COVID-19 Business Resources
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses large and small are faced with tough decisions and an overwhelming volume of information to decipher in order to survive.
Whether you need a lifeline to keep the doors open, guidance on finishing a project in Riverside, help understanding rapidly changing health and safety practices, or answers to complicated employer and employee questions, below is a catalog of resources broken into manageable categories to assist you.
Open for Business
Signage Required in Open Businesses/Printable Options ▼
We’re all working together to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 and we need the business community’s help to protect the health and safety of our community members by encouraging the use of mandatory face coverings and other COVID-19 best practices.
At the 6/30 City Council meeting, Councilmembers voted to require all businesses to display signage that highlights the mandatory use of face coverings and recommended best practices such as hand washing, physical distancing, and following COVID-19 safety guidelines. We’ve included the signage samples below for your use but you can also satisfy this requirement by continuing to use your existing signage that reinforces face covering use and COVID-19 best practices. Please contact 311 Call Center at 951-826-5311 for any questions you may have regarding this requirement.
Curbside Pickup & Parklet Guidelines & Application ▼
In order to meet the needs of restaurants and retail establishments in complying with re-opening guidance issued by the State of California, the City has established a 3-month pilot program to allow for the temporary conversion of existing on-street parking zones to temporary ‘Curbside Pickup’ locations for restaurants and select retail businesses. This program will additionally allow for the placement of City-furnished A-frame signage within the public right of way to designate permitted curbside pickup spaces.
Outdoor Flex Space Permit Program ▼
The City of Riverside has developed a program to allow outdoor flex-space for business operations on both private land and in the public rights‐of‐way while adhering to public safety and physical distancing requirements. This program only applies to businesses identified by the State of California as “lower risk workplaces” as identified on the State’s Resilience Roadmap.
For more information visit https://covid19.ca.gov/roadmap/#stage‐2.
- America's Small Business Development Center (SBDC): Provides a variety of resources for COVID-19 disaster relief including loans for qualifying businesses and valuable information for employers and employees.
- CA Department of Public Health: Frequent updates about the COVID-19 virus including State Health Emergency Announcements, Quarantine, and Social Distancing Guidelines.
- CA Employment Development Department (EDD): For businesses that have employee and employer concerns.
- CA Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development (Go-Biz): The Governor's Office of Business And Economic Development has compiled helpful information about COVID-19 for employers and employees in California.
- CA Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank (IBANK): California Small Business Loan Guarantee Program and Disaster Relief Loan Guarantee Program.
- Cal/OSHA: Guidance on Requirements to Protect Workers from Coronavirus: Workplace safety and health regulations in California require employers to protect workers exposed to airborne infectious diseases such as the coronavirus. Cal/OSHA has posted guidance to help employers comply with these safety requirements and to provide workers information on how to protect themselves.
- CA Labor and Workforce Development Agency: COVID-19 Resources for Workers and Employers relating to Paid Sick Leave, Disability and Unemployment Insurance, Paid Family Leave, Workplace Health, and Safety.
- California State Assembly: Another site to provide Federal, State, and local resources to help businesses maintain operations.
- CA Tax and Fee Administration: The CDTFA has the authority to assist individuals and businesses impacted by complying with a state or local public health official's imposition or recommendation of social distancing measures related to COVID-19. This assistance includes granting extensions for filing returns and making payments, relief from interest and penalties, and filing a claim for refund. For more information, click here.
- CA Treasurer's CalCap Program: Special Loan Program which encourages banks to make loans to small businesses that have difficulty getting financing.
- Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC): Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers.
- City-County Communications and Marketing Association: Another site for businesses and city government to find resources.
- County of Riverside Public Health Department: The primary communication site from Riverside County about the latest COVID-19 pandemic.
- Facebook Business Resource Hub: Keep your business moving forward. Find information about programs and products designed for businesses like yours.
- FEMA: Businesses can being applying for FEMA Disaster Assistance while we await a disaster declaration to release these funds. Information about the program and how to apply can be found here: www.disasterassistance.gov/
- Inland Empire Small Business Development Center (IE SBDC): Free resources for small businesses to get consulting and access to capital programs.
