• 03/20/2020 4:55 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Join us for a FREE members-only virtual happy hour on Monday, March 23 at 4:30 pm EDT. All employees of ACRA member firms, from field technicians to owners, are welcome to grab a drink of their choice and join ACRA President Nathan Boyless and Executive Director Amanda Stratton online. We can talk about the industry response to COVID-19, get ideas from your peers, or even simply vent about the current climate. Simply sign up here (it's free!) and we will send you a link to join.

  • 03/20/2020 1:16 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    In light of the recent events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, ACRA has made the decision to cancel our upcoming CRM Day on the Hill, originally scheduled for May 5, 2020. 

    Please continued to stay tuned to the ACRAsphere for news and resources that can help member firms during this time.

  • 03/19/2020 11:25 AM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The requirements laid out in the coronavirus relief packages stand to directly affected ACRA member firms - particularly those that are small businesses. The office of Congressman Rob Wittman (R-VA) has shared a helpful summary of key information for small businesses and employees affected by coronavirus-related closures. Much of this information has already been shared on other ACRAsphere posts, but the Congressman's office has helpfully compiled the information in an easily digestible format in one place:

    Requirements for Small Businesses

    Qualified Sick Leave Wages

    • Businesses with fewer than 500 employees must pay up to 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave to full-time employees (pro-rata rules apply to part-time employees) who are home sick from coronavirus, complying with a quarantine, or taking care of an individual who has been infected. This leave also applies to working families who may be forced home due to school closures.
      • Federal government will provide employers with a refundable payroll tax credit of 100 percent of the required wages.
      • Employees are capped at $200 per day ($511 per day in the case of employees that are home sick from coronavirus or complying with a quarantine).

    Qualified Family Leave Wages

    • Businesses with fewer than 500 employees must provide an additional 12 weeks of paid leave due to caring for a child whose school is closed.
      • The first 2 weeks of the leave, which is covered by the qualified sick leave described above, may be unpaid.
      • During the remaining 10 weeks, the employer will pay 2/3 of the employee’s salary, capped at $200 per day for up to 50 days.
      • Federal government will provide businesses with a refundable payroll tax credit of 100 percent of the required wages.
      • Secretary of Labor may issue rules to exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees from these requirements when the imposition of such requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.

    Unemployment Insurance for Workers

    • Provides $500 million for emergency administrative grants to states to support timely application, processing and payment of unemployment claims.
    • Makes an additional $500 million available for 100 percent federally funded Extended Benefits to support states that experience a spike in unemployment of at least 10 percent and eases some federal eligibility requirements to improve access.
    • Allows states to access interest-free federal loans to pay unemployment benefits, if needed.

    Resources for Small Businesses

    Health and Safety in the Workplace

    • It is important to note that OSHA has not issued any new regulations or legal obligations with regard to COVID-19, they have simply given best practices to ensure the health and safety of all employees.
      • Businesses should, however, existing OSHA standards due to the fact that these standards may apply to protecting workers against COVID-19. For the most recent OSHA guidance on COVID-19, please see https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf.

    Access to Capital

    • According to Secretary Mnuchin, the Administration is in the process of working on a regulation to allow some businesses who have large amounts of their workforce out to take the tax credit in advance. This is to ensure that businesses have enough payroll cash on hand to meet the leave requirements.
    • Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program - The SBA will work directly with state Governors to provide targeted, low-interest loans to small businesses and non-profits that have been severely impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19). 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.
    • 7(a) program offers loan amounts up to $5,000,000 and is an all-inclusive loan program deployed by lending partners for eligible small businesses within the U.S. States and its territories. The uses of proceeds include: working capital; expansion/renovation; new construction; purchase of land or buildings; purchase of equipment, fixtures; lease-hold improvements; refinancing debt for compelling reasons; seasonal line of credit; inventory; or starting a business.
    • Express loan program provides loans up to $350,000 for no more than 7 years with an option to revolve. There is a turnaround time of 36 hours for approval or denial of a completed application. The uses of proceeds are the same as the standard 7(a) loan.
    • Community Advantage loan pilot program allows mission-based lenders to assist small businesses in underserved markets with a maximum loan size of $250,000. The uses of proceeds are the same as the standard 7(a) loan.
    • 504 loan program is designed to foster economic development and job creation and/or retention. The eligible use of proceeds is limited to the acquisition or eligible refinance of fixed assets.
    • Microloan program involves making loans through nonprofit lending organizations to underserved markets. Authorized use of loan proceeds includes working capital, supplies, machinery & equipment, and fixtures (does not include real estate). The maximum loan amount is $50,000 with the average loan size of $14,000.

