State program helps employers who have had quarantined employees

FILE - Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

SALT LAKE CITY – If you own a business which employs 50 people or less in Utah, and have had to pay an employee to stay home due to quarantine, the State of Utah has a program to help you recover those funds.

The Small Business Quarantined Employee Grant was established in October 2020 with approximately $2 million in funds. In January, the Utah legislature voted to expand the program and make a total of $5 million available to small business owners in Utah. Public Information Officer for the Utah Labor Commission Eric Olsen says the program is intended to help small businesses keep their people employed and to give employees confidence that they can take time off to quarantine due to coronavirus infection or contact tracing.

“Employees had this terrible choice: do I not go to work and not get paid, or do I go to work and not say anything? So, in response to that, the State of Utah came up with the Small Business Quarantined Employee Grant,” Olsen explains. “If an employer would continue to pay an employee while they were in quarantine or isolation – because they had COVID or because someone in their house or someone they were in close contact with had COVID and they were forced to quarantine – if they would pay that employee during their quarantine time the employer could put in for this grant, this reimbursement grant, and they could get their expenses that they paid that employee and really the entire labor burden for that time refunded to them.”

Olsen says employers can take advantage of the reimbursement funds for any employees who had to quarantine after October 1, 2020. Applications can be made at laborcommission.utah.gov/small-business-quarantined-employee-grant/. If their business took advantage of this program previously, and has since had other employees have to quarantine, the business can apply for assistance again.

“Some of us have had to do multiple quarantines,” Olsen exclaims. “I know people have done that in our own house, we’ve had to do multiple quarantine.

“If that’s the case, you can, as an employer (if you pay your employees for that time) you can apply for this more than once.”

Olsen says the eligibility requirements are pretty simple: a business must have less than 50 employees; one or more employees needed to have received a notice from a doctor or their local health department that they must quarantine or isolate due to a positive COVID-19 test or exposure; and, provide payroll verification that the employee continued to be paid full wages while in quarantine or isolation.

So far, nearly 2,000 businesses throughout the state have applied for the assistance and Olsen says 1,755 of those applications have been approved. Over $2.4 million in grants have been issued and the average grant amount has been approximately $1,400 to these businesses. Olsen says most grants get approved within 48 hours and those businesses can expect to receive the funds within two to three weeks.

Olsen says the Small Business Quarantined Employee Grant program is different and separate from the Payroll Protection Program, which is a federal program. It also does not apply to people who may be a sole proprietor of their own business.

“I know there is some PPP eligibility for sole proprietors. You can go to goed.utah.gov, along with coronavirus.utah.gov, to find different programs that might be available to a sole proprietor. But the Small Business Quarantined Employee Grant is more for employees. It will pay back the business for taking care of employees. It’s not as much for the sole proprietor but there are other programs out there that can probably help the sole proprietor.”

There is no deadline to apply for these grants. Olsen says the money will be available until funds run out or until people stop applying for grants. Additional resources for business owners in the state of Utah are available at coronavirus.utah.gov/business.

AUDIO: Eric Olsen explains the Small Business Quarantined Employee Grant program

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