- IRS: The IRS has established a special section focused on steps to help taxpayers, businesses, and others affected by the coronavirus. This page will be updated as new information is available.
- Open for Business Hub: The Open for Business Hub lists technology companies that are helping small businesses by enabling remote work throughout this period.
- MicroEnterprise Collaborative of Inland Southern California: This organization supports a network of service providers serving small business owners in San Bernardino County, Riverside County, and East Los Angeles County. Small business owners and entrepreneurs can search for a service provider who can help them with challenges they are experiencing by conducting a search on the Collaborative’s web tool called Inland SoCal SourceLink at https://www.microbizinsocal.org/resource-navigator/. Funding resources to assist small business owners impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic is also available at the following: https://www.microbizinsocal.org/coronavirus-small-business-resource/
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is one of the federal CARES Act provisions that helps unemployed Californians who are not usually eligible for regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. This includes business owners, self-employed workers, independent contractors, and those with a limited work history who are out of business or have significantly reduced their services as a direct result of the pandemic.
Development and Construction▼
Building & Safety Division: Please visit https://riversideca.gov/cedd/building-safety for updates on available services for existing and proposed projects requiring building permits, plan check, and field inspection services.
Planning Division: Please visit https://riversideca.gov/cedd/planning for updates on how to process new and existing land use applications, sign permits, and similar projects electronically.
Fire Prevention Division: Please visit https://riversideca.gov/fire/divisions/prevention for further information regarding the processing of new and existing fire permits, plan checks, and field inspections.
Public Works: Please visit https://www.riversideca.gov/publicworks/engineering/permits.asp for updates on available services to process grading and construction permits, complete plan checks, process street opening permits, and similar public works projects, including field inspection services.
Business Tax Division: Please visit https://riversideca.gov/finance/license.asp for information regarding the submittal and issuance process for new business licenses and the renewal of existing licenses.
Utilities Water Engineering: Please visit https://riversideca.gov/utilities/developers/water-engineering.asp for updates regarding the processing of water service-related project applications, permits, plan check, and engineering.
For further information, you may contact all the Development Services Departments and Divisions at the One Stop Shop by calling (951) 826-5800 during normal business hours, should you have any questions.
• California Relief Grant Program: The Governor announced the creation of a $500 million COVID Relief Grant for small businesses that have been impacted by COVID and the health and safety restrictions. Funds would be awarded in amounts up to $25,000 to underserved micro and small businesses throughout the state by early 2021. Non-profits would also be eligible for these grants. Apply Here
• SBA - Coronavirus (COVID-19): Small Business Guidance & Loan Resources
• SBA - Coronavirus (COVID-19): Orientación y recursos de préstamos para pequeñas empresas
• Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL): In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, small business owners in all U.S. states, Washington D.C., and territories are eligible to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance of up to $10,000. The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million that can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing.
◦ Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance: This loan advance will provide up to $10,000 of economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing temporary difficulties. This loan advance will not have to be repaid.
• SBA Express Bridge Loans: Enables small businesses who currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 quickly.
• SBA Debt Relief: The SBA is providing a financial reprieve to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) resumes January 11, 2021 at 6:00 a.m. PT.: The SBA, in consultation with the U.S. Treasury Department, will open the Paycheck Protection Program loan portal on Monday, January 11, 2021,at 6 a.m. PT. When the PPP loan portal system opens, it will initially accept First Draw PPP loan applications from participating CFIs, which include Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs), Certified Development Companies (CDCs), and Microloan Intermediaries.
CALIFORNIA SMALL BUSINESS LOAN GUARANTEE PROGRAM & DISASTER RELIEF LOAN GUARANTEE PROGRAM - The State’s Small Business Finance Center (SBFC) partners with Financial Development Corporations to provide loan guarantees and direct loans for small businesses that experience capital access barriers. These loan guarantees and loans are available for small businesses located in California with 1 to 750 employees or eligible non-profits. Funds can be used for start-up costs, new construction, inventory, working capital, export financing, franchise fees, business expansion, lines of credit, gap financing, agriculture, and disaster relief. For more information, click here.
