Changes to Unemployment Under the CARES Act

Applications for unemployment benefits have skyrocketed as a result of social distancing requirements and forced closures of businesses.  Thankfully, unemployment compensation benefits were dramatically expanded under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (or CARES) Act.  These expansions include:

Expanded Eligibility for Certain Individuals

Under normal circumstances, persons who are self-employed or considered contractors, freelances, “gig” workers, or part-time or furloughed workers, are ineligible for unemployment benefits.  The CARES Act has expanded eligibility to include these individuals.  To be eligible, the individuals must be able to prove that the coronavirus emergency has prevented them from gainful employment.  According to NBC News, contractors will be eligible for half of the average unemployment benefits in their state.

Additionally, individuals who were scheduled to begin new employment but were unable to start because of COVID-19 can receive unemployment benefits.

Immediate Benefits 

Typical unemployment benefits are not available for the first week that an individual is out of work.  This is designed to motivate individuals to look for work immediately to avoid a week without pay.  Because of the concern that alternate employment may be challenging or impossible to find for the foreseeable future, the CARES Act includes a provision in which the federal government will provide the funds for the first week of UI benefit should the state waive the waiting period.

A Bump in Regular Weekly Amounts

The average unemployment amount nationwide is just under $400 per week.  The CARES Act provides an additional $600 per week to certain individuals receiving unemployment benefits.  This expansion grants individuals who would normally qualify for unemployment benefits under state law to also receive the additional amount referred to as “Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation.”  This additional amount is paid by the state to the recipient and is then reimbursed by the Federal government.  The additional amount does not affect the employer’s UI account.  Currently, the bump in unemployment expires on July 31, 2020.

Increase in Available Weeks of Unemployment Compensation

If an individual reaches the maximum number of weeks of allowable unemployment compensation, the CARES Act will allow them to receive additional benefits for up to 13 weeks.  This increases total time of available unemployment compensation from 26 to 39 weeks.

Short-Term Compensation Programs 

If an individual has hours or compensation cut, they are generally not eligible for any unemployment benefits.  However, the CARES Act has a provision that incentivizes states who do not currently offer a short-time compensation program.  The Act covers 50% of the establishment costs incurred by the states through the end of the year.

COVID-19 Related Unemployment Compensation Benefits

Should an individual be unable to work due to COVID-19 related reasons (diagnosis, exposure, symptoms, or self-quarantine), he or she may be eligible for up to 39 weeks of unemployment compensation even though they are not available for work.  Remember, under normal circumstances unemployment benefits are only available to those individuals who are able to work and who are actively seeking employment.

To be eligible for these benefits, an individual must be directly impacted by COVID-19 in one of the following ways:

  • Self-certify that they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms and seeking a diagnosis;
  • Have an individual in their household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • Provide care for a family member or member of the household who has been diagnosed;
  • Be unable to attend work because a child or person in the household for the which the individual is the primary caregiver is unable to attend school or another facility;
  • Be unable to reach his or her place of employment because of a quarantine imposed or because the individual has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine;
  • Become the primary breadwinner of a household because the head of household has died as a direct result of COVID-19;
  • Be forced to quit his or her job as a direct result of COVID-19; or
  • The individuals place of employment has closed as a direct result of COVID-19.

Changes to Georgia’s Unemployment Process

  • All in-person requirements for services are temporarily suspended
  • Online access is available for unemployment services
  • Partial claim access is available online for employers
  • Other reemployment services are also available online
  • Employers who are forced to temporarily reduce or eliminate work hours for employees are required to file partial claims on behalf of those employees. According to the GA DOL website:  “Any employer found to be in violation of this rule will be required to reimburse GDOL for the full amount of unemployment insurance benefits paid to the employee.”

 

Do you believe you’re eligible for unemployment benefits?  Apply with your state’s Department of Labor or speak with your employer about starting the application process. For additional information about Georgia’s unemployment rules with regard to COVID-19 changes, you can visit https://dol.georgia.gov/gdol-covid-19-information.

Local Business Spotlight: In An Instant, LLC

We are very excited to be starting a Local Business Spotlight series.  We will be featuring local businesses owned by our clients and friends.  Our very first feature is In An Instant, owned by Lauren Fici.  Lauren is an incredibly kind and talented event planner based in Marietta.  Keep reading to learn about her experience starting and growing her business, what inspires her, and what she feels has helped In An Instant become what it is today.

