The Covid surcharge: Companies confront the unforgiving economics of coronavirus

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Companies from major retailers and package carriers to local restaurants and hair salons are awakening to a new economic reality in the age of the new coronavirus: Being open for business is almost as hard as being closed.

Facing higher costs to keep workers and customers safe and an indefinite period of suppressed demand, businesses are navigating an ever-narrower path to profitability. To make the math work, some businesses are cutting services and jobs. Others are raising prices, including imposing coronavirus-related fees aimed at getting customers to share some of the expenses.

For large companies, the price — and perils — of operating in a pandemic are already coming into focus.

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Walmart Inc., Target Corp. and Home Depot Inc. this week said they absorbed more than $2 billion combined in added expenses for wages, bonuses and other benefits for workers during the early months of the pandemic. McDonald's Corp. laid out conditions for franchisees to reopen their dining rooms that include cleaning bathrooms every half-hour and digital kiosks after every order. Ford Motor Co. this week opened its American assembly plants for the first time in two months, and promptly had to idle factories in Michigan and Illinois after employees tested positive for Covid-19.

Customers shop at a Walmart store on May 19, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The stakes can be higher for small businesses, which tend to operate on thinner profit margins and smaller cash reserves. As they begin to reopen after weeks of being shut down, they are confronting a cost-revenue ratio that is increasingly out of whack.

Prices of food and other items have risen. Employees need protective equipment at work. Rising unemployment, safety concerns and limits on the number of customers a business is allowed to serve are setting a cap on sales. Some have tried to raise prices to bridge the divide, but greeting consumers who have been staying at home with higher costs is a delicate proposition.

Billy Yuzar saw adding a surcharge to diners' tabs as a simple way to compensate for higher food prices at his West Plains, Mo., restaurant, Kiko Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Lounge. It was more convenient than raising menu prices, Mr. Yuzar said, because he could update the fee in the business's point-of-sale computer in one step.

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Regular customers were supportive, he said, but when a photo of a Kiko receipt showing a Covid-19 surcharge surfaced on social media, people who had never been to his restaurant began calling to complain.

"The people from this community and my actual customers don't mind at all paying," Mr. Yuzar said. "The backlash that I got is just because of these tweets."

Mr. Yuzar has removed the surcharge and raised menu prices.

Other small businesses have stuck with the surcharge strategy.

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Herman Halici, the owner of Dan's Super Subs in Woodland Hills, Calif., said the price of meats such as pastrami, roast beef and corned beef has risen by up to 60%, and new procedures mean that employees must spend 25% more time on cleaning. In response, the shop has added a surcharge of 75 cents to $1 a sandwich. Most customers have been understanding, Mr. Halici said.

"Out of a hundred people, maybe two complain about it," Mr. Halici said. "Unlike before, everyone goes to the grocery store now, so they understand about the meat prices."

Some states have cracked down on price gouging during the pandemic, but Covid-19 surcharges don't appear to have drawn many official complaints. A spokesman for New York's attorney general said the office hasn't received any complaints about surcharges, while a spokesman for Missouri's attorney general said the office has gotten one out of 1,501 total price-gouging complaints.

A surcharge has helped Melissa Aviles grapple with higher costs and lower capacity at her salon, Studio M, in Amelia Court House, Va. After reopening, it can only host one customer at a time, so she can do just four hair-color appointments and one haircut a day, compared with eight to 10 appointments in normal times. Finding supplies such as Lysol also has been a challenge because of high demand.

Ms. Aviles said one customer questioned Studio M's new $3 sanitation surcharge but was understanding once she explained the rationale. "I'm fortunate that I live in a small town, and I'm close with my clients," Ms. Aviles said.

Costs are rising for health-care practices too, leading some to consider adding fees. Jeff Shapiro, a dentist with a practice in Manhattan's financial district, has always worn a surgical mask while he works but has switched to pricier N95 masks following industry recommendations. He now also dons a face shield and disposable gown for each appointment, and said his office may spend tens of thousands of dollars on improved air-filtration systems.

