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Coronavirus / Member Firms

April 20, 2020

PPP, Staff Management Dominate Medium-Sized Firm COVID-19 Roundtables

ACEC hosted two virtual roundtables on the COVID-19 pandemic for medium-sized member firms (51-200 staff) on April 17. The roundtables were moderated by Matt Hirst of CRS Engineers and Corey Matsuoka of SSFM.

Participants discussed a wide variety of issues:

  • Nine firms have applied for Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) and seven have received funds.
  • Two firms have applied for disaster loans, but neither has received any funds.
  • Documentation for loan forgiveness should include tracking when clients stop projects, economics within the state at the time of the loan, and notations of the firm’s financial situation in management meeting minutes.
  • Participants had questions about how overhead rates will work with PPP. (ACEC had one webinar and will be having another with CPAs to offer guidance on these kinds of questions.)
  • Another option is the Main Street Lending Program. Any firm with up to 10,000 employees can apply but there is no forgiveness aspect.
  • Most firms report that employees are using their own equipment at home (beyond laptops) and are responsible for their own high-speed internet.
  • Firms have found that their young engineers are having the most difficulty working from home because they need mentoring and supervision to accomplish work.
  • Some firms are encouraging staff to keep to a certain schedule for defined work times and reaching out to field staff for a direct check-in.
  • Employees are refusing to do on-site visits if they feel unsafe, particularly for health care facilities.
  • Due to an MIT study suggesting that the virus may be contained in sewers, some firms are limiting site activity that requires opening sewer (‘manhole’) covers.
  • With state tax revenue decreasing due to the economic slowdown, firms are concerned that state/local government work will decline after the crisis is over.
  • Some firms are cutting discretionary and other spending, such as 401(k) matching and other benefits.
  • To adapt to the current market, firms are cross-training employees, offering new services, having more client conversations, investing in marketing and training, making go decisions on ‘fringe’ RFQs, and working harder at collections.
  • Some firms have created a Crisis Management Team that reviews cash level, staff morale, firm culture, and other key issues, and reports on the status in weekly all-staff meetings. Other firms have a few staff members share each week what they’re working on.
  • Finding the silver lining, firms report that older employees are more comfortable with technology; electronic invoicing has improved; telework policies are in place; staff members have increased their understanding and participation in lobbying and government affairs; staffs are growing closer,  communicating better, and across service lines and geographies to keep projects moving; and a “mindset of accountability and trust” has taken hold.
  • A few firms may allow employees to ‘self-select’ to work from home after restrictions lifted.
  • Firms are sharing certain scenario planning items with staff to help plan for the future. One firm is working with a futurist to map out strategies.
  • One participant is renegotiating leases for more favorable terms and reviewing office spacing in case more people want to work from home once the crisis is over.
  • Participants discussed bringing back people in shifts and not all at once so they will feel safe in the office. They will also look into cleaning their offices more thoroughly.

All comments to blog posts will be moderated by ACEC staff.

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April 20, 2020



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