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10 Tips to Protect Your Business During a Hurricane

South Florida Business Journal published two interesting articles about hurricane prevention for businesses, click here and here to read the original articles. Below you can read the summary.

  • Set up a call-forwarding service to a backup location: to communicate emergency plans and business situation.
  • Back up data to the cloud: to secure your company information. back up files to an off-site location. Storing data in cloud applications can be safer than storing it in your on-premise storage system.
  • Outline detailed plans for evacuation and shelter-in-place: to ensure that you and your family are safe in case things get ugly.
  • Assemble a crisis-management team: to ensure business continuity and coordinate with neighbor’s businesses, partners and employees.
  • Consider a backup cellular network: to stay communicated you can use Zello app. Free Download
  • Ensure your employees’ contact information is up to date: to guarantee the information is sent to the correct email or phone number to all the employees.
  • Consider developing a system to authorize re-entry to company facilities after a storm: cards ID or Vehicle permits to guarantee the functionality of the company.
  • Determine what you need to secure your building and important equipment: to protect your most valuable company patrimony.
  • Review your insurance coverage and photograph or videotape your building or office: to assure your company is protected in case of any loss or damage caused by the hurricane.
  • Prepare for potential power outages: make sure to keep updated your phone number, email address on your FPL account and consider installing a generator for those equipment’s that can’t be turn off.

How to Apply for Assistance after Hurricane Irma

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has put a process in place for all victims of the most recent natural disaster in the U.S. – hurricane Irma. This article will present in detail what you should to do to get the assistance you need and how to apply for it either as an individual or a business.

Ways to apply as an individual

The easiest way to apply for assistance is online on www.DisasterAssistance.gov. There you will need to answer a series of questions to help the Agency’s officers determine your eligibility and the type of help you require. If you don’t have an internet connection and you can’t get WiFi near you, you can call the following phone numbers to make an application:

  • (800) 621-3362
  • TTY (800) 462-7585

The phone lines are open 7 days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. As an individual you can apply for assistance within 60 days of the date of declaration.

If you have applied online you can also keep track of the progress of your application and find out where you can find shelter, food, water and medical resources.

If you are eligible you will receive an Individual Assistance grant, which you don’t have to repay and it does not depend on your income.

What documents you need to apply as an individual

  • Social Security number
  • Address of the damaged property
  • Current contact address
  • Current contact telephone number
  • Insurance information
  • Total household annual income
  • Routing and account number for your checking or savings account.
  • A description of your disaster-caused damage and losses

For reference visit https://www.fema.gov/apply-assistance

What can FEMA assist individuals with

  • Primary home damage or loss – you can get assistance from FEMA if you have lost your primary accommodation, whether rented or owned by you. If you have home insurance the help from FEMA will only cover damaged items that are not included in the insurance policy.
  • Disaster-caused medical and dental expenses
  • Disaster-caused childcare expenses
  • Disaster-caused funeral expenses
  • Essential household items
  • Moving and storage expenses
  • Vehicle
  • Sanitary products

Prepare for home inspection

If you have applied for individual assistance to FEMA, your damaged property will be visited by inspectors to assess the damage before any funds are transferred to your account. A statement issued by FEMA a couple of days ago advised homeowners and renters who have made applications for assistance to clean up the affected properties before the inspection. However, applicants should take pictures of the place before cleaning and keep the receipts for any products and services purchases related to clearing the property after the hurricane. More about this statement you can read here.

What Help is available for businesses

The process for assistance application to FEMA after hurricane Irma is similar for the business owner as to individuals. However, organizations will not get a grant, but a loan. These are called Small Business Bridge Loans and were announced by Rick Scott last Thursday, as reported by the South Florida Business Journal.

The loans are interest-free and provided for a short time, essentially between the time when damages occurred and the time when the business is able to use its insurance to cover any costs. The maximum amount you can receive is $25,000 and the period for which the loan is granted is between 90 and 180 days. Applications are open until October 31, 2017.

You are eligible for the assistance if you are a business owner of an organization with up to 100 employees, located in any of the 67 Florida counties and generally fall into the Small Business bracket. Your business must have been established before September 4, 2017, and you need to provide a proof of hurricane-related financial and physical damages.

