Note: OVMA reached out to noted veterinary financial speaker and consultant Denise Tumblin to share her insights on general business strategies for OVMA members and their veterinary operations during the pandemic. She submitted the following article.
We can all agree that COVID-19 has rocked our world—and not in a good way. Necessary but difficult adaptations for essential businesses, closing of non-essential businesses and schools, stay-at-home mandates, social distancing, real health concerns, loss of life, and huge adjustments to our economy have changed our lives drastically in an incredibly short time.
What started as a good year for many veterinary practices now looks very different. Practices have had to change their protocols for caring for patients, communicating with clients, and ensuring team members’ health and safety. So, what steps can you take to be sure you continue to have a viable practice?
Ways to protect your finances during Covid-19
Minimize how much is carried in your in-house pharmacy and expand use of your online store.
Government relief is available through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and Economic Injury Disaster Loans. See the next section for more details on these programs.
Vendors, banks, landlords, and other lenders may be willing to offer extensions or defer payments during this crisis. Several veterinary vendors have already implemented 60-day payment extensions for items purchased in March. Talk with your vendors and ask what options are available to you.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed an executive order on April 1 asking lenders and landlords across Ohio to work with small businesses to suspend payments for at least 90 days to avoid foreclosures.
Are you getting results and a strong return on investment on all of your subscription services? If not, eliminate the services that aren’t giving the needed results to preserve cash.
Delay any big-ticket or non-essential purchases.
Refinance existing loans
Interest rates are falling, so determine if it makes sense to refinance any existing loans. Consider questions such as:
- Can you get a significantly lower interest rate?
- What does it do to your loan term?
- Are there loan and/or closing costs related to the refinance that will negate any interest savings?
- Will the refinance lower your payment?
If you aren’t sure how to answer these questions, ask your CPA to help you determine if refinancing is a good choice.
Available relief programs
Families First Coronavirus Response Act
This legislation includes measures to slow the spread of the virus and provide relief for the American workforce—including mandatory paid leave for employees that are impacted by COVID-19. Visit the Department of Labor website (links below) for more information, and provide this information to your team members too.
Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act
The CARES Act contains multiple relief and aid initiatives, including unemployment programs, the Paycheck Protection Program loan, and Economic Injury Disaster Loans.
Paycheck Protection Program
All small business owners should apply for this loan. This money can be used to cover payroll, mortgage or rent payments, and utilities. As long as 75 percent of the funds are used to cover payroll, and the business maintains its payroll levels, the loan will be forgiven (details in link above). Because of the huge number of requests made since the application period opened on April 3, the government is now considering increasing the amount of funds earmarked for this program. Stay tuned for updates!
Employees who receive student loan repayment benefits from their employers will be able to exclude this benefit from their taxable income. Furthermore, student loan payments have been suspended without penalty from March 13 through Sept. 30, and interest on student loans will not accrue during this administrative forbearance.
- Coronavirus and Forbearance Info for Students, Borrowers, and Parents (Department of Education)
Tax Filing Deadlines
The deadline for federal tax payments due has been extended to July 15. The State of Ohio, as well as some Ohio cities, has also extended the tax deadline to July 15.
- Tax Day now July 15: Treasury, IRS extend filing deadline and federal tax payments regardless of amount owed (IRS)
- Ohio’s COVID-19 Tax Relief (Ohio Department of Taxation)
Unemployment Benefits Expanded
Unemployment benefits are available to laid-off or furloughed employees. Typically, these benefits are available for up to 26 weeks of unemployment; this has been extended for up to an additional 13 weeks, along with other benefit enhancements.
- Coronavirus and Unemployment Insurance Benefits (Ohio Department of Job & Family Services)
Economic Impact Payments
Employees who earn $75,000 (single) or $150,000 (married) or less will receive a direct payment of $1,200 (single) or $2,400 (family), plus $500 per eligible child (currently defined as 16 years of age or younger). This payment will be gradually phased out for people with incomes between $75,000 and $99,000 (single) and $150,000 and $198,000 (married).
A bill was introduced on April 4 to change the definition of eligible children to include all dependents over the age of 16, including college students. This is still in discussion.
Employees may also withdraw money from their tax-favored retirement plans without a tax penalty for COVID-19 related needs.
Financial and mental preparedness
Finally, veterinary team members should be prepared, both financially and mentally. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is hosting an eight-week series featuring some of the top motivational speakers in the country. These free webinars will take place on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. EST starting April 8.
Information about the COVID-19 pandemic and the relief programs available changes on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. Stay informed by watching Gov. DeWine’s daily coronavirus press briefings (the new must-see TV for Ohioans!) and reading OVMA’s regular e-bulletins.
Denise Tumblin, owner of WTA Veterinary Consultants, provides management, valuation, and transition services to independently owned veterinary practices across the U.S. Her company co-authors the Well-Managed Practice® Benchmarks Study, and she is the co-founder and facilitator of the WellMP® Management Groups.