He estimated his costs have risen by $25 to $50 for a patient visit.

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"I think patients would be understanding, if not happy about it," Dr. Shapiro said regarding the possibility of a surcharge. "If you don't do this stuff, the ramifications can be far worse."

The pricing strategy also has landed at large package carriers, with United Parcel Service Inc., FedEx Corp. and DHL Express applying surcharges for some international shipping during the pandemic.

DHL Express said its costs have risen in part because cargo space it buys on commercial airliners has become scarce because of flight reductions. A spokeswoman said it has added an emergency-situation surcharge during the pandemic on some levels of international shipping service, with exemptions for packages that support health-care purposes.

UPS has been applying a fee it calls a "peak surcharge" on international shipments since April 12. The charges top out at $1.81 a pound on express shipments from China, where the novel coronavirus outbreak began late last year, to the U.S., which has the world's highest number of confirmed cases.

"The peak surcharges, which apply to international shipments, reflect the current dynamic market conditions and uncertainties caused by the coronavirus," a UPS spokesman said.

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Self Employment Income Support Scheme appointments: What happens if you miss your time?

The Government has opened the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme earlier than planned. As of 8am on Wednesday, May 13, those eligible for the scheme can start to apply for their grants. However to prevent the system from being overwhelmed, HMRC have staggered the dates people will be able to apply.

How do you apply for a self-employment grant?

HMRC has been contacting people who are eligible to apply for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

These people who have been contacted should have been given a unique reference number, which they can use to make a claim.

HMRC should also have informed people when they should make their application, and assigned a specific date between May 13 and May 18 to apply from.

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What happens if you miss your time slot?

If you miss your allocated time slot, don’t worry as you can apply from the date given to you by HMRC.

Personal finance expert Martin Lewis posted on Facebook: “I know some are worried about missing their Self Employment Income Support Scheme application appointments.

“Here’s what HMRC told us, ‘Times are just a guide for when people should apply from.

“We expect the majority to do this but if you can’t do it on a given day you can do it later – it does not expire and there is no current date for the service closing.'”

How can you claim your self-employment grant?

If the Government have already contacted you, you can apply from the date the Government has allocated you.

To apply you will need the following information to hand:

  • Self Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR)
  • National Insurance number
  • Government Gateway user ID and password (you can create one when you make a claim)
  • UK Bank details where a Bacs payment can be accepted.

For your bank details, you will need to have your bank account number, sort code, name on the account and address linked to the account to hand.

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What other support is available for the self-employed?

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme: “We’re working ahead of time to deliver support to the self-employed and from today, applications open for the millions of people eligible for the scheme.

“With payments arriving before the end of this month, self-employed across the UK will have money in their pockets to help them through these challenging times.”

Mr Sunak has unveiled a number of financial support measures during the coronavirus pandemic.

For those employed, the coronavirus job retention scheme started taking applications last month, and has now been extended until October.

In addition to the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, the Government has also introduced other measures to help self-employed people through the pandemic.

This includes Bounce Back loans, income tax deferrals, rental support and various other business support schemes.

The Government has also increased levels of Universal Credit, and enabled people to get mortgage holidays should they need them.

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Bounce back loans: How do the Government’s bounce back loans work?

Bounce Back Loans have been implemented after strong criticism from firms of the Government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme aimed at small and medium-sized businesses. Express.co.uk has compiled advice about how these bounce back loans work, who can apply for them and what the terms are.

What is a Bounce Back Loan?

Applications for Bounce Back Loans opened on Monday morning in a bid to help small businesses navigate the financial hardships of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Treasury-backed scheme offers loans through banks of up to £50,000.

Final details of the loan scheme were settled upon over the weekend and lenders are expected to be flooded with applications this week.

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Who can apply for a Bounce Back Loan?

Companies of any size can apply for a Bounce Back Loan, but the scheme is intended to help small businesses with less than 10 employees.