Q: What is the name of your business and when did you get started?

    The name of my business is In An Instant, LLC. My best friend and I came up with this name due to my love of communication and always being so instant in my responses. I officially started my dream company in February of 2017.

Q: Tell us about your business. What products and/or services do you offer?

    I offer event planning services. There are many types of events: weddings, rehearsals, birthday parties, bridal showers, anniversary parties, baby showers, baptism luncheon, fundraisers, grand openings, corporate functions, as well as Instant Getaways. In An Instant, LLC does them all.
    I also do floral arrangements, DJ services, and provide linens and some decor rentals.
    I can plan your party from A-Z or help coordinate the month before. I can caterer to YOUR needs.

PC: Ruzin Cunningham Photos

Q: How did you get the idea or concept for the business?

    I have always known my strong suite is communication and organization. I had been wanting to work in this industry for years. One day, after talking with my husband and best friends, I just decided to say …why not! Lets take a chance! So we started on building a website, which my friend Nicole Cole did -she totally rocked it! Then a logo, my best friend Hilary Salo found my vision and made the logo perfect and then went from there. I thrive on my social media platforms and started to book business!

PC: Hannah Wade Photography
Q: Why did you choose your industry/business?

    I always was the friend to throw all my friends baby showers and bridal showers. I had the organization to come up with timelines and due dates for different items to make sure the event went perfectly. I also worked for Event Services for Valdosta State University for a year. I assisted in Relay for Life and the Chili cookoff. I felt a sense of accomplishment and excitement. I always finished the event being in the best mood. I knew I had found my calling!

Q: What was your mission at the outset?

    My mission statement is: ” Making Dream Reality, In An Instant” — this is true to this day, when I helped plan a wedding for sweet friend of mine in 4 days due to Hurricane Irma destroying her venue at the beach. We relocated and did it in Ballground, GA and it was gorgeous!!!

 

Q: What was the most valuable lesson you learned in your first year of business?

    It is okay to not know everything. That is why there are professional tax laws, accounting, contracts, etc. I made the best decision when I hired Levesque and Associates to do my business taxes and accounting. They are the best!!!!

Q: Which channel(s) do you feel has been the most beneficial to the growth of your business (Social media, web-presence, word-of-mouth, networking, etc)? Why?

    I feel like the most valuable benefit has been word of mouth. I strive for every event I do to at least have 2 or more referrals from it due to my client being 100% satisfied. Also I am a big advocate for networking. I am very involved in the Marietta Business Association and my way of giving back to the community is doing all of their ribbon cuttings and assisting in their social media. Through Marietta Business Association I was named the 2017 Member of the Year! I also have a closed networking group called EARN and out of that group I gained my most loyal client.

Q: What do you feel has been the biggest contributor to the success of your business?

    I feel as though it has been my support team. I have the most supportive husband who constantly helps me think of new ways I can improve. I have friends that constantly refer me and my clients who sing my praises. My sweet parents continue to encourage me and lift me up. I love my new vendor friends and the relationships that we have built so we can refer each other.

PC: Misty Nolan Photography

PC: Picture This! Photography, Florals by: Sean O’Keefe Events
Q: Can you tell us about a client experience that made you think, “This is why I do what I do!”?

    September of 2017 I did a wedding in Italy. I coordinated and assisting in booking the vendors, made a very detailed timeline, added an international phone plan, and met with my client a few times. We did this in 3 months.
    The wedding looked like something out of the movies. It was so romantic and I got the best review of my life. I also made friends with the florist, photographer, and videographer. Not to mention her wedding made it to “Say Yes to the Dress”!! I still think of this wedding and have to pinch myself from time to time!

Q: Do you have a favorite quote, book, or blog that has inspired you as you have grown your business?

    Of course I have always loved Martha Stewart Weddings, The Knot, and Style Me Pretty! But a quote I would say that gets me going is:
    “People can teach you, motivate you and inspire you. But only you can make up your own mind to go after your goals.” – Eric Eisenberg
Q: What has been the biggest obstacle you have faced while starting and growing your business?

    With starting any business you are presented with new challenges. Work/life balance and time management are two key components that require a steady hand on the wheel. This is something that I am working on every day.

Q: What words of wisdom or advice would you offer to someone starting their own business?

    Have a vision and do not be afraid of failure. Keep pushing and find your tribe! Love what you do and you will truly never work a day in your life. When you get to something you might not know a lot about find a trusted professional and refer back to each other.

