Small Business COVID-19 Q&A

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Rent, landlords, property and utilities Insurance, Payroll and Taxes Small Business Community Updates Small Business Support Rules

On March 16, 2020, the Office of Economic Development and Innovation held a listening session with just over 100 small businesses to learn of questions the industry has related to COVID-19. Our team will be updating this Q&A over time as new information becomes available. Each update will include a date and month.

The Q&A includes information on:

Small Business Listening Session

Held March 16, 2020

Rent, landlords, property and utilities

Q. Is there rent forgiveness, abatement and/or matching?

A.1 (Updated 3/17) We encourage businesses to speak with their landlords and discuss these options or other alternative arrangements with them. During the March 17 City Council meeting, Council Members encouraged landlords to work together with small businesses during this difficult period. We are proud that landlords in our community are already stepping up to the plate, like Niall Hanley, the owner of Hibernian Hospitality Group, who is waiving rent for all tenants at Morgan Street Food Hall for the next month. 

A.2. (Updated 3/18) One business owner who attended the listening session suggested that businesses ask their landlord(s) for deferment now and add the deferred months to the end of the lease. 

Q. Can city utility payments be delayed or waved during this outbreak? 

A. (Updated 3/18) While the City of Raleigh continues to address needs during the time of COVID-19 response, Raleigh Water will continue to meter water usage and bill customers accordingly. In an effort to assist those residential customers and small businesses that may experience financial hardships due to this environment, we will be working to extend payment due dates and offer payment plans.  We also strongly encourage customers to avoid paying bills in person and to make payments by phone at 919-996-3245, mail or utilizing our online portal. Customer Care staff are available by phone or email to assist with payment extensions and payment plans and our online portal is available 24 hours a day to set up a payment plan or extension. In addition, we will temporarily waive late fees and allow additional time to pay their bill. 

Q. Has the city made arrangements with Duke Power or Dominion energy to help with bills? 

A.  (Updated 3/17) Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas have announced they are suspending disconnections for non-payments due to the coronavirus outbreak. This is for all home and business accounts in North Carolina along with Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and South Carolina.) Dominion Energy will suspend disconnections for non-payments at this time and reconnect those who have been disconnected. 


Insurance, Payroll and Taxes

Q. How and where can people apply for unemployment insurance online?

A. (Updated 3/24) On Tuesday, March 17, 2020, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced his administration would lift several restrictions on state unemployment benefits via Executive Order 118 to make it easier for people to qualify for benefits and to reduce the cost to businesses.  

The Order lifted several restrictions, including:  

  1. Including some people who don’t entirely lose their jobs due to coronavirus closures but do see their hours cut. These employees will, in some cases, be able to qualify for unemployment benefits. 
  2. The waiting period to apply is also lifted under this order. There had been a one-week waiting period for benefits. That has been suspended. 
  3. The requirement that people must be actively searching for a new job in order to continue benefits has also been suspended.  
  4. People can apply online or over the phone and don’t need an in-person interview. This will reduce the burden on the applicant and reduce potential spread of the virus. 
  5. While businesses are typically required to help pay for their former workers’ unemployment benefits, that rule now won’t apply in cases related to coronavirus. 

To apply for unemployment benefits, visit the N.C. Department of Commerce, Division of Employment Security website to get more information on what to provide to the agency. Information requested by the agency would include a Social Security number, a working email address, a detailed work history from the last two years, details about any severance pay the applicant might receive and more. You can find more information here. You can also call 888-737-0259 between 8a.m. and 4:30 p.m. 

Q. Will the insurance offices be open? Will my insurance policy cover COVID-10?

A. (Updated 3/24) Insurance policy holders should contact their insurance providers directly to check what coverage is provided by their policy.  

Additionally, the North Carolina Department of Insurance has offered this statement on their website:  

“Coverage Related to the Coronavirus Health Emergency: With the recent pandemic of the coronavirus, some business owners may be wondering whether their insurance policies cover losses resulting from a business shut down or other losses related to the coronavirus.  Under the business income policy, there likely is no coverage as losses occurring as a result of a virus or bacteria are typically excluded. Business owners with questions about their coverage should contact their agent/broker or insurer directly and consider whether it is in their own best interest to file a claim.  Please note that the North Carolina Department of Insurance does not have the authority to require insurers to extend coverage under the policy where specifically excluded or to sell this type of coverage to consumers.”  

Q. Can payroll tax be paused? Is there a Payroll Tax Relief? 

A. (Updated 3/17) Any action on payroll taxes needs to originate from the federal government. As federal policy evolves and is enacted into law, we will update this page. 

Q. How can the City help with local sales tax? 

A. (Updated 3/18) Any action related to sales tax would need to originate from the state government. As the state government provides updates on their plans for small business support, we will update this page. 

Q. Is there a food/beverage tax pause (if not how can the city create one)? 

A. (Updated 3/18) Any action related to food/beverage tax would need to originate from the state government. As the state government provides updates on their plans for small business support, we will update this page. 