Unfortunately, small business owners are common targets for predatory lending. It can be difficult for small businesses to get loans, especially startups with no track record of success. The reality is when unable to qualify for a loan from a mainstream bank, you’re left with fewer options. Some of the places you might be tempted to turn for a loan might practice predatory lending, which is harmful to your growing business.
Most of your borrowing experience to date has probably been with major commercial banks or credit unions for mortgage loans, or with financing companies for car loans. These transactions are highly regulated with laws that cover the way they’re handled, and protections built-in for both borrowers and lenders. Don’t expect the same when it comes to small business lending. You may actually even be shocked by how some companies do business in this far-less-regulated area.
One of the oldest bits of advice is still one of the best: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It’s also one of the most important things to keep in mind when it comes to making a decision about what kind of funding to get for your business and where to get it so that you don’t fall prey to predatory lending practices.
What is Predatory Lending?
There is no single legal definition for predatory lending, but the FDIC’s Office of Inspector General has called it “the imposing of unfair and abusive loan terms on borrowers.” There are two ways this happens. First, the language of the terms of the loan may sound reasonable but actually be anything but. Second, you understand the terms aren’t favorable, but feel you don’t have any other options. Either scenario is a potential recipe for trouble, so let’s explore what to watch out for.
7 Warning Signs of Possible Predatory Lending
Some lenders will use deceptive, sometimes even fraudulent practices to try to attract you. If you’re not careful, you could wind up with terms that are very unfair to you, ones that could possibly cripple your business.
On their own, some of the warning signs may not be enough to steer you away from a specific loan or lender (although some truly do raise red flags), but when you start to see two or more, be on your guard for sure. This deal is probably not in your best interest.
So how do you know if a lender is reputable and above-board? The following warning signs may indicate predatory lending practices.
1. Unclear Pricing and Terms
Red Flag: Lack of transparency, fees/interest rates not listed as APR or listed in a format that is hard to calculate.
In an ideal world, each and every lender would be upfront about the fees, risks, and terms of the loan. Shady lenders may use unusual terms or formats to keep you from getting a clear sense of what’s going on. They may also try to rush you into accepting the loan before you’ve had time to review and clarify everything.
If all of the terms of the loan aren’t clear to you, don’t sign. You’ll need to know what fees to expect, what interest rate you’ll be charged, whether there will be any balloon payments or penalties for early repayment, what the repayment terms are, and what happens if you make a late payment. Your lender should be able to answer all of those questions clearly and completely.
2. Aggressive or Abusive Broker Practices
Red Flag: Brokers who don’t disclose extra interest or fees or push you into accepting a loan you’re not fully comfortable with.
Find out whether you’re paying a kickback to the broker. Brokers can inflate the interest rate on your loan and call it a “yield spread premium” to cover their fees. That means you’re paying more than you have to. Your broker should be upfront and honest about his or her fees.
3. Pre-Payment Penalties
Red Flag: Penalties for paying the loan off early, fees for extra items like insurance.
Lenders make money when they charge interest on your loan. That means each party has competing goals: your incentive is to pay off the loan early to save money and their incentive is to discourage early pay off or refinancing so you pay as much interest as possible.
A small fee for prepaying the loan is typical, but you should be wary of any lender who demands a big fee. You should also be cautious about a lender who agrees to an early payoff in exchange for an even larger loan – they use that tactic to keep you trapped in a revolving door of debt.
4. Approval Is Too Easy
Red Flag: Offers fast and easy approval with little or no required documentation.
Reputable lenders require documentation, including detailed information about business plans and existing finances, before offering financing. Even microlenders, who specialize in small business loans and are usually more flexible than traditional banks, still have a thorough application process.
If a lender approves you for a loan without performing proper due diligence, it may be a sign that you’re not working with a scrupulous organization. It’s tempting to take a loan that doesn’t require all that groundwork, but it indicates that the lender isn’t concerned with the actual viability of your business plan. That means they’re planning on making their money whether you’re successful or not – usually through high rates and fees.