The loans on offer range from £2,000 to £50,000.

You can apply for a loan if your business:

  • Is based int he UK
  • Has been negatively hit by the coronavirus crisis
  • Was not “undertaking difficulty” on December 31, 2019.

Most businesses are eligible to apply for a Bounce Back Loan, however, the following are ineligible:

  • Banks, insurers and reinsurers, excluding insurance brokers
  • Public-sector bodies
  • State-funded primary and secondary schools.

Anyone who has already claimed money under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) is also not permitted to apply.

However, those who have received a loan up to £50,000 from the CBILS can arrange to do so with their lender until November 4, 2020.

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When will the money be made available?

Businesses should apply through the bank with which they have a business account.

Although they do not have to arrange the Bounce Back Loan with their existing lender if they do not wish to do so.

The Treasury says funds should then be available “within days”.

What are the terms and conditions for the Bounce Back Loans?

The Bounce Back Loan scheme is intended to help small and medium-sized businesses allowing them to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000.

The Government will guarantee 100 percent of the loan and there will not be any fees or interest to pay on these loans for the first 12 months.

Loan terms will be up to six years, but no repayments will be due during the first 12 months.

All lenders will charge a flat rate of 2.5 percent.

How to apply for a Bounce Back Loan

The Bounce Back Loan scheme is due to launch on May 4 at 9am.

The same 50-plus lenders accredited by the British Business Bank, the state-owned financial institution, to provide the CBILS are also expected to offer bounce back loans.

You can find information about these loans here.

Companies will have to fill out a simple online form within which they will be asked for details such as annual turnover, bank account number, amount of credit sought and whether the business has bee adversely hit by the COVID-19 crisis.

You are not compelled to offer security or personal guarantees, nor do applicants need to stay with their existing lenders.

You can apply for a Bounce Back Loan here.

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Private pension tracker: How can I track down pensions I might have?

When planning for retirement, it’s a good idea to find out how much income you will be getting. You may be eligible for the State Pension, but you may also have a number of private pensions you have contributed to over the years.

How can I track down pensions I might have?

Every year you should be sent a statement from any pension schemes you have opted into.

This statement will detail your estimated retirement income in that specific pension pot.

However, you may not receive these statements, maybe because you’ve moved house.

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According to the Money Advice Service, there are three avenues you can explore to trace down any pensions.

If you remember which pension provider you signed up with, you should get into contact with them.

You can also contact your former employer in the case of workplace pensions.

The Government website also has a pension tracing service, which you can use to find out contact details for your workplace or personal pension scheme.

To use the service, you will need the name of your previous employer to hand.

Although the service can find out your pension provider, it cannot tell you whether you have a pension.

The service will also not tell you how much is in your pension pot.

You will need to contact your pension provider directly for this information.

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How do I check my State Pension?

The State Pension is different from a workplace or personal pension.

The State Pension is a Government payment you may be eligible to receive after you reach retirement age.

How much of a State Pension you are eligible for will depend on your National Insurance contributions.

Under the terms of the new State Pension, you will need at least 10 qualifying years of National Insurance contributions.

This means for at least 10 years you were working and paying National Insurance contributions or were getting National Insurance credits if you were unemployed or a parent.

You may also be able to count qualifying years if you were paying voluntary National Insurance contributions.

To receive the full new State Pension you will need to have 35 qualifying years.

You can check your National Insurance record, and how much you are likely to receive from the state pension, on the Government website.

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Furlough pay: Is coronavirus job retention scheme open? How to claim

The coronavirus job retention scheme is one of the landmark financial relief measures brought in by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in March. The scheme allows an employee to be furloughed, meaning they will remain on the company payroll but will not be able to work for their employer. During this time the Government will pay 80 percent of the employee’s wage up to £2,500 a month.

Is the coronavirus job retention scheme open?

The coronavirus job retention scheme is now open for applications.

UK employers looking to furlough staff can now make a claim to the scheme online.