Q. How do small businesses get a sales tax of postponement/abatement/exemption for the next couple of months?

A. (Updated 3/17) Any postponement/abatement/exemption of sales taxes for small businesses would need to originate from the state government. As the state government provides updates on their plans for small business support, we will update this page.  


Small Business Community Updates

Q. Would Shop Local Raleigh or Visit Raleigh be able to send out a bi-weekly or weekly email with business updates on what is open and what is closed? 

A. (Updated 3/17) Shop Local Raleigh has created a resource page for supporting small businesses and includes a link of businesses open for business, providing discounts, or available for delivery or carry-out. More information can be found on Shop Local Raleigh website

Q. Will the City specify what businesses need to close? 

A. (Updated 3/17) As this is a public health emergency, the State Department of Health and Human Services and Wake County Public Health are leading the state and local response. We will update this page with any guidance or instructions from those entities.  

Q. Can the City of Raleigh set up one webpage with links to all known local, state, and national resources? 

A. (Updated 3/17) The Office of Economic Development and Innovation will be updating business-related information and news to the Economic Development COVID-19 page

Q. Is there a plan for there to be a statewide two-week shutdown? 

A. (Updated 3/17) As we receive more guidance and information from the State, we will share them on this page. At this point, we have received no guidance about a statewide two-week shutdown.  

Q. Are there any moratoriums?  

A. (Updated 3/18) The governor issued an executive order ordering that restaurants close their dine-in operations but that they may continue offering takeout, drive-through and delivery services, the governor has also prohibited any mass gathering of more than 100 people. It is important to note that there are some exceptions to the mass gathering order. “A mass gathering does not include normal operations at airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, libraries, shopping malls and centers. It also does not include office environments, factories, grocery stores, and child care centers.”  


Small Business Support

Q. Can people contact City Council? If so how can they contact them?

A. (Update 3/18) Visit the Raleigh City Council webpage to obtain email addresses for each councilmember and to determine which council district your business(es) is located in. 

Q. Will parking be free? And if so, for who?

A. (Updated 3/18) In an effort to support the small business community and reduce costs of working downtown, the City of Raleigh Transportation Department has made the surface lots in front of the performing arts center available for free parking for restaurant and hospitality employees who are continuing business operations. The two lots will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Evolving information will guide how long the temporary lots are available.   

Q. Will there be support for businesses that involved close contact with people such as massage therapies? 

A. (Updated 3/17) We are working with local, state, and federal partners to identify what support there will be for small businesses and will update this page as we learn more. 

Q. How will we repurpose money from grants and other sources to support small businesses? 

A. (Updated 3/18) We are working with local, state, and federal partners to identify what support there will be for small businesses and will update this page as we learn more. 

Q. What services are available from the government for small businesses impacted by COVID-19?

A. (Updated 3/24) Small businesses impacted by COVID-19 may contact one or both of the following resources for questions related to possible government assistance: 

  1. Business Link North Carolina (BLNC) is a free service for small businesses in North Carolina. Working in partnership with the NC Department of Commerce, BLNC offers one-on-one phone consultations with small businesses owners. To reach a BLNC business counselor Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm, call (800) 228-8443 or contact them online at: All inquiries will receive a response from a confidential business counselor within three (3) business days.  “Se Habla Español.” 

  2. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is now providing Disaster Loan Assistance for businesses and non-profits impacted by COVID-19. SBA SBA North Carolina District, located in Charlotte, and its three satellite offices are responsible for the  delivery of SBA programs in the state: 

  • SBA Triangle North Carolina Office – Raleigh - Patrick Rodriguez, SBA Senior Area Manager, 919-532-5525 
  • SBA Wilmington and Southeastern North Carolina Office – Wilmington, Don Spry, SBA Senior Area Manager, 910-398-0746   
  • SBA Asheville and Western North Carolina Office – Asheville, Sharon Harvey, SBA Senior Area Manager, 202-805-8947  

Q.  Are SBA loans the solution? 

A.1 (Updated 3/17) SBA (Small Business Administration) loans can be a useful tool for some businesses. Other businesses may prefer to avoid additional debt.   

A.2 (Updated 3/17) There are specific SBA loans for businesses impacted by the coronavirus.  North Carolina has not yet been declared eligible for these loans but is currently under review.  We will update this page as we learn more in the coming days.   

A.3 (Updated 3/17) In the meantime, you can prepare yourself with more information about the COVID-19 Economic Injury loan program.

A.4 (Updated 3/17) You may also get help with loan applications or other information from SBA’s local assistance partners.

Q. Is there anything in place for independent contractors who may lose funds as a result of the bars? 

A. (Update 3/18) Depending on their specific situation, independent contractors MAY be eligible for unemployment insurance through the Governors Executive Order 118. Individuals are encouraged to contact the North Carolina Division of Employment Security for further guidance at 888-737-0259 or visit their website.

Q. Is there anything set in place that will help business owners with loss of income? 

A. (Updated 3/18) We are working with local, state, and federal partners to identify what support there will be for small businesses and will update this page as we learn more. 

