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Business amid pandemic 

Karla Santi was excited about her recent business plans, one of which was to celebrate 15 years in business by sending her team to Mexico. But the coronavirus pandemic delayed that and many other plans for Santi and her 20 or so employees.

Just as it has changed plans for a lot of people.

The still-unfolding COVID-19 pandemic has already hurt U.S. investors and the stock market, and it caused immediate job loss – an impact that Bob Funk Sr., founder of Express Employment Professionals, said could for some people be felt for years to come. 

“There have been 47 recessions in the United States dating back to the Articles of Confederation,” Funk said at a recent staffing convention held in Nashville, noting he experienced 11 recessions; “seven of those occurring over my staffing career.”

In information provided to Prairie Business, he said there are several things business professionals and their employees should know about recessions and employment prospects:

There are many fundamental differences between the “Great Recession” of 2008 and the current economic upheaval. The market contraction seen over the past week is the result of a slowdown in consumer spending and business operations, he said, not the subprime mortgage crisis. 

For jobseekers, finding work during a recession is difficult because applications are likely sitting in a large pile joined by hundreds of others who are recently out of a job. To gain the upper hand, Funk said working with a firm that can match your skills to current openings will cut down on time spent unemployed.

While technically a recession, the shrinkage of GDP after World War II was to be expected as the economy entered peacetime. Similarly, and as lawmakers have said in recent days, the fundamentals of the U.S. economy remain strong and the underlying cause for current concern is temporary. A swift rebound could thus be expected once American businesses are given the go-ahead to resume regular operations.

Santi, who owns Blend Interactive in Sioux Falls, is doing everything she can to make her company continue to be viable. It helps that it’s a digital design business that made it easy for employees to work remotely even before the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean there are not any current challenges. 

For one, Santi is changing company policy to make permanent work-from-home an option, but she wonders what happens if an employee is injured while at home. What if a staffer falls in the kitchen and hurts a leg, for instance? Santi wants to know how insurance would cover that.

Dr. Greg Glasner, chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield North Dakota, said these are times in which many people and businesses are trying navigate. 

“This is unprecedented times,” Glasner, who is in Fargo, said of his own health care industry. "There are a lot of unanswered questions, with changes to policy happening “from morning to afternoon.” 

Some recent changes to health insurance, he said, was that Blue Cross Blue Shield waived cost-sharing, including co-pays, deductibles and coinsurance for CDC recommended lab testing for COVID-19.

Changes also were made to prescription medications. For one thing, these changes allow pharmacies to refill prescriptions earlier than typically allowed, and it has waived “refill too soon” limits on prescriptions.

Randy Fenley, an insurance agent with State Farm Insurance in Grand Forks, said he’s receiving a lot of calls from business owners about filing claims for a “disruption in business.” The bad news is those types of claims cover only physical loss such as by fire, floods, theft or vandalism. Policies usually do not cover acts of war – or unfortunately, he said, disruption in business caused by disease. 

But Fenley said don’t give up hope. He believes that time, as with many wounds, will heal the current crisis. 

“I think the world is going to recover from this,” he said. “It’s just going to take six months before we start to get the economy back to where it was. But I think we’re doing all the right things to make that happen.”


Prairie Business will further address each of these topics – health care, human resources and insurance – in the May issue of the magazine.