(NEW YORK) — As the novel coronavirus spreads across the country, the financial impact of the pandemic continues to devastate workers and small businesses.
A record number of workers — 3.28 million — filed for unemployment claims in the week ending March 21, according to U.S. Department of Labor data released Thursday. Average weekly claims total 200,000.
The Senate passed a massive $2 trillion stimulus bill that will provide expanded unemployment insurance for workers, emergency loans for small businesses and $1,200 to taxpayers earning $75,000 or less per year.
“Good Morning America” asked “Shark Tank” star and financial guru, Barbara Corcoran, to answer questions from small business owners on how to weather the storm.
Corcoran said it’s time to pinpoint where your money is going and prioritize rent, mortgage payments and essentials.
“There are a lot of people that feel like they’re going to get great benefits from the government, and it’s good to have help from the government … but, it’s not a lot of money. You haven’t won the lottery,” said Corcoran. “You’re going to have to learn how to spread out your money. Make the rent and mortgage payments as your No. 1 priority and you do that because it’s simply easier to replace a credit card than it is to replace a home.”
She continued, “Comb through all of your bills, all of your credit card statements to see where you’re actually spending your cash and then decide to only spend it on essentials. Because this is a time for self-restriction and discipline.”
With all of this uncertainty, Corcoran answered questions from small business owners. Read on to get her expert advice below:
1. I own a catering company and we are in some crazy times right now. What would be the best way to use this stimulus money that we’re being promised without falling deeper into debt – because you know, Uncle Sam is going to want his currency back. – Millie
Well, I think, Millie, you’re in the spot of every small business owner. If you’re going to save your business, it’s not going to be with a stimulus package. It’s going to be through hard work and making really tough decisions. If you decide to take the stimulus package loan, which is very favorable to small business, you’re going to need to keep your employees on the payroll, whoever they are. Rehire the people you’ve already let go, if you’ve already let go, and if you don’t, that loan is not going to be forgiven. You’re going to have to work like crazy to pay it back. I would think long and hard before taking any money if you’re not sure your business is going to [be able to] pay it back.
2. I own a small online luxury jewelry business. Every month, we spend money on Facebook and Instagram ads. We’re wondering if we should turn all of our ads off and save our money or if we should pivot our message to speak about what’s going on now. What do you think? – Jennifer
Well, Jennifer, lucky for you that you’re in the luxury market. In the luxury market, the customer has time on their hands, like everybody else does [now]. Everybody wants a great deal, so you have to make sure what you’re offering is not your usual stuff, but a really great deal. If you have the advertising dollars to still spend, consider yourself lucky — a lot of people don’t. You should really be staying on top of Facebook and Instagram analytics and reporting to yourself daily, “What kind of return am I getting? Am I getting that bang for my buck that I deserve if I’m spending these advertising dollars?” But if you hustle, give a discount and stay on top of your analytics, you are one of the lucky people that should really sail through this hard time.
3. [Since] the corona virus outbreak, several events we had planned over the next few weeks and months have been postponed and canceled. I’m concerned about my employees who are paid on a 1099 basis, based on the hours that they work at each event. How can I look out for them? – Mary Grace
Well, Mary Grace, it sounds like you’re a phenomenal boss and I understand and I get it. I’ve thought of all my people who have ever worked for me as my kids! I felt responsible for them. But here’s what I learned: you can only do so much. What you can do is that you can be honest and direct with your employees — just tell them like it is. The good news for you, which you may not be aware of yet, is that you have help coming your way with the new stimulus package. Most people are included, including independent contractors, and that’s never happened before. You should stay on top of what qualifies [your employees] for what benefits and keep them totally informed. Last, so importantly, you should stay in touch with [your employees]. You don’t always have to give employees the answers they want to hear, but they want to be loved, they want to be cared for and they want to be in touch with you. You’re going to want to keep their morale up. You sound just the kind of person who is able to do that.
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