• Mayor Lee Launches New 311 Mobile App
Mayor Edwin M. Lee recently launched the new release of the Open311 Platform for the City and County of San Francisco, providing an official SF311 mobile app for the public. This new feature of San Francisco’s 311 Customer Service Center will improve how residents and small business owners obtain information, report problems and track service requests remotely and on-location through their smartphone.
The City and County of San Francisco’s 311 Customer Service Center began providing one-stop city services in 2007, and has since gone on to answer over 15 million calls, in addition to providing convenient online access. Business owners have used 311 to report various problems at their business, such as vandalism or illegal parking.
The new SF311 app allows users to quickly and easily report issues by sending pictures, a brief description and a map-based location. Whether reporting issues such as graffiti, potholes, or street cleaning, the City’s new SF311 app simplifies and streamlines the process, ensuring it routes directly to the appropriate servicing agency for quicker response time. The user can view the status of the case in the app and receive a notification of its completion. The app offers one more way users can communicate with the 311 Customer Service Center for non-emergency City services and information. In addition to being able to talk to a live Customer Service Representative by phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year in over 170 languages, the public can use Twitter, Facebook, the Web, and now the mobile SF311 app.
The new SF311 App is available on both Apple iPhone and Android platforms and can be downloaded for free from the Apple iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store, respectively.
• Wind-Down of Existing CA Enterprise Zone Program and Launch of Three Replacement Programs
In his January budget, Governor Brown proposed significant reform the Enterprise Zone (“EZ”) program. He characterized it as an ineffective and costly tool. In the May revision to his budget, Governor Brown put forward a sunset of the EZ program, as well as three replacement programs, which he characterized as more targeted and effective. This proposal was presented as revenue neutral. The proposal was narrowly approved by the State Legislature, and Governor Brown signed both pieces of legislation– AB 93 and SB 90 – on July 11th. The legislation is urgency statute, meaning that it takes effect immediately.
Brief summaries of both the wind-down of the existing EZ program, as well as the three replacement economic development initiatives, are below.
Wind-Down of Existing Enterprise Zone Program
• No new EZ credits can be earned after Jan. 1, 2014.
• Businesses have 10 years to claim any unused EZ credits. Or, put another way, you have 10 years to use what you’ve earned before 2014, but you can’t continue to earn new credits after 1/1/2014.
o Note: If you have hired a new employee who might quality for the EZ hiring tax credit, and you have not yet obtained a voucher certificate from the City of San Francisco for that hire, it is strongly recommended that you do so immediately. The legislation is clear that any hires made prior to Jan. 1, 2014 may still be eligible for EZ hiring credits. However, it is unclear as to whether the City of San Francisco may issue voucher certificates after Jan. 1, 2014. As such, it is strongly recommended that you submit voucher applications as soon as possible.
Three Replacement Programs
• New Hiring Tax Credit Program
o Program that offers a credit against State taxes for hiring disadvantaged individuals. Employee must fall in one of the categories below:
- Unemployed prior 6 months.
- Unemployed veteran (must be unemployed since return from service).
- Ex-offenders previously convicted of a felony.
- Recipient of the Earned Income Tax Credit.
- Is a recipient of CalWORKs or general assistance.
o Open to businesses located in former EZs as well as areas with high unemployment/poverty. Excludes temporary help agencies, retailers, and food services, unless those businesses have less than $2 million in gross receipts (which means they are a “small business” as defined by the legislation).
o Effective Jan. 1, 2014 through Jan. 1, 2021.
o Must be a net new job created at the business – not just a replacement hire.
o Wage must start at $12/hour. Credit capped at 350% of minimum wage. Employee must work 35 hours/week or more.
• New Sales Tax Exemption Program for Qualified Purchases
o Statewide program that offers a sales tax exemption for the purchase of qualified equipment. This program is very similar to a sales tax exemption enacted in 1993 for small manufacturers.
o Qualified purchases include:
- Equipment used in any stage of the manufacturing, processing, refining, fabricating or recycling process.
- Equipment used for research and development.
- Equipment used to maintain or repair equipment purchased in the two categories above.
o Effective July 1, 2014 through July 1, 2022 for businesses statewide, and is not restricted to former EZ boundaries.
• New GO Biz Fund
o Program to establish a one-time tax incentive to encourage companies to relocate or expand in California.
o Named the “California Competes Tax Credit.” Funded by $150 million in fiscal year 14/15; $200 million in each following fiscal year, ending in 17/18.
o Distribution of the credit determined by the California Competes Tax Credit Committee. Committee members consist of the State Treasurer, Director of the Department of Finance and the Director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (“GO Biz”).
The City and County of San Francisco has its own programs related to the Enterprise Zone. The Office of Economic and Workforce Development will provide more information on the changes to our local EZ programs as soon as they become available. Click here for more information, assistance and further developments.
