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Business interruption insurance & COVID Should business interruption insurance cover losses due to the COVID-19 shutdowns, even if said insurance policy contains a virus exclusion? A bar and restaurant based in Park Ridge and a former jewelry store in Chicago have gone to the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to argue that their policies with West Bend Mutual Insurance Co. should cover such losses, which they say are due to the Illinois state government orders, not the virus itself. (Mashallah Inc. et al. v. West Bend Mutual Insurance Co., U.S. Seventh Circuit, 21-1507) Continue reading
Drop the Mask in your business? After a year of employee and customer mask requirements being a no-brainer for small businesses, the CDC’s recent change in guidance that those who have become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 need not wear masks in many public settings has required business owners to put on their thinking caps again with regard to this issue, for the first time in more than a year. Major retailers like Costco, Kroger, Walmart, Target, Walgreens and CVS have revised their guidance to match that of the CDC, although individual store locations in more highly populated areas like Chicagoland…
The Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) and the City of Chicago Department of Housing (DOH) have each announced separate Emergency Rental Assistance Programs.  Both programs will be funded using the federal COVID-19 relief funds.   Owners with non-paying residents in Chicago can apply to both agencies for assistance, but will only be allowed to receive funds from one of the programs. Landlords can apply for the Illinois House Development Authority assistance at:  https://ilrpp.ihda.org/ The Chicago Emergency Rental Relief Assistance Program will begin taking applications on May 24.   This program is open for both Tenants and Landlords.  For more information about this…
What Can Small Businesses Do About the Maskless? As more states lift requirements that people wear COVID-19 masks indoors when in public, what can small businesses do to protect their employees—and other customers who still prefer to wear masks? As of April 5, more than one-third of states (18) lacked mask requirements, some of which never had them in the first place, according to the Associated Press. But business owners are certainly legally entitled to require them if they so choose, given that their public-facing spaces are still private property that they either rent or own, as long as…
Pandemic Relief for Restaurants Smaller restaurants and bars soon will have a new opportunity for pandemic-related relief when the U.S. Small Business Administration posts the application for the new Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a program created as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 signed by President Biden on March 11. As of this posting, the application had not been made available; however, those eligible should keep checking this page or watching out for announcements and be ready to pounce. Continue reading
Landlords in Illinois, especially those in non-home-rule portions of Cook County, will face a raft of changes this spring in the wake of three state Supreme Court orders issued in late February, and a new ordinance passed by the Cook County Board of Supervisors that takes effect June 1. The Supreme Court’s orders respectively relate to Governor Pritzker’s eviction moratorium, which has been extended to April 3; how circuit courts can handle an anticipated flood of eviction cases once the moratorium ends; and the use of electronic signatures in eviction proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Continue reading
How to Determine Your Workplace Vaccination Policy As COVID-19 vaccines begin to become available for working-age people—first for those in healthcare, then those in other “frontline” occupations, then for those at risk due to medical conditions, and finally for the general 18-to-64 population—can employers implement mandatory vaccination policies? In general, the answer is yes, according to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, although employers need to be careful on a number of fronts, starting with ensuring that the way they craft their policy does not run afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Continue reading
New Federal Reporting Requirements for Small Business The paper work for many small businesses will be increasing. Many small businesses with 20 or fewer employees and $5 million or less in gross receipts or sales will be subject to new federal reporting requirements under the Corporate Transparency Act (“CTA”), a section of the National Defense Authorization Act enacted on January 1. This will include both those formed in the U.S., whether through a state or an Indian nation, as well as those formed outside the U.S. but registered to do business here. Continue reading
Small Business Pandemic Survival Information The $900 billion pandemic relief package included relief for Small Businesses.  The updated programs are intended to make it easier for small business owners to apply and gain funds. The Small Business Administration (“SBA”) approved $5 billion in new Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loans on January 19 and expanded the network of lenders who can make the loans.   More info is available on the SBA Website here.  The new loans are a little more restrictive for businesses seeking a second PPP loan.  There are caps on the number of employees, the amounts are lower…
How to Prepare for 2021 Wow, 2020 was a year to forget! I hesitate to say it was interesting because it was not. It was more like a nightmare as we coped with a public health crisis, an economic crisis, a political crisis, and a civil rights crisis. Let’s put 2020 in a lead box and drop it in the deepest part of the ocean! Unfortunately, the pandemic has forced a number of businesses to close. Some businesses have actually thrived and others have adapted and are working diligently to succeed. Mostly, it has altered how businesses operate and tested…
Employees can be required to vaccinate. The federal government has stated that workers can be barred from work if they refuse the vaccine.  Employers can make a COVID vaccination a condition of employment.  But, employers must also consider exemptions for employees with disabilities or religious objections. After a long delay in getting guidance to employers, on December 16, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) – this is the agency that enforces laws against workplace discrimination – provided the answer to whether employers can require employees to provide proof of vaccination and how employers should respond to employees who indicate…
Are virtual business transactions the new reality? Once consummated in title company conference rooms amid seemingly bottomless stacks of paper, real estate transactions—like seemingly every other aspect of our lives—have gone virtual during the pandemic. While some home buyers opt to continue in-person closings where possible, others are either giving their attorneys the power to ink final documents for them, or turning to software like DocuSign, with which increasing numbers of customers have become comfortable. Continue reading
COVID Rules for Residential Evictions The COVID-19 Pandemic has drastically altered the Rules for Residential Evictions affecting both landlords and tenants. The Federal Government and the State of Illinois have enacted rules to protect many individuals from eviction and landlords must be aware of the rules to protect their interests.   The recent Stay-At-Home recommendations and the slowdown in the economy have created pressures on both landlord and tenants. Continue reading
           Crypto economy has arrived. An actual physical bank will soon be providing the full slate of deposit-taking, custody and fiduciary services for cryptocurrency such as bitcoin. The Cheyenne, Wyoming-based Kraken Financial on September 16 became the first digital asset firm in the U.S. to obtain a federal- and state-recognized bank charter and thus will be regulated very similarly to other American banks. Although the institution will have a physical office in Cheyenne, the plan is to emphasize online and mobile banking, with customer support on call 24/7/365. Continue reading
Employers Need to Mask Up Against Lawsuits Small businesses face a dizzying swirl of regulations from different levels of government about whether patrons and employees are required to wear masks during the pandemic, as well as whether employers are required to either purchase masks for employees or reimburse them for reasonable costs. The scenario becomes more fraught given the emergence of class-action litigation even when businesses are complying with the mandates and guidelines from the federal, state and local authorities. Going forward, small businesses need to strike a delicate balance between accommodating customers in their public spaces while doing right…