Since the scheme was announced in March, HMRC has been working tirelessly to get applications for the scheme up and running.

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HMRC launched the dedicated portal for the scheme on Monday morning, 10 days before it was scheduled to go live.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “Our unprecedented Job Retention Scheme will protect millions of jobs across the country and is now up and running.

“It’s vital that our economy gets up and running again as soon as it’s safe – and this scheme will allow that to happen.”

The portal system can process up to 450,000 applications an hour.

How do I claim for coronavirus job retention scheme?

The Government website is now taking applications for the coronavirus job retention scheme HERE.

Before you apply, you will need to check whether you are eligible to make a claim.

You will also need to work out how much you need to claim for.

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To make a claim, you will need:

  • to be registered for PAYE online
  • your UK bank account number and sort code
  • your employer PAYE scheme reference number
  • the number of employees being furloughed
  • each employee’s National Insurance number
  • each employee’s payroll or employee number
  • the start date and end date of the claim
  • the full amount you’re claiming for including employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum pension contributions
  • your phone number

You also need to provide either:

  • your Corporation Tax unique taxpayer reference
  • your Self Assessment unique taxpayer reference
  • your company registration number

When will employers be paid?

Due to the current financial climate, many companies urgently require funds to pay employees in time for their April payday.

The Treasury aims for all payments under the scheme to be in an employer’s bank account within six working days.

The Government stated up to 5,000 staff will be working to process the claims.

However HMRC is incredibly busy at the moment, so are asking you only contact them if your claim hasn’t been paid more than 10 working days after you applied.

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Furlough and annual leave: Does annual leave accrue during furlough?

Chancellor Rishi Sunak introduced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme last month, giving struggling employers the opportunity to put staff on furlough for up to three months as the COVID-19 crisis continues in the UK. The scheme lets your employer claim a grant for 80 percent of your regular wages up to a cap of £2500 a month.

Does annual leave accrue during furlough?

Statutory annual leave will continue to accrue as normal during a period of lay-off or furlough during the coronavirus crisis.

This is because the contract of employment will continue to be in existence during this period.

Contractual annual leave in excess of the statutory minimum will also continue to accrue unless the contract specifically provides otherwise.

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Speaking to Express.co.uk, Claire Woolf, Managing Editor and Lawyer at Sparqa Legal, explained your rights while on furlough.

She said: “The Government has confirmed that employment rights and benefits continue whilst on furlough, including the right to SSP, maternity and other parental rights, rights against unfair dismissal and rights to redundancy payments.

“Annual leave has not been specifically mentioned, but it seems clear that this would continue to accrue.

“However, whether or not staff can take annual leave whilst on furlough – and what they ought to be paid whilst on leave – has not yet been clarified.”

HMRC’s guidance does not currently expressly deal with annual leave.

However, it does state: “Employees that have been furloughed have the same rights as they did previously.”

This will presumably include entitlement to accrue annual leave in accordance with their contract.

To the extent that an employee’s contractual annual leave entitlement exceeds the minimum statutory entitlement of 5.6 weeks, it may be possible to agree the employee will “waive” their enhanced entitlement in exchange for their pay being “topped-up” during the period of furlough leave.

In addition, it may be possible to agree with staff the waiver of other contractual benefits, but this will involve a change of contractual terms.

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What is furlough?

Furlough leave is a temporary leave of absence for economic reasons and is designed to save jobs and currently, it is a claim for your employees’ wages through the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

The scheme is to help you if you cannot maintain your current workforce because your operations have been severely affected by coronavirus.

Employers can furlough employees and apply for a grant that covers 80 percent of their usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and pension contributions on that subsidised furlough pay.

The scheme is temporarily and in place for three months starting from March 1, 2020.

Who can claim furlough?

You must have:

  • created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on or before February 28, 2020
  • enrolled for PAYE online – this can take up to 10 days
  • a UK bank account

Any entity with a UK payroll can apply, including businesses, charities, recruitment agencies and public authorities.