    Thank you to Congressman Wittman and his staff for providing this information to constituents. This information is also available here, and stay tuned to the ACRAsphere for further updates.

  • 03/18/2020 4:34 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    On Wednesday afternoon, the Senate passed a a multibillion-dollar aid package aimed at helping those impacted by the COVID-19 health crisis. President Trump is expected to sign the bill, which provides paid sick leave for some workers in addition to other forms of aid such as free diagnostic testing.

    How to best support small businesses amid mandates for paid leave continues to be a point of contention in negotiations. From Business Insider:

    "Through increases in programs like unemployment insurance and food stamps, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act would provide aid to those affected by the respiratory illness COVID-19 and efforts to contain it. The fast-tracked bill also expands paid sick leave for some workers, though the number of those who would be covered has been significantly reduced since its passage in the Democratic-controlled House early Saturday."

    The bill offers two weeks of paid and family leave at 100% of their normal salary to many American workers who are in quarantine, helping a family member with COVID-19, or who have children whose schools have closed. The bill also includes a provision allowing for 12 weeks of paid leave at 67% of their normal salary to workers with children whose schools have closed. Offsets for the increased costs to businesses are provided in the form of tax credits, which has been criticized as not coming quickly enough to pay employees.

    Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) committed to keeping the Senate in session to begin working on another stimulus package with the House of Representatives and the White House.

    Read the full Business Insider article here, and more information on both the package passed by the Senate and what is expected in future legislation is available in this piece by Roll Call. ACRA will continue to provide updates on how this could affect CRM businesses as the situation evolves.

  • 03/18/2020 10:38 AM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    As the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, ACRA is committed to supporting its member firms through our programs and information distribution. Please continue to visit the ACRAsphere and ACRA on Facebook and LinkedIn for the latest on the industry and resources for your firm.

    While many ACRA member firms are continuing to conduct fieldwork and other operations right now, preparing their businesses for any potential negative effects is on the minds of many in the industry right now. Two recent announcements from the federal government - extension of the tax payment deadline and the availability of disaster relief loans for small businesses - can help both business owners and employees preserve cash at this time. More information on both of these announcements is below.

    The US Department of Treasury has announced an extension on the April 15 tax payment deadlines. Individuals can defer tax payments of up to $1 million for 90 days, which extends the April 15 deadline to July 14, 2020. This is intended to cover individuals and small businesses, including partnerships and S corporations. Corporations can defer tax payments of up to $10 million for 90 days. 

    There are no special forms that need to be filed in order to take advantage of these extensions. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin remarked:

    "If you owe a payment to the IRS, you can defer up to $1 million as an individual — and the reason why we are doing $1 million is because that covers lots of pass-throughs and small businesses — and $10 million to corporations, interest-free and penalty-free for 90 days. All you have to do is file your taxes, you'll automatically not get charged interest and penalties.

    While the payment deadline has been extended, the filing deadline has NOT - it is still April 15. More information on the tax payment extension can be found here.

    The Small Business Administration is offering low-interest loans of up to $2 million as a part of their Disaster Relief Lending. The process of applying for an SBA loan is a bit more complicated than for conventional loans, but the advantage lies in higher amounts, lower interest rates, and longer repayment terms - and it is partially guaranteed by the government. Qualifying businesses can submit their applications online directly to the SBA.

    SBA disaster relief loans have been used to help small businesses stay afloat after natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods. You can read more about how businesses have used SBA disaster relief funds in this piece from Business News Daily that compares SBA and conventional loans.

    To qualify, a business must prove it has been negatively economically affected by COVID-19, can show that financing is not available elsewhere and meets the small business threshold criteria. More information and directions for applying are available on the SBA Disaster Relief website.
  • 03/17/2020 5:23 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Your Congress in Action is a new series that highlights the Capitol Hill news that affects CRM firms the most. This information is sourced from the Coalition for American Heritage, news articles, and more. Be sure to subscribe to the ACRAsphere to ensure you don't miss an update.

