Reopening Your Small Business: A Texas Guide

Governor Greg Abbott recently addressed reopening Texas after the coronavirus shut-down.

“As we open Texas, we are each called upon to be Texans: to act responsibly as we re-engage in the economy, to continue following all health precautions and sanitizing guidelines, and to care for our vulnerable neighbors. Lives depend on our actions. I know you will respond as Texans.”

We’ve compiled information you need to know for a successful – and healthy – return to business in Texas.

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When will Texas reopen?

Starting on May 5th, the governor began outlining different stages of reopening with detailed guidelines to keep Texans safe.

What are the Texas reopening stages?

Following are the dates for reopening various venues and activities.

  • Effective May 26, 2020
    Driving Schools
  • Effective May 29, 2020
    Waterpark operators and waterpark visitors
  • Effective May 31, 2020
    Adult Recreational Sports Operators and Participants
  • Effective May 31, 2020
    Day Youth Camp Operators and Families
    Professional Sports Leagues
  • Effective May 22, 2020
    Bars, Bowling Alleys, Bingo Halls, Simulcasting, Skating Rinks
    Bowling, Bingo, Simulcasting, Skating Customers, Outdoor Motorsports, Rodeo / Equestrian Events, Zoos, Aquariums, Natural Caverns
  • Effective May 18, 2020
    Child Care Centers, Gyms, Manufacturers Massage and Personal-Care, Beauty Services
    Office-Based Employers, Youth Clubs
  • Effective May 8, 2020
    Barber Shops, Cosmetology / Hair Salons
    Cosmetology, Tanning Salons
  • Effective May 5, 2020
    All Employers and Employees, Churches and Places of Worship, Movie Theaters, Museums and Libraries, Outdoor Sports Participants, Parks / Beaches / Bodies of Water,
    Restaurants, Retailers.

Employers reopening priorities

Reopening your small business probably won’t be as easy as switching on the lights and welcoming employees back to the office.

HR experts expect employers and employees to experience a new environment, perhaps long term, rather than business as usual once the pandemic lessens.

Not only will small business owners need to consider measures to ensure the health and safety of their returning workforces—phased-in returns to the workplace and physical distancing, for instance—they also may encounter greater employee demand for flexible hours, remote-work arrangements, and generous paid sick leave as part of the new normal. The dramatic drop in traffic and cleaner air may encourage some business owners to change their operations. Additionally, many business owners are finding that employee productivity has increased greatly when working remotely.

What to consider when deciding to reopen

Employers should stay on top of the news so they will be prepared and compliant when allowed to reopen. If you’re operating a small business in Texas, here are details to consider.

Regional considerations

Texas is divided into 254 counties, more than any other U.S. state. Each county may have slightly different guidelines put in place. Regional variances allow some areas to move even more quickly into later stages of operation modification.

Business structure

Physical locations of businesses and the ability to enforce proper social distancing (at least six feet between individuals) within the business location, the level of contact with customers and other employees.

COVID-19 cases

Situations that might affect reopening include increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations, positive coronavirus tests, the severity and volume of cases, physical locations of businesses, the ability to enforce proper social distancing (at least six feet between individuals) within the business location, the level of contact with customers and other employees.

Actions to take when reopening your Texas business

Here are steps to consider when opening your business in Texas:

1. Re-think your budget

Budgeting takes into consideration what you spend and what you earn. If your income has lessened because of the coronavirus business shutdown, you simply can’t continue to budget your money the same way. Determine where you can cut back or even eliminate expenses. If you’re able to operate effectively remotely, giving up a rent payment can offer financial relief.

2. Explore outside funding

Look into SBA 7(a) loans, grants, and state, regional or city emergency relief opportunities.

3. Negotiate with vendors and suppliers

There are vendors and suppliers who might be easier to negotiate with if your cash flow is impacted. It’s a good idea to tackle the low-hanging fruit first before you spend time and energy on businesses that might make negotiations difficult.

More flexible:

  • Manufacturers
  • Direct service providers
  • Corporations or large companies
  • Financial institutions (banks, credit unions, etc.)
  • Large contracts

Less flexible:

  • Distributors
  • Small Businesses
  • Private landlords
  • Small contracts

For a complete guide on negotiations in light of the pandemic, visit the SmartBiz Small Business Blog: How To Negotiate With Lenders and Suppliers During COVID-19.

4. Put office safety measures in place

Create your Injury and Illness Prevention Program. The IIPP is a basic written workplace safety program. Employers in the State of Texas should develop and implement an effective IIPP. Tx/OSHA has created an e-tool to assist employers create the plan based on their unique business. That e-tool can be found here. Consultation services are also available to employers through on-site visits, telephone support, publications, and educational outreach.

You should also put testing for symptoms of the virus in place. Testing should be administered in the least invasive way possible, like utilizing temperature guns or forehead temperatures. If a medical professional or person with medical training is available, have them administer the temperatures. If somebody with medical training is not available or onsite, the company should consider whether managers within the organization may be trained to administer and read whatever testing mechanism the company uses. Finally, testing should be administered based on legitimate and nondiscriminatory business needs.

The national OSHA organization is always adding and updating workplace safety publications to their website as well to help employers as well. Everything from construction safety, to ergonomics and bloodborne pathogens is covered.

5. Continue customer communication

Whatever you decide to do during the coronavirus crisis, don't stop communicating with customers. Share via email, social media messaging, and other channels how you are staying in operation and what your plans are if you have to temporarily close. Share with customers what you are doing during the quarantine. Let people know as soon as you plan to open again. Your customers want to support you, and communication can help them keep your business in mind.

6. Keep open communication with employees

This is a very stressful time for American workers. Being in the dark about their employment status can cause additional distress. Be sure to be open and honest with your employees about the current business situation and your plans for opening up. Let them know the steps you are taking to keep your business going after the pandemic.

7. Establish anonymous reporting

To maintain a safe work environment for on-site employees and customers, companies should create an anonymous complaint channel for employees and customers to report unsafe practices or violations of protocol during this COVID-19 period.

Resources

The facts, laws, and regulations regarding COVID-19 in Texas are developing rapidly. Since the date of this post’s publication, there may be new or additional information not referenced in this advisory. Please consult with your legal counsel for guidance and visit these sites to stay up-to-date:

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