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Money saving tips: The NINE things you can do to save money during coronavirus lockdown

Coronavirus has forced many of us into lockdown, only able to leave home for essential reasons. With so much uncertainty, workers placed on furlough and no end date for the restrictions, some may be concerned about money.

However, there are some tricks you can do from home to ensure your finances are in the best possible position amid the outbreak.

Charlotte Oates, from saving and investing app Moneybox, suggests taking a “Marie Kondo” approach to your finances.

She told Express.co.uk: “With self-isolation at home being the new reality for weeks to come, many of us will find ourselves with some extra time on our hands.

“Whilst organising your wardrobe may sound more tempting, why not use the time to ‘Marie Kondo’ your money and start planning for the future?

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“This could be a good time to review your traditional spending patterns and look at where you may be able to put aside small amounts into a saving or investing product that will make your money work harder for you.

“Or why not track down an old pension pot you forgot you had?”

Here are a few tips from Ms Oates to get started, all of which can be done from the comfort of your sofa.

Start small

There are many simple ways to make saving and investing part of your everyday life, even when you’re stuck at home.

By starting with roundups on your weekly shop or home deliveries, you can save and invest without even thinking about it.

The average Moneybox user saves £500 per year in round-ups alone, this is a small change which could make a big difference by the end of the year.

Don’t miss out on free money

Make sure you don’t miss out on relevant tax relief or bonuses by spending some time researching the product that is right for your needs.

This may sound too good to be true, but depending on what you are saving for, there are some great schemes out there that could actually give you free money.

If you’re saving for your first home, for example, you can get up to £1,000 every year from the government with a Lifetime ISA.

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Slow and steady wins the race

If you are saving for a long-term goal and have a cash buffer in place, consider dipping your toe into investing, where time is your secret weapon.

The longer you hold your investments, the higher the probability of making a return.

Zoe Bailey, Director of Financial Planning at Tilney also gave some tips for those wanting to save during the coronavirus outbreak.

Use the ‘extra’ time wisely

With working from home, time spent commuting, waking up early and even preparing lunch has been cut – giving more free time for many of us.

So Ms Bailey suggests using some of this time to go through your finances and look into your income versus outgoings.

Doing this may reveal where you could make cutbacks or where you’re paying more than you thought for products and services.

Freeze or cancel that gym membership, check your outgoings for unnecessary direct debits while on lockdown or seek alternatives for your weekly shop.

Think about future planning

For some, the last thing on the agenda the long term, particularly retirement, when there is so much uncertainty about the next few months.

However, depending on your current situation – working from home, on sick leave, furlough or not in employment, could mean you need to think about your pension contributions.

Working from home will not affect the pension or national insurance contributions made by your employer on your behalf.

Equally, should you fall ill, a lot of employers will offer full pay during the standard two-week period of self-isolation when you may be unable to carry on working.

If you are on statutory sick pay, your earnings will be below the threshold for National Insurance and pension payments, so speak to your employer to see whether your payments will be temporarily ceased.

Make the most of the ‘financial’ lockdown

While on lockdown you won’t be able to enjoy the daily or weekly luxuries that you might be used to, like buying lunch or coffee or going out to the pub.

You may also be saving on travel and petrol. If you can afford to, move the money you would usually spend into savings.

You’ll be amazed at how much this could accumulate to over just a few weeks.

Similarly, if you have a travel card, then speak to your travel operator to see if you can claim a refund for the time you’ll be at home.

Most have also waivered the admin fees, so you might be surprised at how much money you’ll get back.

Resist the urge to splurge

You may feel the urge to splurge online, but unless it’s for the essentials, try to avoid the temptation.

Boredom is a catalyst for some when it comes to spending, so try and resist window shopping for non-essential items in your spare time.

It’s easy to spend more than you need to during this time and as difficult as it might be to avoid hitting the online shops, think of the money you’ll be able to save.

Don’t panic

There are lots of other emergency measures in place to protect workers and ease the stress of sudden job losses or reduced hours.

