Popular COVID-19 Questions and Answers (Q&A) for Dentists’ and Dental Practice Owners

Dear clients Here is another set of questions you’ve all been asking, and our answers to those questions:
  1. As an employee of my corporation, should I file for unemployment?
Technically you’re eligible if you meet the requirements outlined by the EDD here (for CA clients) and in some cases it will make sense. However, some thoughtful consideration should be given to the following factors:
  • The work performed as “emergency” or “essential” work will be reported in the weekly re-certification and may exclude you from receiving additional benefits. The claims form specifically asks in question six if you worked or earned money during unemployment “whether you were paid or not.”
  • The maximum weekly benefit received is $450. The time and hassle of filing the initial claim and the weekly re-certification of benefits may not outweigh the benefits
  • If you’re taking draws outside of payroll, that would disqualify you from receiving benefits.
  • All unemployment benefits are subject to federal taxes.
  • You can likely expect an increase in your 2020 state unemployment rates as a result of the claim.
  • If you’re attempting to refinance a personal home loan, this will harm your ability to do so.
  1. Can I pay out PTO now and my staff still be eligible for unemployment income?
This one is better for a labor attorney, but we believe based on our research that yes, they would still be eligible for unemployment income IF they were deemed terminated and you’re simply paying out as a final paycheck their accrued but unused vacation time. (Note, accrued sick doesn’t need to be paid out upon termination in CA, but you can just call it vacation pay). Please review the CA EDD website to determine for yourself if you agree with our interpretation.
  1. When are my 2019 tax returns and any required payments due?
1040 Tax return filing is now delayed until 7/15. This means (1) we don’t need to file an extension if we plan to finalize your returns by 7/15 (most of you) and (2) you don’t need to make any payments that would normally be due on 4/15. In fact, for our clients for whom we anticipate a substantial refund, we’re attempting to file their returns early so we can get that cash in their bank account.
  1. What are some ways I can engage my patients during this period?
We’ve seen a few of our clients doing some creative things to interface with their patients during this time, including:
  • Sending letters to their patients offering a discount (e.g. 20%) if they prepay treatment now. Or perhaps issuing a credit for payments they send now that can be used for future treatment with a 20% discount of your UCR. You can explain in the letter that it’s your effort to support your team through this difficult time. Patients will appreciate your effort to care for your staff.
  • Hold virtual meetings with your patients (e.g. Zoom) to discuss their dental pain and determine if emergency treatment is needed. Some clients are even using virtual visits to do a high-level dental evaluation.
  • Calling patients that were previously scheduled for important treatments to check in and keep them focused on the treatment. This way when you open doors, they’ll quickly schedule.
  • Sending a letter to patients outlining your protocol to maintain a sterilized, sanitized office, so when you open doors, they can feel confident about returning to your office. A lot of people will still be cautions even after government leaders authorize us to resume business. This letter may help your patients feel more comfortable coming to your office.
  • Here are additional recommendations from Imtiaz Manji with Spear Education.
  1. Can I “loan” my employees’ money by paying them now outside of payroll. When they return, I can deduct that pay from their paychecks. This way I can provide financial support to them now without disqualifying them from receiving unemployment income.
We would advise against this because (1) it’s probably illegal and (2) we discourage loans to employees in any form. It can create more problems than it solves. What if they don’t return to your office? What if they disagree to allow you deduct it later? What if a UI claims audit discovers you paid them while they were on unemployment income?
  1. What are some of the provisions in the new Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that is going through congress (stimulus package part 2)?
We want to emphasize this is early and very subject to change, but here are a few of the relevant initial provisions:
  • There may be new loans available to businesses. These loans could be forgiven if used to pay and retain employees.
  • It provides direct payment to individuals and families. The amount would be $1,200 per adult and $500 per child if the income levels are low enough (About 100K for single individuals and $200K for married couples, depending on how many children are in the family). This is refundable if they have no taxable income.
  • The Act would allow for a deferral of the 6.2% FICA tax employers pay for employees. To reiterate, that’s a deferral and would need to be paid back once the year is over. It would be paid back over two years.
  1. I heard that I can delay paying insurance premiums for up to 60 days. Is this true and does it apply to our group health insurance plan?
Sort of true. The California Insurance Commissioner (and other states) issued this notice allowing a 60-day grace period on paying premiums. So yes you can skip two months of payment, BUT you will need to pay those two months retroactively. And yes, this applies to health insurance, as well as life, auto, and property insurance.
  1. Can I still pay my staff even if they’re not working?
Some of you have expressed interest in helping your staff by paying a portion of their salary for a week or two while your office is closed. Your goal is to create loyalty and trust with them. If cash can support this, we commend you. Having a loyal and talented team is vital to all good dental practices. And this is an opportunity to earn that loyalty. That said, we recommend you find something they can do rather than give “free” money. This is GREAT chance for you to “work on the business.” Your staff and you can have virtual meetings to discuss process needs, goals, reports, and your game plan for when the doors open back up. Ask your staff to document their workflow in a simple Word or Google document and suggest recommendations to improve the process. You as the CEO can work on your business plan and make assignments to your staff. You can be engaging your marketing company to work on your advertising and online presence. Great dental office aren’t just clinically effective, they’re operationally sound.
  1. Should I continue to pay health insurance premiums for my employees while the office is closed?
We recommend you continue to pay the health insurance premiums for staff while the office is closed. If you’re planning to bring them back, their health insurance may be vital to their well-being right now. Additionally, when they return, you can withhold the appropriate amount from their paychecks to have them get current with the required withholdings per your benefit guidelines. For example, if you pay for the full premium for a month, when normally you’d only pay 50%, you can withhold 100% from their paycheck for one month after they return. Please speak with your health insurance broker to confirm our understanding.
  1. Is there any further guidance on whether or not Dentists are exempt from the Coronavirus bill that past last week requiring us to provide emergency sick and family leave pay to our employees for up to 12 weeks?
There is still some uncertainty; however, we did find this on the ADA website: Health care providers, which may include dentists, and small businesses with fewer than 50 employees, may be exempt from the new provision. Exemptions would be granted by the Secretary of Labor, who will likely communicate those guidelines, and how businesses may request an exemption, prior to the law taking effect on April 2.  
WordPress Image Lightbox