Small Business Concerns
By: Financial Hotline
Spring 2023 (Vol. 41, No. 1)
Q: My spouse and I are self-employed and get our insurance through the Health Care Marketplace. Last month, my husband’s routine colonoscopy was covered 100 percent. But when I had symptoms and needed the same test, they denied coverage. Can they do that?
A: Yes, the same test may be completely covered as a preventative screening, but you may pay out of pocket when it’s considered diagnostic. Most health care plans, including those through the Health Care Marketplace, encourage preventive care such as vaccines and screening tests at no cost to you. Preventive care is prescribed to you when you are symptom free and have no reason to believe you might be unhealthy. Diagnostic care is when you have symptoms or risk factors, and your doctor wants to diagnose them.
Q: Can I accept credit card payments for my small business without establishing a merchant account?
A: Traditionally, to accept credit cards, a small business had to work with a merchant services provider or directly with a bank to open a merchant account and negotiate a long term contract to pay monthly fees.
But today, many small businesses get similar results with a payment service provider (PSP). Payment service providers like PayPal, Square, and Stripe may be an easier, cheaper option. PSPs accept and hold your money from credit card transactions, but you can sign up and manage the account entirely online. Most systems come with all the hardware and software you need to process all transactions.
Square is the original mobile payment processor, and it sets the standard for a lightweight, easy-to-use system. Its card reader is an attachment about the size of a Scrabble tile that connects to your headphone jack or Lightning connector to turn your smartphone into an on-the-go POS. Using just your mobile phone with a mobile payment processing app, you can enter a customer’s credit card information or attach a small card reader where they can swipe their card to be read by your phone.
With online sales, you don’t have a terminal for customers to swipe a card, so you have to build payment processing into your website. Most website builders, including Squarespace, Kajabi and Shopify, have built-in integrations with payment service providers. You may also opt to link out to your payment account. Most payment providers give you the option to add a “pay now” button on your website that routes customers through their payment process.
Q: Where can I find and apply for grants for my small business?
A: You may find free money for your business through federal, state or private organizations but the US government is the largest distributor of business grants. Be sure to check with your state and local governments as well. Not all assistance flows directly to you as the small business owner. Some funds are distributed to state and local governments and agencies, nonprofit organizations, or schools. You may have to apply to these entities to access the funds, or opportunities. Here are some sites to check out:
- Grants.gov not only lists a wide variety of grant opportunities, but it also offers a great wealth of resources for everything you need to know about the grant process.
- SBIR.gov is powered by the Small Business Association (SBA) and focuses on research and development for technology and science.
- RD.USDA.gov provides grant money to assist with economic development planning and/or the financing or expansion of rural businesses.
- SBA.gov offers information about the PRIME grant to provide funding for private, nonprofit microenterprise development organizations; microenterprise development programs run by State/ Local/Tribal Governments; or Indian tribes interested in providing assistance and guidance to disadvantaged microentrepreneurs and/or microenterprise development.
- MBDA.gov, the Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency offers targeted grants and loans designed to aid minority-owned businesses.
Q: What is AR and how does it affect my small business?
A: Augmented reality (AR) is technology that allows you to add artificial, digital qualities to real-life objects. This fairly simple tool is catching on in many areas. An online retailer could use AR to allow customers to ‘try on’ products like eyeglasses or arrange furniture in their room before they buy. Onsite, AR can be used to provide directions or help customers navigate in stores . Product sales also use AR to help consumers make easy repairs.
In the service industry, AR used with smart glasses can facilitate repairs and complex solutions by allowing a remote expert to superimpose markings, messages and diagrams directly onto the onsite worker’s field of view, and the use of smart glasses keeps the worker’s hands free to simultaneously perform fixes.