Q. Will the city or state help pay bills and employees?

A. (Updated 3/18) We are working with local, state, and federal partners to identify what support there will be for small businesses and will update this page as we learn more. 

Q. Will funds be available for businesses that have a minimum of 25% decrease in business. If so, how would small businesses proceed to go through that system?

A. (Updated 3/17) SBA loans are addressed in the previous question above.  As we learn about other funding options, we will update this page. 

Q. Can larger employers communicate information like food deliveries to their employees? Many are living in the gentrified downtown and working from home. 

A. (Updated 3/18) Several of the Business Alliances in Raleigh are actively promoting the delivery and takeout services being provided by small businesses in Raleigh. Shop Local Raleigh is collecting a running list. You can contact Shop Local Raleigh via email. The Downtown Raleigh Alliance is also sharing a list of delivery and takeout services by small businesses in downtown Raleigh.

Q. Can ABC renewals/permits be pushed out beyond April 15 (might be state and/or county)? 

A. (Updated 3/17) ABC permits are managed by the North Carolina ABC Commission. We encourage individuals to contact the ABC Commission. The ABC Commission has stated that due to high call volumes that they are encouraging individuals to reach out via their email.

Q. AT&T and Spectrum have services for the crisis, but are they for small businesses? 

A.1(Updated 3/17) AT&T is committing to keeping businesses connected during the crisis.  This includes a pledge to avoid disconnects and late fees through mid-May.  For more information, visit AT&T's page

A.2 (Updated 3/17) Spectrum is committing to keeping businesses connected during the crisis.  This includes a pledge to avoid disconnects and late fees through mid-May.  For more information visit Spectrum's COVID-19 page



Q. What businesses must close?

A. (Updated 3/22) Wake County government officials announced on Sunday, March 22 that all fitness centers, gyms, hair and nail salons, spas, tanning, massage, and tattoo salons, and other grooming services must close through April 30. Wake County pointed out that it is too difficult for these places to operate and observe social distancing practices, as recommended by the state and the CDC. Learn more.

A special phone line is available now for business owners to call with questions about the process. The number is 919-856-7420. Wake County staff will answer calls from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.

Q. Should my business screen clients before allowing them into the building? 

A. (Updated 3/22) Wake County government officials recommend that businesses begin temperature checks and respiratory screenings for employees before they come into the workplace. The county also asks businesses to consider checking clients for fevers greater than 100.4 degrees and breathing issues before they enter the building. Then, businesses can turn away sick customers and minimize the risk for employees and other clients. Learn more.

Q. Can small businesses establish a delivery/pick-up/curb service? And if so how will we educate people on how to use Venmo or other online payment platforms? 

A. (Updated 3/18) Small Businesses may establish delivery/pick-up/curb service. Temporary Curbside Pickup Zones are being marked off throughout Raleigh to support quick stops at local businesses for takeout services and other small deliveries. Raleigh Parking will mark off about 100 pickup zones, beginning March 18. The zones will be placed near businesses for such things as pickup of restaurant takeout and delivery orders. View the map of the pickup zones. You can request new spots by emailing Raleigh Parking.  

Q. Will there be any restrictions on door-to-door sales? And what’s your opinion on whether it’s still a good idea to have sales reps going door to door? 

A. (Updated 3/17) There are no additional restrictions on door-to-door sales. We encourage all businesses to follow guidelines from the CDC and state and local authorities on social distancing.  

Q. What are the rules for restaurants at this time?   

A. (Updated 3/17) The North Carolina Governor announced that effective 5 p.m. on March 17 that all restaurants and bars will close for dine-in customers but may continue to offer takeout and delivery orders. As we receive further guidance from the State on this executive order, we will share it on this page.  

Q: I own a restaurant that is open serving food for pick-up and delivery only. Can I serve a glass of beer, wine, or a mixed drink to a customer inside my premises or outside on my patio while they wait for their pick-up order?  

A. (Updated 3/20) No, all on-premises sales and consumption of alcoholic beverages must stop as of 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, pursuant to Executive Order 118 and the NCDHHS Order of Abatement of Imminent Hazard. This FAQ from the North Carolina ABC Commission offers additional guidance, reading in relevant part: 

“1. All on-premises sales and consumption of alcoholic beverages must stop.  (Food and beverages are for carry-out, drive-through, and delivery only.)  All sales for off-premise consumption of beer and wine must be for carry-out and in "the manufacturer's original container."  Sit-down service to patrons indoors or in an outdoor seating area is not allowed.  G.S. §18B-1001(1) and (3).  On-site consumption in an outdoor seating area is not permitted pursuant to the Order of Abatement.” 



Wake County 

Veronica Creech
Economic Development Director

Rafael Baptista
Sr. Manager of Community Economic Development

Beth Friedrich
Sr. Manager of Economic Development

Mark Weldon
Business Retention & Expansion Manager

Economic Development and Innovation

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