The coronavirus and the public response are presenting an extremely difficult environment for all businesses including veterinarians. Practices are being tested in their emergency preparedness and responsiveness to a business landscape that is evolving daily in response to recommendations by the healthcare community and the governmental response.
I (Keith) reached out to Jessica Sanders, CVPM of Fox Creek Animal Hospital, and partner of CORE Veterinary Consulting, LLC, about the response practices are implementing, as well as the requirements to think outside the box in order to continue to serve clients in a safe and effective way.
Mrs. Sanders states, “Cash flow will remain important of course. If a practice can’t stay open, they will not be able to pay employees for an extended period of time. We are implementing a variety of measures designed to provide continued service to our patients.”
Essential Business designation
The AVMA has a COVID-19 resource page dedicated to keeping the veterinary community updated with the latest information. The AVMA is urging all authorities to designate veterinary practices as “essential businesses” in line with other healthcare providers. Veterinary practices have been considered “essential businesses” in localities such as San Francisco and in states like Maryland and Pennsylvania. This is particularly important as states and localities have asked non-essential businesses to close or re-purpose personal protective equipment due to COVID-19.
Veterinary practices are turning to telemedicine in order to treat non-emergency patients and to reduce the amount of person to person contact within the practice. The AVMA has a webpage designated to implement telehealth and telemedicine in your practice. With good internal communication and communication to clients, the implementation can be implemented quickly.
Curbside service is another way to limit client traffic within the practice. Clients can remain in their vehicle while the pet is transported inside the practice for treatment. AAHA has a great case study that shows the implementation of this here.
Practice Cleaning and Safety Procedures
The AVMA and the US Chamber of Commerce has instructions for keeping your practice clean to help reduce the chance of infection for your employees. What is so important is that there is clear and consistent communication to employees and clients regarding your protocols. For instance:
- How will cleaning be done each day and which staff are responsible?
- How will you break up teams so that you avoid close contact and risk spreading an infection?
- What will your consistent message be to clients about your virus response and their options for service? How will that message be communicated?
- How are you addressing staff needs and communicating employer responses to staff?
Proactive communication to employees and clients will reduce client fear and provide leadership for your employees that you are looking after their job safety.
A challenging aspect of the current situation is employees who have children that are out of school. Many daycare’s have been forced to close and some are even continuing to bill clients without offering the service. Practices are looking for creative ways to mitigate this issue such as paying for out of work sitters to watch children offsite or reimbursing staff for other childcare options.
The House has passed H.R. 6201 – Families First Coronavirus Response Act that will now move to the Senate. Within the bill includes FMLA benefits, COVID-19 sick leave, tax credits for employers intended to mitigate the impacts of the extended leave and other measures. Once passed, we will be giving employers addition guidance on how to comply with the Act and how to also receive the benefits.
TAX AND FINANCIAL IMPACTS
There are several options to assist cash flow at this time. Listed below are key points and more are being discussed currently.
90-day payment extension
Individuals can defer tax payments for 90 days. This does NOT extend the due date for filing taxes, but individuals can request an automatic extension to file until October 15th. You will automatically not get charged for interest and penalties as you normally would for late payment of taxes after the tax return due date.
Refunds and lower estimated payments
Taxpayers with refunds can work quickly to file their tax returns and receive their refund electronically. Having your refund directly deposited into your bank account is the quickest way and for taxpayers who owe, you can delay making those tax payments up to 90 days after April 15th due to the new Treasury announcement.
If you are used to making estimated payments for your taxes, you can drastically reduce your 1st quarter estimated payment based on your estimated 2020 income. Estimated payments are based upon 100 or 110% of last year’s income or 90% of current year income, whichever is less. Your accountant or CPA can recalculate reduced estimated payments and not apply any refunds to 2020’s tax bill.
Talk to your bank and credit providers
Interest rates are very low, and banks are willing and able to provide credit for qualified customers. Reach out to your vendors and mortgage companies to see what hardship programs are in place. Interest on federal student loans are being waived until further notice.
Don’t fall for scams
Unfortunately, there are already scams promising grant relief in exchange for initial “qualifying” personal information or payments. Don’t fall for it. Always independently verify inquiries and be suspect of anyone asking for your personal or business information.
We will work to keep you updated on new policies and information as it becomes available.