    • Congress is working on a COVID-19 relief package, which will likely be the first of many. One issue of particular interest to CRM firms is that the bill that passed the House this weekend includes provisions requiring small businesses to give up to 12 weeks of paid leave to their employees (see our previous post for more on this version of the bill). Many firms are concerned about having enough operating cash to fund such paid leave up front. The Senate is currently crafting its own stimulus package with the paid leave solution still a point of contention.
    • The Senate is poised to quickly pass the Great American Outdoors Act (S. 3422) to address deferred maintenance at America’s national parks and provide full, permanent funding of $900 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
    • The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) has implemented a coronavirus continuity of operations plan. They do not envision any changes in managing project reviews and the deadlines in the Section 106 process as set forth in 36 C.F.R. Part 800 will remain the same, with one exception in certain extraordinary circumstances. The Section 106 deadlines for a State or Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO/THPOs) response will be considered tolled while, due to the coronavirus outbreak, an office is closed or work conditions are such that the SHPOs/THPOs are unable to carry out their Section 106 duties. More information on ACHP operations during the COVID-19 response is available here
    • President Trump announced his intent to appoint Meridian, Idaho Mayor Robert Eugene Simison as the Mayor Member on ACHP. He has served as Meridian mayor since January 2020 and previously was the chief of staff to the mayor since 2007. From 1997 to 2007, Simison was a staff member for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce. UPDATE: The President has also announced his intent to appoint Florida architect Rick Gonzalez to be an Expert Member of the ACHP. Gonzalez is CEO of REG Architects in Palm Beach, Florida and is known for his historic preservation work in the West Palm Beach area.
    • New and notable bills: 
      • H.R. 5990 - Bronzeville-Black Metropolis National Heritage Area Act: Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) reintroduced the Bronzeville–Black Metropolis National Heritage Area Act, which would create a National Heritage Area to provide funding and national recognition to the significant contributions made to the City of Chicago by the African-American Community.
      • H.R. 6234 - To designate the Castner Range in the state of Texas, to establish the Castner Range National Monument, and for other purposes.: Introduced by Representative Victoria Escobar (D-TX) on March 12, this bill would make the Castner Range in West Texas, which has evidence of human habitation going back 10,000 years, into a national monument. 

  • 03/17/2020 2:34 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    We recognize that many of you may have been busy preparing your firm for coming uncertainty, and we want to ensure you have ample time to send us your ideas for conference sessions. We have extended the deadline for 2020 conference session proposals by one week - proposals are now due March 23, 2020 by 5:00 pm Eastern.

    Consider submitting a proposal for an individual speaker, a duo, or a panel on a subject that will interest fellow attendees. Whether the topic is insurance, evaluating significance of a resource, or details on consulting party communication, our roster of sessions is often vast and reflective of the multifaceted nature of our work and our companies. Our conference theme is CRM: Bridging Agencies, Industries, and the Community; perhaps this theme can spur an incredible idea.

    Our best sessions are developed by you—our attendees! Details can be found here.

  • 03/16/2020 2:29 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Congress is currently working on relief package to combat the economic and public health effects of COVID-19. This is likely to be the first package of many, and a large portion of the discussions have been devoted to protecting American workers in the event of having to take unexpected leave. 

    The House of Representatives passed their version of a relief package on Saturday morning, but some small businesses have expressed their concerns about provisions requiring them to offer up to 12 weeks of paid leave to their workers, citing the additional financial burden this would place on their businesses.  From Roll Call:

    "Republicans thought they'd settled on a formula to alleviate concerns: Provide generous tax credits for businesses with 500 or fewer employees subject to the new requirements, who under current law don't have to pay workers who take up to 12 weeks off under the Family and Medical Leave Act. There's also a hardship waiver for firms with 50 workers or less, subject to Labor Department approval.

    Small businesses voiced concerns that the tax relief wouldn't come quickly enough for them to make payroll, however, because the tax credits wouldn't come until after the end of each quarter. President Donald Trump said he'd agreed to have Mnuchin provide flexibility so that businesses could get the cash upfront. House Ways and Means ranking member Kevin Brady, R-Texas, announced his support for the bill after personal assurances from Trump."