Flowers by Lauren Fici
About Lauren Fici
Born and raised in Marietta, Georgia, Lauren has a drive for serving others. She is a graduate of Valdosta State University (Go Blazers!) with a Bachelor’s in Speech Communication. She is happily married to a man she has known since elementary school. Lauren and her husband, Ali, are both very active in their church and serve on the hospitality team.

Lauren has known since she was little that she has a servant’s heart and event planning is her calling. For ten years she coordinated showers, weddings, parties, fundraisers, and corporate events. Whether it was planning showers, or coordinating weddings, or helping plan her grandmother’s 106th birthday party, she has known that planning and coordinating are her strengths. She has hosted numerous events and is a stickler for schedules. She feels that event planning is her natural calling and southern hospitality and organization are her strong suits.

Contact:
In An Instant, LLC
678-910-9093
lefinstant@gmail.com

All About Mileage

The mileage deduction is a tax write-off used to offset the cost incurred through using a personal vehicle for business purposes.  If you are a business owner using a personal vehicle or an employee driving your own car or truck for work, you should be tracking your mileage.

Is it Business Mileage?

The IRS only allows a deduction for miles that are driven for business.  This does not include your commute between your home and your regular place of business.  Applicable miles include:

  • Mileage driven between your place of employment and a second work site/location or to meet clients off-site
  • Work related errands such as driving to the post office, bank, or to the office supply store
  • Do you drive to meet clients or vendors for dinner or a quick coffee? Miles driven for business meal or entertainment purposes are deductible
  • Miles driven to and from the airport for a business trip
  • Do you have a side-gig such as babysitting, dog walking, or lawn care? Miles driven to the location of an odd job should be tracked for deduction
  • Miles driven to a temporary job site (if it lasts less than 1 year)
  • Mileage related to job seeking (there are limitations)

Be sure to track and document your actual mileage driven for business purposes.  Claiming a round number, such as 15,000, on your return is more likely to create red flag with the IRS.  Should you ever be audited, you will be expected to produce a log of your mileage for the year.

Reimbursement vs. Tax Write-off           

It is important to note that if your employer reimburses you for the miles you drive your own car then you cannot deduct the mileage on your taxes.  Business owners, you may choose to reimburse yourself at the Standard Mileage Rate through your business or claim the miles as a deduction.  Alternately, you may choose to deduct actual vehicle expenses in lieu of mileage.  A few examples of vehicle expenses you can deduct are:

  • Gas and oil
  • Parking or toll costs for business trips
  • Lease payments
  • Car insurance
  • Repairs and maintenance
  • Depreciation of the vehicle and any improvements
  • License fees

If you choose to deduct the Standard Mileage Rate, there are still a few vehicle expenses that are deductible:

  • Any interest you pay on a car loan
  • Personal property tax paid on the car (ad valorem)
  • Parking or toll costs for business trips

Regardless of the category you fall into, be sure you are accurately tracking the miles in a mileage log or documenting car-related expenses and keeping a record of receipts.

Log Requirements

The IRS has minimum requirements for mileage logs.  To be compliant, your log must include at least the following for any miles driven for business purposes:

  • Actual mileage
  • Date of the drive
  • Places driven
  • Purpose of the trip

Restrictions

To avoid any headaches down the road with the IRS, it is important to know what restrictions exist.  Most importantly, you should note that should you choose to use the actual expense method the first year that you use a car for business purposes, you must continue using that method until the car is sold or no longer used for business purposes.  If you use the Standard Mileage Rate the first year a car is in service, then you may switch back and forth between the two methods in the following years.  However, it is important to note that switching back and forth may result in the need to recapture depreciation.  Consult your CPA or tax professional for additional information.

2018 Mileage Rates (valid 01/01/2018 through 12/31/2018)

It isn’t exclusively business mileage that is tax deductible.  If you commute for medical purposes, such as regular visits to a doctor or medical facility, or for charity or volunteer purposes, be sure to track that mileage as well.  The mileage rates are considerably lower than business miles, but are still considered deductible.

  • Miles driven for business purposes: 54.5 cents per mile
  • Miles driven for medical or moving purposes: 18 cents per mile
  • Miles driven for charity or volunteer purposes: 14 cents per mile

 

Instead of keeping a paper record of your mileage, consider taking advantage of technology!  Lots of apps exist to make tracking your mileage a breeze: