments, and the servers, bartenders, cooks and retail employees are worried about how they will pay bills for the next few weeks. We encourage large businesses to shop local …printing services, equipment servicing, etc.  during this time.  While we have no control on the restrictions that have been put in place, here are a few things we can do to continue to support our favorite local business during this time. Visit the Chamber directory to see who you can help!

  1. Many restaurants continue to offer carry-out & delivery | Although dine-in is no longer an option, delivery & carry-out can help you keep your sanity and still support the restaurant. Please be sure to tip!
  2. Grab a few gift cards from your favorite local business | Buy now, use later…this is a smart way to ensure your favorite business is still generating some sort of income until the pandemic passes.
  3. Still shop online | To stay in line with social distancing, this is a great option (when offered) to support your local favs.
  4. Buy LOCAL produce | While our larger grocery stores are trying to keep up with the high demand of product, now might be a great time to shop small and try a local market or farmers market. If they are open, try them out!
  5. Consider a Donation | During this time, although not feasible for some, consider assisting employers/employees with a donation of money, food, toiletries, etc… Our non-profit businesses have also halted most fundraising events so reach out and see what you can do! You could definitely brighten someones day and ease tensions with a simple act of kindness.

Each day will bring new details and possible restrictions to your daily routine. We will continue to stay up to date with and follow the guidance of our community leaders as well as the CDC and WHO.

Follow these steps to help keep yourself healthy during this time.

URGENT: Chamber Events Update

To our Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Membership,

Over the past few weeks it has become clear that we are facing an unprecedented challenge. At this time, we understand there is an influx of information surrounding the COVID-19 virus. We are continuously monitoring the latest news and want to do what we can to help keep our communities and families safe and healthy. We also recognize there is a great deal of uncertainty about what to do and how to best go about our daily lives. We feel that it is best to follow community-wide developments and will be keeping you all updated on future Chamber activities. The Chamber will remain open, monitoring the evolving situation and will adjust accordingly.

March 16 – 20, 2020 All Chamber meetings and activities are postponed. However, the Chamber office will remain open to serve the needs of our community.

The SBA has released an announcement regarding disaster assistance loans. SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in assistance for a small business. These loans can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing. For additional information, please contact the SBA disaster assistance customer service center. Call 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or e-mail disastercustomerservice@sba.gov(link sends e-mail) Read more…

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Texas Health and Human Services

World Health Organization

Our members are the heart of this organization and we will remain committed to serving our community throughout this time of uncertainty. If possible, please continue to patronize and support our local business community. Please take care of yourselves and each other.

Cindy DeWease, IOM President/CEO
Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce

From the Chairman, March 2020

You are likely familiar with the old saying, “If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb.” Well I am hoping that the weather we have been experiencing means the winds of change are blowing great spring weather to our area for the chamber’s 31st Annual Spring Fever Golf Classic at Bay Oaks Country Club to be held Monday, March 30, 2020. Teams and sponsorship opportunities are still available.

In March, we are blessed to witness one of Mother Nature’s greatest works with the blooming of Texas wildflowers. Turning our landscape into a masterpiece of colorful artwork. Spring is also the time the chamber hopes to bloom its membership base thru its annual membership drive. I hope you will assist by planting a seed with those in your circle of influence about joining the chamber. During this drive, the chamber will also be announcing a potpourri of new membership packages that will deliver added value for both existing and new members.

March is also the month of one of my favorite holidays, Saint Patrick’s Day which honors the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick. Recently, the chamber also recognized some of our local saints with the formulation of ONE (Organization for Nonprofit Engagement) Clear Lake. This group’s first meeting was a huge success and the chamber is looking forward to continuing the support of these important members of our community.

No discussion about the month of March would be complete without bringing up one of the biggest, most exciting and most fun events in all of sports, March Madness. As you cheer on your alma mater or Cinderella team, I encourage you to check out the Chamber blog for news and tips on developing your own professional game plan. You can also receive some great coaching by attending the upcoming Business Development Seminar: Business Credibility to be held on March 3rd and/or signing up for the 2021 Leadership Clear Lake Program.

May the luck of the Irish enfold you.

Shawn Bailey
2019/2020 Chairman of the Board
AMOCO Federal Credit Union