    Read the full article at Roll Call for more in-depth analysis. Because the majority of CRM firms are qualify as small businesses under federal size standards, ACRA will continue to monitor and provide updates on the relief packages being discussed in Washington.

  • 03/13/2020 1:10 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Are you worried about how COVID-19 may impact your CRM firm and its operation? You aren't alone - firms across the nation are facing new challenges as they plan for this continued public health issue.

    Please use the comments section at the bottom of this post to connect with others in the CRM industry on how they are preparing for COVID-19. You can share your firm's plan for preparing, ask questions about challenges you are facing, and hear about innovative ways other firms are handling operations.

    We have also included general guidance and resources on preparing your CRM firm for the COVID-19 response below.

    ACRA encourages its members to prepare for the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak in your communities and across the nation and around world where you work.  There are many agencies providing guidance on the best measures to reduce the spread of the virus (see links below).  In addition to concern about personal health, ACRA is aware the COVID-19 outbreak may have a significant effect on businesses in our industry. 

    Things to consider and plan for to keep your business running:

    • Recognize projects may be cancelled or delayed or travel to project sites may not be allowed. 
    • Communicate frequently with clients and teaming partners about project status to determine if client is potentially shutting down or postponing work.
    • Communicate with staff frequently and clearly about project status changes and updates to plans. 
    • Communicate frequently about company leave and telecommuting policies.
    • Actively encourage frequent hand-washing and disinfecting.  Cover noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or use an elbow or shoulder if no tissue is available)
    • Develop disinfection routines and use them frequently (e.g., frequently clean doorknobs, countertops, desks, and any common area/use surfaces).
    • Encourage staff to be aware of any early signs of illness before starting work or travel. Actively encourage sick employees to stay home- now is not the time for toughing it out at work.
    • Ensure you check the CDC’s traveler’s health notices (see link below).  If outside the country and sickened or have issues traveling home, encourage staff to reach out to a U.S. consular officer (e.g., US embassies and consulates) to help locate healthcare services.
    • Identify supply chain partners for ordering Personal Protective Equipment.
    • Design an emergency response/continuity of operations plan:
      • Determine essential business functions, jobs, and roles.
      • Do you have the resources to have people work from home, to the extent possible?
      • As appropriate, consider having staff work in shifts to lessen interpersonal contact.
      • To the degree possible, identify and mitigate stressors.
      • Develop a phone/email tree for continued communication throughout any crisis.
      • Plan for increased employee absences. If possible, identify backup staff for those who may fall ill.
      • Cross-train staff to the degree feasible.

    Useful Links

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    Fact Sheet: What you need to know about coronavirus disease 2019
    Fact Sheet: What to do if you are sick with coronavirus disease 2019
    Resources for Business and Employers 
    Preventing COVID-19 Spread in Communities
    Preparing Communities for Potential Spread of COVID-19
    Communication Resources
    Travelers' Health 
    Interim US Guidance for Risk Assessment and Public Health Management of Persons with Potential Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Exposures
    Small Business International Travel Resource Travel Planner
    Pandemic Preparedness Resources
    Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19
  • 03/12/2020 3:51 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    In 2017, the Society for Historical Archaeology's Collections and Curation Committee (CCC) set out to gather repository fee data and other pertinent information for the primary archaeological repositories across the country. This information was compiled into an abbreviated report and story map, released in 2019. While the information gathered during this initial survey was useful and is being widely utilized, the CCC felt that a more detailed questionnaire and wider audience was needed to accurately capture repositories that are accepting collections, that have collections available for research, curation fee costs etc.

    To meet this goal, the CCC joined forces with the Archaeological Collections Consortium (ACC), of which ACRA is a partner, to conduct a second survey. This phase has a more technological approach to the survey which automatically inserts the data from the survey questionnaire into a GIS map and dashboard. It is also targeting a wider audience than the previous survey.

    Since the formal release of the survey in January, nearly 70 repositories have participated in the study. Please spread the word and ask anyone who holds collections to please fill out the survey. If you have any questions, please contact Kerry Gonzalez.

    Take the Repository Survey Now

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