5. Abnormal Payment Structures
Red Flag: Payments debited daily, weekly, or as a percentage of sales.
Don’t agree to payment terms that vary from day to day or month to month. Payment should be consistent across- the board and that schedule should be documented. You need to know how much you owe and how much you’ll be paying every month or every few weeks – you don’t want to be stuck in a situation where you never know when they’ll pull money out of your account.
6. Short Term Loans
Red Flag: Loans that must be repaid in a very short time.
Short term loans may also be called “Payday Loans” or “Car Title Loans.” “Tax Refund Anticipation Loans” are a similar form of short-term cash advance with an exceptionally high APR. These short-term loans allow you to borrow against your employer-issued paycheck, your vehicle title, or your pending tax refund. They often have extraordinarily high-interest rates and severe penalties for nonpayment. These lenders are betting that you won’t be able to pay them back on time, so you’ll get stuck racking up interest charges and fees.
In many cases, these “alternative lenders” fall outside the regulations that apply to traditional banks, meaning you don’t have the legal protection you would when dealing with a reputable institution. However, they may offer funding in the form of traditional business loans or lines of credit, which can be deceiving unless you’re looking closely at the terms and conditions.
7. Not Willing to Answer Questions
Red Flag: Hard to contact, dodge questions about cost and terms.
Reputable bankers want to work with you to help you achieve your goals. They want to understand your business and work with you to achieve financing that will boost the future of your business, not burden it. They want you to understand what you’re signing up for – they want you to actually be able to repay the loan. If the lender won’t respond to your questions, they may have something to hide.
Predatory Loan Types
In general, you’ll be safe from most predatory lending practices when you borrow from a reputable bank, credit union or microlender. Areas where there may be regulatory gaps include many forms of short-term loans such as Payday Loans or Car Title Loans, where you borrow against a paycheck or the title for your car.
Payday Loans and Car Title Loans typically carry extremely high annual percentage rates and can trap borrowers in a cycle of debt. Tax Refund Anticipation Loans are a similar form of short-term cash advance with an exceptionally high APR.
So-called “alternative lenders” can also be problematic, as many fall outside the regulations that apply to traditional banks. Funds from these lenders can range from true business loans to cash advances, lines of credit, and personal loans. Your payments will include interest and fees, and unless you look closely, you may not realize the APR can easily top 50%.
How to Protect Yourself
By reading this article, you’ve already taken the first step, which is to educate yourself about what predatory lending is and how to spot it. Other, concrete steps you can take include:
Take your initial request for funding to a traditional bank or local credit union.
If you’re turned down, ask about reputable financing options. Accion Chicago’s Steve Hall points out that microlenders like Accion that specialize in small business loans are usually more flexible, and may approve you when a traditional bank won’t.
Talk to trusted financial professionals.
Hall notes that many small business owners are so enthusiastic to start and grow their businesses, they may not be aware of all the resources available to them. This enthusiasm can lead to making quick decisions that don’t always turn out to be in the best interest of the business, and predatory lenders know this and prey on it. Accion recommends working closely with an accountant or bookkeeper. Make sure your financials are current and you’re keeping them updated. This allows you to anticipate cash flow needs before they become urgent.
Beware of unsolicited offers.
Offers of loans through the mail, over the phone, or door-to-door solicitations are suspect, and reputable lenders typically don’t operate in this way.
Steer clear of lenders who promise you loan approval regardless of your credit rating or credit history. Talk with a banker, even if you might not be approved by a traditional bank, to gain an understanding of what you should be able to qualify for and realistically payback.
It’s tempting to take the first offer that comes along, especially if your business needs immediate financing to grow, or worse, stay afloat. But don’t let yourself be hurried into signing paperwork you don’t fully understand or with terms you shouldn’t agree to.
Faster is not always better. You want a lender to take your current financial and personal situation into consideration to ensure that the loan is what’s best for you. That takes time. Think long term. How is this going to affect your cash flow and profit? Can you afford the payments?
Understand the interest rates and fees.
Ask for a breakdown in writing so you know exactly what you’re paying for and how much you’re agreeing to. Insist on seeing all the fees and charges ahead of time, including any prepayment penalties. If they won’t tell you, don’t take the money.