• Federal Government Launches One-Stop-Shop on the Health Care Law for Businesses Big and Small
The federal government recently launched Business.USA.gov/healthcare, a one-stop-shop where employers of all sizes can go for information on the Affordable Care Act.
The new site includes a web-based tool that allows employers to get tailored information on how the health law may affect them based on their business’ size, location, and plans for offering health benefits to their workers next year. From tax credits for small businesses to help make coverage affordable, to measures to help slow the growth of health care costs, there are a variety of ways that the Affordable Care Act can help businesses expand health care coverage and compete.
The site leverages various federal government resources to ensure that business owners get comprehensive health care information and easy-to-use tools, such as a timeline of key implementation dates; information about the SHOP Marketplaces and small business tax credits; and resources to help calculate a firm’s number of full-time equivalent employees or determine if the coverage they already offer meets the law’s minimum value standards. The site will be continuously updated with new or additional information.
The Office of Small Business strongly recommends every small business owner/employer take a webinar on understanding the Affordable Care Act. Click here for more information and to register.
- Thursday, Sept 5 at 2:00 PM ET, 11:00 AM PT
- Thursday, Sept 12 at 2:00 PM ET, 11:00 AM PT
- Thursday, Sept 19 at 2:00 PM ET, 11:00 AM PT
- Thursday, Sept 26 at 2:00 PM ET, 11:00 AM PT
Once you have a good understanding of the Affordable Care Act and how it affects small businesses, you should learn how to purchase health insurance plans in California's health exchange agency, Covered California.
In San Francisco, small businesses with 50 or fewer employees can act as a purchasing pool to buy health insurance through the exchange. The employees will then select from among four insurers: Blue Shield of California, Chinese Community Health Plan, Health Net and Kaiser. The rates will vary by age, residence and other factors. For a 40-year-old worker in San Francisco, the average monthly cost for a midrange policy will be $316. In Alameda County, workers will be able to choose among three insurers for an average rate of $389. The plans go on sale October 1 and coverage begins January 1, 2014.
As part of the law, small businesses with fewer than 50 workers can take part in the new state exchange, though they are not required to. Small businesses don't face penalties for not offering coverage. Businesses with 25 or fewer workers can also qualify for federal tax credits if they buy coverage through the exchange.
Click here for more information on health coverage options for small businesses in California, from Small Business Majority, a national nonpartisan small business advocacy group founded and run by small business owners.
• Disaster Preparedness Month - Lessons Learned and Ways to Protect Your Small Business
It has been a year since San Francisco small businesses on Ocean Avenue and in the West Portal neighborhood suffered tremendous damages to their businesses due to two separate devastating fires. In some cases, businesses were completely wiped out and suffered a total loss.
September is National Preparedness Month and a good time to set up your emergency plan for your business, or review your plan if you already have one. The resources below can help you develop a plan to protect your employees, lessen the financial impact of disasters, and re-open your business quickly to support economic recovery in your community.
- Create a preparedness program for your business
- Identify critical business systems [PDF]
- Create an emergency communications plan [PDF]
- Test your business systems
- Enroll in the Red Cross Ready Rating Program
- Build a disaster preparedness kit
- Learn about the Small Business Administration's Disaster Assistance programs (online course)
Here are some additional resources for your small business:
- IBHSS Open for Business (http://disastersafety.org/open-for-business/) - Small business preparedness and continuity resources
- American Red Cross Ready Rating for Business (http://readyrating.org/) - Assessment and preparedness training tools for businesses of all sizes
- Ready.gov for Business (http://www.ready.gov/business) - Federal government resources for small business
- 72hours.org (http://72hours.org/) - SF DEM personal and home preparedness training
- SF CARD (www.sfcard.org) - Local SF based nonprofit that provides preparedness and business continuity training for small and local businesses as well as non-profits.
- AlertSF (www.alertsf.org) - AlertSF is a FREE text-based notification system for San Francisco's residents and visitors. AlertSF will send alerts regarding emergencies disrupting vehicular/pedestrian traffic, watches and warnings for tsunamis, flooding, and Citywide post-disaster information to your registered wireless devices and email accounts.
Below are some steps to take to better prepare for disasters that could cause business interruption:
- Contact your insurance agent and review your current policy; does it include flood damage? Business interruption? Understand your deductibles.
- Back-up computer systems, data/files and keep it off business site.
- Make a photographic or videotape record of your inventory.
- Keep an emergency contact list of your employees, key customers and suppliers.
- Keep records of the following financial documents off business site: bank accounts, financial statements, 3 years of income tax returns, lease agreement, etc.
- Keep cash reserves.
(List courtesy of SBSD)
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