Your Business Credit

How your small business can cover the costs of COVID-19 rapid tests

It'll help keep employees safe, but the price can add up


Regularly testing your employees can be a good way to safely stay open during the pandemic. But even with the cheapest FDA-approved test, the cost will add up. Here are some ways you can save on rapid COVID-19 tests.

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Many small business owners need to keep their businesses open to the public during the coronavirus pandemic to stay afloat, but they don’t want to spread the coronavirus.

For some entrepreneurs who are not under lockdown at the moment, the answer is rapid testing for the coronavirus. By checking the health status of their teams daily or weekly, they’re able to keep a better handle on whether anyone on their team is infected and, if so, take steps to prevent the spread to the rest of their team and their customers. While vaccines are coming, they’re not yet widely available, so businesses can’t let down their guard yet.

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However, testing comes with costs, which is an obstacle for some small businesses. The FDA has approved a test that costs $5. But if, for instance, you have 20 employees and test them five days a week, the cost can add up over time. With many businesses faltering after months of restricted occupancy during peak periods of infection and rolling shutdowns, paying for anything extra may be near impossible.

See related: SBA loan forgiven during the pandemic? You’ll be getting a 1099

Testing programs

Now there may be some relief available, depending on where you live. The Department of Health and Human Services is running a pilot program to provide rapid tests to the states. These are being used in various locations, such as schools, correctional facilities and nursing homes. The Texas Department of Emergency Management is offering rapid testing for front line workers at small businesses through six area chambers of commerce in a pilot program.

Some local governments are also offering their own programs. If you would like to offer voluntary tests to your employees, be sure to set alerts in your favorite search engines to find out about them as they are launched. For instance, in Rochester, N.Y., barbers, hair stylists and other personal care workers in an orange cluster zone – a warning level just below the red zones where the tightest control measures are put in place – are currently eligible for free rapid testing.

See related: Coronavirus: How to manage your finances if you’re sick or disabled

In the meantime, some businesses are turning to concierge service providers around the country who can do testing at scale, sometimes at discounted rates. Providers may offer pop-up testing or go to the homes of employees to conduct the tests.

Other businesses are finding creative ways to cover the cost of testing, like passing the cost along to customers. City Winery, one of the largest restaurants in Manhattan, N.Y., recently introduced a pilot program where guests who wanted to dine indoors on certain days could get a rapid test for $50: The staff is also tested on those days. However, New York state Gov. Cuomo announced a ban on indoor dining in the city starting Dec. 11, as coronavirus cases surged, so results of the program may not be available for a while.

With pandemic fatigue rising and business owners in cities such as San Francisco now protesting lockdowns, more state and local governments may consider making rapid testing more available to local businesses, particularly if it proves to be effective in schools and other institutions where it is already being used. Once vaccines are widely available, business owners will have a whole new set of considerations. For the moment, however, many are looking for a solution that allows people to stay safe and healthy without shutting their doors.

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