Often you will owe interest on the advance regardless of whether you pay it early. Don’t be afraid to question rates that seem out of proportion. And most importantly, do NOT agree to a loan with terms or payments that you can’t afford.
Decline additional services.
You don’t want or need additional credit, health or disability insurance (and if you do, you will almost certainly find them available elsewhere for less.)
Watch out for prepayment penalties.
Prepayment, if you can manage it, may not be in the lender’s best interest, but it is in yours. Don’t accept a loan that penalizes you for being able to pay it off early.
Read reviews and research.
See what past customers have to say about the lender. Also, see if the lender has signed the Borrowers’ Bill of Rights.
Use your best judgment.
Sadly, when you’re feeling desperate, it’s easy for good judgment to go out the window. Predatory lenders make victims of vulnerable individuals every day just because a short term need has overtaken a lifetime of common sense. If your gut is telling you a deal may not be kosher, listen.
Accion’s Steve Hall cautions the danger is real, and companies have been forced to close because they didn’t have the cash available to pay off their loans. At best, it becomes a vicious cycle, with businesses taking out additional loans or merchant cash advances as they try to keep up with payments. Hall says, “Most business owners hope the funds would be available and they would never have to use these products again. I have seen one business take seven merchant cash advances.”
Don’t sign any documents that contain blank spaces. Don’t agree to payment terms that may vary from day to day or month to month. Read every piece of paper carefully, and have a trusted friend (or better yet, your attorney or accountant) read them as well.
Employers & Employees ▼
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR GUIDANCE - The U.S. Department of Labor has issued a press release with employer and employee guidance on the effects the Families First Coronavirus Response Act will have on paid sick leave, family and medical leave. Click here to review this document.
U.S. WAGE AND HOUR DIVISION - The U.S. Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has put together answers to commonly asked questions related to how COVID-19 affects wages and hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act and job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. They have also put together information on how the recently passed Families First Coronavirus Response Act will affect paid leave for both employers and employees. For more information on these subjects, click here.
FECA COVERAGE FOR FEDERAL EMPLOYEES WITH CORONAVIRUS - The Division of Federal Employee’s Compensation (FECA) has stated that employees who contract COVID-19 while working will qualify for full coverage of relevant medical treatment and wage loss. However, to be eligible for this coverage, the employee must have a confirmed positive test that is proven to have resulted from exposure that occurred while working. There will be no coverage or payment for exposure that does not lead to the contraction of COVID-19 and wage loss and medical treatment from preventative measures will also not be covered. Click here to review what a federal employee who contracts the Coronavirus Disease is entitled to.
GO-BIZ COVID-19 - The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development has compiled helpful information for employers, employees, and all Californians as it relates to the cornonavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Click here to access this site which includes links on how to support employers and employees who are susceptible to the virus’ disruption.
OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION (OSHA) WORKPLACE GUIDELINES - Workplace safety and health regulations in California require employers to protect workers exposed to airborne infectious diseases such as the Coronavirus. Cal/OSHA has posted guidance to help employers comply with these safety requirements and to provide workers information on how to protect themselves. Click here to review OSHA information for workers and employers about the evolving Coronavirus outbreak.
U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE SMALL BUSINESS CONCERNS - While COVID-19 has pushed many companies to adopt remote work practices, Click here for some ideas to consider for employees who do not have the option to work remotely.
OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT - The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) works closely with a number of federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide updated information to Federal agencies and employees as it becomes available. Click here to view the latest information.
Health and Hygiene Resources ▼
- EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS - Click here to review local Coronavirus information provided by Riverside University Health System.
- CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH - California is actively working with the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), local governments, health facilities, and health care providers across the state to prepare and protect Californians from COVID-19. Click here to access the most up to date health-related information.
- CDC ON HOW TO CLEAN AND DISINFECT - Click here to view cleaning recommendations for US Households with suspected/confirmed Coronavirus.
- CDC COMMUNITY MITIGATION STRATEGIES - Click here to see how you can help slow the transmission of the Coronavirus
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