Over the last few weeks, the unthinkable has happened. What we thought was distant and contained arrived upon our shores and took all of us by surprise. Sure, there have been movies predicting pandemics, and great leaders have warned us that the inevitable would soon arrive. But, we thought it wouldn’t occur, or at least it was far off into the future so that we’d naturally be better prepared for it when it finally showed up at or doorstep. We weren’t. We were caught off guard.
A few fortunate businesses moved operations online and told employees to work from home. The rest were faced with hard decisions that were never part of the forecasted projections for this year. One by one, events were canceled, and businesses closed their doors in support of people over profit. To reduce the spread of the virus, organizations and employees gave up their livelihoods for the sake of saving just one more life. It’s unprecedented, chaotic, hard, and yet that glimmer of light that shines through the darkness persists in reminding us that there is hope.
The Tribe’s Heart for All People
Tribal organizations are banding together like never before in support of doing what’s right for their employees, families, and communities. They’re stewarding beyond the tribe to help non-tribal employees, food banks, blood banks, and more. They are doing what they naturally do, weaving in care in the midst of chaos, that demonstrates a heart for all people. A few examples include:
- Payroll: As much as is possible, employers are trying to keep employees on payroll. This isn’t limited to salaried employees, but extends to part-time personnel and contractors. Unlike their corporate counterparts, who immediately laid-off employees, many Tribal entities are extending payroll for a month or more. They don’t take furloughs or layoffs lightly and are sacrificing business needs for the welfare of their employees.
- Unemployment Insurance: When it comes to unemployment payments, HR professionals are diligently working to ensure employees get what’s fair. Complex estimates of what part-time workers should get or what is adequate for employees who rely on tips is essential, and HR is doing an amazing job serving, providing guidance, and following up.
- Health Care: Most employers don’t extend health care coverage for employees who aren’t working. Many Tribal entities are prioritizing health insurance to maintain community wellness and ease the burdens on furloughed tribal employees.
- Emergency Relief: Some organizations are assisting financially where there is hardship related to basic needs like utilities, food, medical care, and basic necessities.
- Other Support: Other options Tribal organizations are considering include repurposing or rehabilitating buildings to provide additional hospital beds, as well as setting up mobile testing and healthcare.
We’re All in This Together
Here at S3 Management Group, we’ve been working around the clock, helping our clients navigate the complex realities of this pandemic with the goal of being even stronger after the current challenges have settled. We’re seeing employers do the right thing for their employees while recognizing the short-term impact on their bottom line. They know that ultimately, it’s caring for people that will produce the long-term sustainability and growth of their organizations. This is the beauty of Indian Country, and we are grateful to serve in such an amazing community.
On a technical level, we are continuing to monitor the implementation of the CARES Act, particularly those that affect unemployment liabilities and the potential for seeking incremental relief and reimbursements. There’s a lot of information coming out, things are changing, and deadlines are fast approaching. We would be happy to consult with any tribal government or enterprise who would like assistance assessing their options. We’re all in this together.