Visit the official website for the program www.floridadisasterloan.org to get more information or contact an officer via phone at 850-898-3489 or email Disaster@FloridaSBDC.org. Business disaster loans are also available.

As a local business, we, at FAS CPA and Consultants are ready to contribute to the recovery of our community. We are happy to assist any affected Floridians, whether individuals or corporations, who need help and advice on applying for FEMA assistance. Please make sure to contact us with any questions and queries you may have.

Click To Download Our Free Tax Guide: 10 Tax Tips for New Business Owners

How a Hurricane will Affect Business Activity in Florida

Hurricane Irma has devastated a large part of the Caribbean and Florida. It has had a huge direct impact on the lives of tens of thousands of people, but the aftermath is much broader. Here’s what to expect from the economy and potential assistance you can take advantage of as a hurricane survivor.

  • As the entire State of Florida is a Federally- declared disaster area, your lender is required by Federal Law to give you a three- month forbearance on your mortgage payment at no cost and no credit implications if requested. Contact your mortgage holder and it should only take two minutes. The next payment is January, 2018, and your loan will be extended by three months. Thanks to Romy Jurado from Jurado & Farschian www.jflawfirm.com.
  • Unemployment is expected to rise and the national economic growth is likely to be slowed down, by almost one third.
  • The economy will recover by the first quarter of the New Year latest.
  • More jobs in the construction and reconstruction industry may be created.
  • First-time unemployment claims are projected for a high jump in the next 5 months. After that period a decline is expected. To read the full article on economic projection after Irma, please click here.
  • As an exempt employee you are entitled to your regular pay if your company has closed for business during and after the hurricane. However, you must be aware that if the office was open and you decided not to attend work, this is classified as absence for “personal reasons” and you may lose the pay for the days you have not performed your work duties. Non-exempt workers, unfortunately, are not entitled to pay during absence due to any reason. Thanks to Sharon Radell from www.tlcforkids.com. Original source: Paying Employees When the Weather Outside is Frightful (And You Close Your Business), FrankCrum.com
  • A legal aid hotline has been opened for hurricane survivors who are unable to afford an attorney. The number is 1-866-550-2929. The voicemail service is available in English and Spanish.
  • Services will be provided to all qualifying Floridians in all Florida counties. The following types of free legal help are available:
    • Assistance with FEMA and other benefits
    • Making insurance claims
    • Dealing with home repair contractors
    • Replacing important documents that have been destroyed during the hurricane
    • Consumer protection matters
    • Mortgage-foreclosure or landlord/tenant issues
  • Your voice message will get a reply in 2 business days between 9am and 5pm. To read the full article, read more information on available assistance and advice, and to get a list of the participating law firms and organizations, click here.
  • The IRS has issued a tax relief on those who were hit hardest by the hurricane. It includes the following:
    • Extending filing deadlines for both taxpayers and businesses
    • Offering further deadlines for various business tax activities
    • Allowing hardship withdrawals, such as 401(k), without a penalty to cover living expenses of the named taxpayer or an immediate family member residing in the affected area. Click here to read more.
  • 16 of the Florida’s counties are eligible to take advantage of the tax relief: Broward, Charlotte, Clay, Collier, Duval, Flagler, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Putnam, Sarasota, and St. John’s. To learn more about the tax relief, click here.

FINAL DEADLINE: Hurricane Irma Recovery Assistance for Businesses

The Florida SBDC at FIU has informed us about the coming deadline for applying for Irma Recovery Assistance for businesses. We are providing this information as key deadlines for assistance are approaching very soon.

Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program

  • Businesses in Miami-Dade County are eligible for assistance from the Florida bridge loan program for physical or economic impact from Hurricane Irma.
  • Completed applications will be accepted through November 30, 2017. Any applications received after the deadline, whether complete or incomplete, will not be accepted.
  • These short-term, interest-free working capital loans are intended to “bridge the gap” between the time a major catastrophe hits and when a business has secured longer-term recovery resources, such as sufficient profits from a revived business, receipt of payments on insurance claims, or Federal disaster assistance.
  • To be eligible, a business must:
    • Have been established prior to September 4, 2017;
    • Have between two (2) to 100 employees; and
    • Demonstrate economic or physical damage as a result of Hurricane Irma
  • Loan amounts can be from $1,000 to $50,000.
  • The loan term is 90 or 180 days based on individual business circumstances. Loans will be interest-free for the loan term but must be repaid in full by the end of the loan term or penalties apply.
  • If you are eligible and have a completed application, they must be dropped off in person at Florida SBDC at FIU and must include the following documents:
    • Driver’s License (REQUIRED)
    • Signed application by 51% owner (REQUIRED)
    • 2 years business tax returns (e.g. 1120, the 1120s) (REQUIRED)
    • 2 years personal tax returns (1040 and all schedules) (REQUIRED)
    • Documentation of minimum 2 employee compensation (ie. copies of employees’ W-2s) (REQUIRED)
    • Interim P&L for 2017 (optional)
    • Letter of explanation (optional)
      • Credit Issues
      • Repayment issues
      • Explain physical damages or economic impact on your business

SBA Disaster Assistance

  • Businesses in Miami-Dade County are also still eligible for Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for damages from Hurricane Irma.
  • The deadline to apply for Economic Injury assistance is June 11, 2018.
  • Businesses and private nonprofit organizations of any size may borrow up to $2 million to recover from economic impact suffered as a result of Hurricane Irma.
  • Interest rates are as low as 3.305 percent for businesses and 2.5 percent for nonprofit organizations, 1.75 percent for homeowners and renters with terms up to 30 years. Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition.

Accion Hurricane Irma Small Business Relief Loan Fund Program

  • Accion has created a program to assist business owners affected by Hurricane Irma.
  • The program provides up to $50,000 with an interest rate of 4.99%. There is no payment required for the first three (3) months and no pre-payment penalty.
  • To be eligible, applicants must have a credit score of 575 or higher or no credit score. Bankruptcies are acceptable if discharged one year or more. Additional requirements may apply.

Florida SBDC at FIU Resources

  • Our team of experienced business consultants is available to offer confidential, no-cost advising to business owners impacted by Hurricane Irma.
  • More information on our program and the services that we offer can be viewed here: http://sbdc.fiu.edu

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How The IRS is Offering Tax Relief for Hurricane Victims in Florida

Earlier this week, as reported by NewsPress.com, the IRS announced a tax relief for the people who had suffered the destructive conditions of hurricane Irma. Similar relief was also issued at the end of August, following the devastating appearance of hurricane Harvey in Texas. The IRS confirmed the extensions of the tax deadlines on IR-2017-150, 9/12/17.

The key points of the tax relief you need to be aware of are:

  • Filing deadlines for individuals whose valid extension runs out on October, 16 will be further extended to January 31, 2018
  • Filing deadlines for businesses whose valid extension runs out on September, 15 will be further extended to January 31, 2018
  • Business deadlines for quarterly payroll, excise tax returns and others will be delayed to January 31, 2018
  • Hardship withdrawals from retirement plans, like 401(k) and others will be allowed without a penalty until January 31, 2018. These can be used by directly affected residents of the qualifying counties or immediate family members, residing there for purposes like food and shelter, basic living expenses and others.
  • The residents of the eligible counties will also receive federal aid, designed to cover expenses and damages that their property insurance policy does not.

Floridians of the following 16 counties will be able to benefit from the most recent tax relief:

  • Broward,
  • Charlotte,
  • Clay,
  • Collier,
  • Duval,
  • Flagler,
  • Hillsborough,
  • Lee,
  • Manatee,
  • Miami-Dade,
  • Monroe,
  • Palm Beach,
  • Pinellas,
  • Putnam,
  • Sarasota, and
  • John’s

There are 51 more counties of the state, which have not been currently recognized as eligible by FEMA, but that may soon change as local lawmakers are trying very hard to press the White House into providing further assistance to more affected areas.

Readers should note that this article is only intended to convey general information on these issues and that FAS CPA & Consultants (FAS) in no way intends for the contents of this article to be construed as accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This article cannot serve as a substitute for such professional services or advice. Any decision or action that may affect the reader’s business should not rely solely on the contents of this article, but should rather be consulted on with a qualified professional adviser. FAS shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this presentation. This article is subject to change at any time and for any reason.

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