The best thing to do is to do your research and find out whether you might be eligible to claim statutory sick pay, redundancy payments, or state benefits.

Look online or pick up the phone and ask for help – there are lots of reliable resources around to help.

If you own investments, such as ISAs, avoid panic selling when markets have fallen sharply.

Stock markets always eventually bounce back and investing when share prices are down, is a great way to make returns, if you have the cash available.

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Companies hiring for work-from-home jobs during coronavirus

Web infrastructure needs to be scaled up: CEO

NetApp CEO George Kurian discusses expanding broadband infrastructure amid the coronavirus pandemic as remote work continues to clog up the internet.

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Remote work is in more demand than ever.

With more than 10 million Americans in need of unemployment benefits, the number of job losses will likely continue to rise in the coming weeks as more people are mandated to stay home to slow the spread of coronavirus. And the pandemic has put a renewed spotlight on jobs that can be done from home.

iStock

"Now is the time to be very proactive in your remote job search,” said Brie Weiler Reynolds, a career development manager and coach at FlexJobs, a career website specializing in remote work.

HOW TO FIND REMOTE WORK

Companies are hiring for jobs in industries like software, health care, e-commerce and customer service.

Health care company Aetna, which has 50,000 employees, is hiring for a number of jobs including social worker, data scientist and a case manager registered nurse.

Multinational tech company Dell is hiring a data center sales executive and engineering and cybersecurity operations workers.

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And customer service roles are available at companies like Williams Sonoma and cloud contact and customer solution center Liveops.

“Now is the time to be very proactive in your remote job search.”

Weiler Reynolds suggests researching companies that typically offer remote work because they're more likely to have the infrastructure in place to continue hiring.

WORKING FROM HOME DO'S AND DON'TS 

"Make sure you tailor your resume and cover letter for every application and highlight the skills it takes to be a great remote worker, like communication, time management, independent working," Weiler Reynolds said.

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Here are the top companies posting the most remote work, according to FlexJobs:

1. Adobe

2. Aetna

3. Amazon

4. Citizens Bank

5. CrowdStrike

6. Dell 

7. GitHub

8. Healthline Media

9. ICF

10. K12

11. Kelly Services

12. Kforce

13. LanguageLine Solutions

14. Liveops

15. Merck

16. Okta

17. Pegasystems

18. Philips

19. PRA Health Sciences

20. Randstad

21. Red Hat

22. Robert Half International

23. Salesforce

24. SAP

25. ServiceNow

26. Soliant Health

27. Stryker

28. Syneos Health

29. Thermo Fisher Scientific

30. Tricida

31. TTEC

32. UnitedHealth Group

33. Upwork

34. VocoVision

35. Williams-Sonoma

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Thousands of small businesses ruled out for Covid-19 help send SOS to Chancellor

Usually the owners of small limited companies supplying key services communities from repairs to construction and accountancy, they take their income entirely legally from a mix of a salary and dividends. But Express Enterprise and the Crusader section have been contacted by dozens in the past week, all in fear of going under and calling for fairer treatment so they are on a par with other employed and self-employed groups being pledged help to get through the crisis.

++ If you’ve been affected by this issue or feel you’ve been a victim of injustice, please contact consumer and small business champion Maisha Frost on [email protected] ++;

A Change.org petition, supporting their cause for income support and stressing the emergency to Government, is now gathering momentum.

One home-based computer repair firm, run by a husband and wife, said: “Keeping people connected is vital, but we cannot visit clients and have lost a lot of business. We have put our all into our business, we aren’t fat cats.” 

 Another in the marine sector added: “If I have to shut down it will hit my suppliers and end any chance of furloughing my staff.”

The petition calling for chancellor Rishi Sunak to bring them into the fold now has over 260,000 signatures.

I’ve heard from thousands who are falling through the gaps in government support. They cannot be failed

Change.org petition organiser Amanda Evans 

Started by accountancy and payroll business owner Amanda Evans, she told Crusader: “My work and that of my clients is drying up, some have already had to close. 

