For those of us with burning legal questions about navigating COVID-19 issues, Justin Puckett of Dental Partnership Organization MB2 has the answers. Doubled up as an accountant and attorney, Justin has worked specifically to solve the legal and financial problems dentists may face for about seven years. He is currently serving as the president of MB2 and has already done a lot to help members get back on their feet during the reopening process.
First, he’s here to help us break down some of the confusion we’re facing with national, state-level, and local guidelines that may contradict or intensify one another. One of the most common things he’s run into is determining what constitutes an “emergency” or “life-threatening” condition. As a rule of thumb, Justin and I agree that cases where a lack of treatment could lead to someone going to the hospital fall into the “emergency” category.
Many fellow dentists are also worried about potential litigation if their practices are discovered to be connected to the virus’s spread. Justin says that while anyone can sue you for anything, he suggests that you follow your local and state guidelines and ensure that only employees comfortable with returning to work do so. If a legal threat emerges, he says that only extreme recklessness with your precautions and overall negligence could be effectively brought against you.
As for unemployment benefits, Justin encourages everyone to apply. This includes owners who pay themselves any kind of wages outside of collecting a profit. For staff members, you can sustain their benefits by reducing their work hours to zero per week so they can still receive unemployment and healthcare benefits. If they need to return to work for a dental emergency, their unemployment benefits will still carry on with minor adjustments.
If you are paying your employees anything, including something like a food stipend, make sure to keep track of those payments. If you laid someone off in March, and you rehired them during the 2-week grace period, you will be eligible for more potential benefits like the forgivability of any of the national small business loans you may have been granted.
Keeping an eye on your local government’s reaction to these new circumstances is vital. Some local governments have established further safety nets for practice owners, such as Dallas’s ruling that evictions are no longer permitted during the pandemic.
For those of us still in a tight bind with our landlords, MB2 has sent out letters to each members’ landlords asking for rent forgiveness and deferment. Justin has offered to share a template of that same letter that you can use to reach out to your landlord or property manager about navigating this zero-income situation.
During our talk, Justin and I received so many further questions about COVID-19 related legal issues that we’re going to regroup and cover more soon. Until then, I hope that Justin’s advice has cleared some issues up and has given you more confidence to move forward positively.
Learn more about:
How to avoid potential litigation due to COVID-19 layoffs and precautions
Getting the most out of unemployment benefits
Increased personal rights and resources during the pandemic
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