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How to keep your small business healthy during pandemic

Updated Aug. 27, 2021, at 4 p.m. CT

If you’re a small business owner, you’ve become all too familiar with navigating unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How do you keep your employees, customers and business healthy?

More resources and programs continue to emerge to help small business owners like you. We’ll keep you updated here as federal, state and local agencies respond with more assistance.

And, as always, you can contact your credit union for financial guidance on your business. Because it’s our business to help you grow yours.

2020 Employee Retention Credit

The Employee Retention Credit was designed to make it easier for businesses that choose to keep employees on the payroll during the challenges of COVID-19.

The 2020 Employee Retention Credit is a refundable payroll tax credit of 50% of up to $10,000 per year in qualified wages paid to an employee by an eligible employer experiencing economic hardship related to COVID-19.

This credit is for wages, including qualified health plan expenses, paid between March 13, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020.

Eligible employers must fall into one of these categories:

  • Your business is fully or partially suspended by government order due to COVID-19 during the calendar quarter.
  • You had a significant decline in gross receipts. This begins with the first quarter in 2020 when your gross receipts are below 50% of the same quarter in 2019.

Eligible employers that received a Paycheck Protection Program loan can now also claim this credit, the Internal Revenue Service said March 1, 2021. But the same wages can’t be counted both for seeking forgiveness of the PPP loan and calculating the employee retention credit.

The IRS provides more information here.

2021 Employee Retention Credit

The Employee Retention Credit was extended through Dec. 31, 2021, and will include more favorable rules for 2021.

Eligible employers can now claim a refundable tax credit against your employer share of Social Security tax equal to 70% of the qualified wages you pay to employees after Dec. 31, 2020, through June 30, 2021.

Qualified wages are limited to $10,000 per employee per calendar quarter in 2021.

Effective Jan. 1, 2021, you’re eligible if you operate a trade or business between Jan. 1, 2021, and June 30, 2021, and experience either:

  • A full or partial suspension of the operation of your trade or business during this period because of governmental orders limiting commerce, travel or group meetings due to COVID-19.
  • A decline in gross receipts in a calendar quarter in 2021 where the gross receipts of that quarter are less than 80% of the gross receipts in the same calendar quarter in 2019.

The IRS provides more information about the 2021 Employee Retention Credit rules through June 30, 2021, here. The agency plans to release additional guidance soon to address the extension that goes through December.

Paycheck Protection Program

Dupaco is a participating lender for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.

The loan program has aimed to help small- and mid-sized businesses maintain cash flow during this challenging financial time. While the loan application window has closed, eligible borrowers can still apply for loan forgiveness.

Learn how to apply for PPP loan forgiveness here.

COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan

The SBA’s COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan provides economic relief to small businesses, including agricultural businesses and nonprofit organizations, experiencing a temporary loss of revenue.

The loans are intended to help your business meet financial obligations and operating expenses that could have been met had the pandemic not occurred.

Starting the week of April 6, 2021, the SBA raised the loan limit for the COVID-19 EIDL program:

  • Original limit: Six months of economic injury with a maximum loan amount of $150,000.
  • New limit: Up to 24 months of economic injury with a maximum loan amount of $500,000.

If you received a loan under the previous smaller limit, the SBA will reach out you directly via email and provide details about how to request an increase.

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing additional financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and producers impacted by COVID-19 market disruptions.

The original application period for CFAP 2 ended Dec. 11, 2020. But the USDA reopened CFAP 2 signup for all eligible producers April 5, 2021. The new deadline to apply is Oct. 12, 2021.

The financial assistance gives producers the ability to absorb some of the increased marketing costs associated with the pandemic.

Learn more here.

Dupaco business Visa credit card

Dupaco’s Business Platinum and Business Rewards Visa credit cards give you access to a low, variable interest rate to help you keep your business running smoothly.

You can monitor account activity online to watch for fraud.

To apply for a business credit card or manage your existing one, call Dupaco’s business services team at 800-373-7600, ext. 234.

Virtual Entrepreneur Lab

Dupaco expanded its partnership with the Creative Adventure Lab to provide Dupaco members access to free business coaching and networking opportunities during 2021.

The Virtual Entrepreneur Lab offers:

  • One-on-one startup and business management coaching
  • Professional development
  • Networking opportunities to connect and learn from peers across the country

Technical assistance classes are also available for a fee.

Learn more about the sessions and sign up here.

COVID-19 Business Helpline

The Greater Dubuque Development Corporation, Northeast Iowa Community College, Small Business Development Center and the East Central Iowa Intergovernmental Association established a COVID-19 Business Helpline.

The free resource is available to help all business owners, nonprofits and self-proprietors navigate the application process for federal, state and local funding.

You can call the helpline between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday-Friday at (563) 588-3350 or email

Dubuque Initiatives Loan Program

Dubuque Initiatives relaunched the Dubuque Initiatives Loan Program to provide loans to small businesses in the city of Dubuque.

To apply, you must meet these requirements:

  • Employ 1-50 employees (Sole proprietors are eligible)
  • Have a physical location or storefront within the City of Dubuque
  • Businesses that previously received a loan through this program and non-profits are eligible to apply.

To apply: Call the COVID-19 Business Helpline at (563) 588-3350 between 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday or email at

Iowa Economic Development

Iowa Economic Development created a COVID-19: Iowa Business Recovery webpage to provide its partners with resources and information.

You’ll find everything from financial assistance, news about the pandemic’s impact on Iowa businesses and other business resource guides.

Wisconsin Economic Development

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation created a webpage to help Wisconsin business owners.

The page features resources available to Wisconsin businesses from WEDC and other local, state and federal agencies.

Back to Business Grant Program

The Back to Business (B2B) grant program aims to provide grants to small businesses that have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. Grants will range from $5,000 to $150,000 per business (up to $250,000 for hotels) and can be used to cover a wide range of operations, staff and overhead costs. Get the eligibility requirements and apply here.

Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity

The Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity provides resources on its webpage to help Illinois businesses.

The department regularly updates the page with the latest programs available. You can navigate the latest resources by your business type: Small, midsize or large business.

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