 “I’ve heard from thousands who are falling through the gaps in government support. They cannot be failed. 

“I’m not normally a campaigner, but so many of us are affected I could not stand by and watch the devastating consequences. This is a staggering oversight.”

Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, commented: “FSB had pushed the government hard for its self-employed scheme to help as many as possible, and to start as soon as possible. We hope that ministers understand the many real-life examples of those left behind that we’re highlighting. 

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“It is also vital that the many other schemes already announced are rolled out as quickly and effectively as possible, and we are very willing to help the government in any way we can with that at this time of national emergency.”

Federation of Master Builders chief executive Brian Berry confirmed: “We are joining the call with other industry bodies for the Chancellor to reconsider his decision not to cover dividend payments in his income support packages. This could be the lifeline that keeps many small businesses, employing thousands of people, afloat.”

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Billion-dollar US companies fight coronavirus: How they're helping

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Businesses across the U.S. have closed; millions of people have filed for unemployment and hospitals are overwhelmed and undersupplied.

But as the U.S. grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, the country's most successful companies have stepped up to the plate with offers of cash, supplies and other forms of relief.

Rabbi Yosef Chesed, left, helps unload bottled water being donated from Lorie Lutz, right, at the Brightmoor Connection Food Pantry in Detroit on March 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Here's what some of the most successful companies in the U.S. are contributing:

Amazon

Amazon has played a significant role in helping people weather the COVID-19 pandemic as consumers turn to the digital retail giant for household essentials like toilet paper and hand sanitizer. The company has struggled to keep up with demand and has seen supply shortages and lagging delivery dates as people avoid going to the grocery store.

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Amazon founder Jeff Bezos raised minimum pay for workers and opened up 100,000 new positions with the company to help meet demand. He also reached out to the White House to offer the company's assistance.

An Amazon Prime truck passes by the sign outside an Amazon fulfillment center, Thursday, March 19, 2020, in Staten Island, New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

But many have criticized Bezos, the richest man in the world with a net worth of nearly $114 billion, for asking the American public to donate money to Amazon's $25 million relief fund for its employees.

He was also condemned for telling his employees that they would have to wait for face masks due to short supply.

Microsoft

Microsoft has taken a number of different measures to help with COVID-19 response efforts, especially for those working from home and using Microsoft tools.

In a blog post titled, "Responding to COVID-19 together," the technology company lists the many different ways in which it is offering solutions to those impacted by the virus, including a "health care bot," a COVID-19 tracker, income support for hourly workers, cybersecurity tools for IT professionals working from home, a COVID-19 response website and more.

In this Jan. 28, 2020, file photo a Microsoft computer is among items displayed at a Microsoft store in suburban Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

Microsoft also joined the White House in its launch of "the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium," which aims to "provide COVID-19 researchers worldwide with access to the world’s most powerful High Performance Computing (HPC) resources that can significantly advance the pace of scientific discovery in the fight to stop the virus."

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The company also donated $1 million to a regional COVID-19 Response Fund (CRF) in Seattle.

Oracle

Oracle founder Larry Ellison has offered the White House Oracle's services in helping to collect COVID-19 data, the Washington Post reported last week.

The software company, which offers cloud engineering services, said it would create and donate a website and corresponding app that would compile data on COVID-19 patients and the effects of antimalarial drugs like hydroxychloroquine.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison (Getty Images)

Oracle also partnered with IBM, the World Health Organization and blockchain company HACERA  to create an open platform to support COVID-19 data collection. Called MiPasa, it uses blockchain technology, according to a statement.

Facebook

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has offered extensive support to the global fight against COVID-19.

The social media website and its partner platforms, WhatsApp and Instagram, have played a vital role in helping to keep people connected and spread information about the virus.

And Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, announced on Friday that they are putting $25 million from their tech and science research company, the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, toward the Gates Foundation's COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator project.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, left, speaks with his wife, Priscilla Chan. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Additionally, Facebook rolled out a $100 million grant program and other initiatives on March 17 and 18 to help fight the pandemic. The money will go toward 30,000 eligible small businesses around the globe in the form of cash and ad credits.

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Zuckerberg said in a March 18 conference call with reporters that the social media leader's No. 1 priority is to stop the spread of misinformation on its services.

Google

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said Friday that the tech giant is contributing more than $800 million to help with the worldwide response to the coronavirus pandemic, including free advertising credits for small businesses.

That $800 million comes on top of $25 million the company announced last month and $20 million in ad grants for nongovernment organizations and community financial institutions to run public service announcements.

Dell

Dell founder Michael Dell has used his large platform on social media to spread information about COVID-19 and encourage others to take the pandemic seriously, even saying spring breakers ignoring the outbreak need not apply to a job at the computer company.

"Like you, we are stressing the importance of health and safety with our team, their families and the communities where we live. We must protect each other and especially our most vulnerable – our elderly and those with underlying conditions," Dell wrote in a March 13 letter to customers and partners.

The company is donating millions of dollars toward COVID-19 relief, including an initial donation of $284,000 toward medical supplies in China, $3 million in technology donations to Americans on the frontlines, dollar-for-dollar donation matches of "up to $10,000 per employee per year" and more, according to a March 13 blog post.

Walmart

Walmart has offered a number of donations and relief programs to help fight the pandemic.

The company has donated $25 million on March 17, which "will be distributed in a series of grants, each furthering the capacity of organizations to help communities affected by the pandemic," according to a blog post.

An employee sorts clothes displayed for sale at a Walmart de Mexico SAB store during Buen Fin in Mexico City, Mexico, on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. (Alejandro Cegarra/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

It also donated $10 million to "nine organizations that support food banks, schools and senior meal programs. The organizations, though different, share an overarching goal: providing access to food for underserved populations – a mission taking on even greater urgency in response to the novel coronavirus."

Nike

Nike, the Nike Foundation and Nike executives have donated a total of $15 million toward COVID-19 relief, $10 million of which came personally from Nike co-founder Phil Knight and his wife, Penny; Nike Chairman of the Board Mark Parker and his wife, Kathy; and Nike President and CEO John Donahoe and his wife, Eileen, according to a March 18 press release.

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The company is also giving a "$1 million donation to the global COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, created by the United Nations Foundation and Swiss Philanthropy Foundation, to fund efforts by the World Health Organization and partners to support countries preparing for and responding to the COVID-19 crisis," the release reads.

Tony Lee from Taipei, Taiwan, shops for shoes at Nike Inc.’s Niketown store in downtown San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, June 16, 2011. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Nike Foundation is donating "$1 million to the Oregon Community Recovery Fund; $1.1 million to support community partners across Europe, Middle East and Africa through the King Baudouin Foundation; $250,000 to the Mid-South Food Bank in Memphis, Tenn.; $250,000 to the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis’ COVID-19 Regional Response Fund; and $500,000 to the Boston Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund."

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These donations came in addition to the $1.4 million Nike donated to the China Youth Development Foundation in January.

Tesla

Tesla founder Elon Musk on Wednesday pledged to dedicate Tesla's Buffalo, New York, Gigafactory to ventilator production.

The pledge came as U.S. hospitals face a ventilator shortage because of the coronavirus pandemic, which causes respiratory problems, including pneumonia.

Elon Musk and his mother, Maye Musk, at the Oscars Vanity Fair Party Feb. 26, 2017, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)

"Biggest value Tesla is providing is precise delivery of ventilators exactly to the ICU where [and]  when they’re needed," Musk tweeted Wednesday in response to a tweet from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio thanking him for his contributions. "There are many ventilators in warehouses, but stuck in logistics/routing/paperwork issues."

The company will help produce and donate hundreds of ventilators to New York hospitals.

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This article includes material from previous FOX Business posts.

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