Boulder-based private investigator Barry Bortnick works for Ross Investigators. Bortnick, a former newspaper reporter and onetime spokesman for the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association, explains how he’s surviving the pandemic.
Obviously everything has changed. What’s been the biggest upheaval for you as far as work goes?
At present I don’t too see much upheaval. Half the work we do can be done online with interviews or background checks etc. Only issue is if you feel worried about interviewing or meeting people in person. But I don’t have much worry about that. I'm healthy, live a healthy lifestyle, keep my distance.
How are you managing to do your work if you can‘t even leave the house, let alone travel?
Again, a good chunk of my work can be done virtually. If I need to meet clients in person, I ask how they feel about it. Just meet the client and practice social distancing.
How strictly do you think PIs are taking the stay at home orders? Do you leave the house for any work-related reason?
Good question. I'm staying at home for the most part but also going to locations to photograph accident sites and to speak with witnesses.
Do you consider your work “essential” and therefore feel you do actually have to go out in public to do your job?
Yes. Legal work is essential so working for lawyers on ongoing cases is essential. Not vital but essential.
Are there any work-related tasks you feel would be unethical at this time? Would you serve an elderly person, for example?
Serving papers to anyone would seem unwise at this point. Not only would people be very reluctant to answer doors or speak to strangers, it’s also a risk most PIs wouldn’t take.
By Simon Crittle
The future of licensing for Colorado private investigators remains uncertain as a state government agency doubles down on its opposition to the licensing regime and the legislature runs short of time to pass the required legislation.
HB20-1207 – Sunset Regulation of Private Investigators – is currently stalled before the state’s House Appropriations Committee as the legislature was forced to lock down in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The current law will be repealed on Sept. 1 if no action is taken by the legislature.
However, the legislature will reconvene once the virus risk subsides with Monday, May 18, set down as a tentative return date. While nothing is certain, lawmakers and political commentators believe sunset bills will be given priority.
“It's hard to say anything with certainty at this point, other than we have to pass a budget and the School Finance Act,” Sen. Mike Foote, one of the bill’s sponsors, told this blog. “But the sunsets are important too, because otherwise the regulatory regime goes away.”
Foote, D-Lafayette, said discussions were ongoing about which bills needed to pass and which ones didn’t without resolution, and that the various sunset bills were part of those discussions.
John Frank, Colorado Sun state house reporter, told this blog he believed sunset bills will be given priority but Gov. Jared Polis might not sign the private investigator bill.
“Lawmakers have made clear that when they return May 18, sunset bills are a priority and they plan to finish them,” says Frank. “But yes, the other pressing priorities like the budget will dominate the conversation.”
Frank said the Polis administration also wanted to limit regulations on certain occupations and there was a chance the governor might not support the sunset bill.
“The governor vetoed a handful of licensing bills last session, so we'll see if he goes against his own agency.”
In the meantime, the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), which released a scathing report on the private eye law saying complaints about private investigators were “virtually nonexistent,” remains vehemently opposed to the sunset bill.
DORA legislative affairs director Michael Nicoletti said DORA stood by the report and the staff who wrote it and “devote immeasurable time and resources as well as conduct extensive outreach to come to their recommendations.”
“For this reason, DORA is in opposition to the current version of the bill since it does the opposite of our primary recommendation to allow the program to repeal. I understand there are lots of mixed feelings about this issue and I respect that.”
The Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado, which supports the bill, did not return repeated requests for comment for this blog post.
Under the private eye law, since 2015, 77 complaint files were opened and only eight disciplinary actions taken. Of those, six were conditional licenses, issued to individuals because of behavior prior to being licensed, not after. Of the remaining actions, two were dispensed to one individual who was issued a letter of admonition as well as a practice stipulation for harassment against another private investigator.
No private investigator licenses have been revoked under the current law.
Private investigators have been regulated by DORA since 2011. Requirements to obtain a private investigator’s license include being at least 21 years old, submitting an application, passing a background check, passing a jurisprudence exam, posting a surety bond and paying fees.
Private investigators are entitled to a $10,000 grant (or maybe it’s just $1,000), which doesn’t have to be repaid, under the government response to the coronavirus pandemic, writes Simon Crittle.
Like everyone else, private investigators are feeling the pinch since the global shutdown caused by the coronavirus began a few weeks ago.
And as you might have heard, the federal government recently passed the CARES Stimulus bill and is now stepping in with loans and grants to try to slow layoffs and keep the economy afloat.
Millions of Americans will begin receiving checks in mid-April of up to $1,200. The IRS has also delayed the tax filing deadline for this year to July 15. And there’s money for businesses, big and small. Lots of it.
But private investigators and others who don’t fit the mold of a regular employee or business owner are also entitled to some of the cash through a number of new and existing programs.
Under two Small Business Administration (SBA) programs currently receiving applications, independent contractors, sole proprietors and self-employed individuals are eligible.
The two programs are the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL).
Here’s what you need to know:
The PPP provides loans of up to $10 million and is designed to help small businesses with fewer than 500 employees keep their workers on the payroll.
The SBA will forgive loans if all employees are kept on for at least eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities.
A good place to apply is with your regular bank. Try calling or going online. (The drive-throughs are jammed in case you hadn’t noticed.) You can also apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender and a number of other places.
Lenders started taking applications April 3 although paperwork was reportedly moving slowly after the SBA system crashed.
However, private eyes who work for themselves, including contractors and self-employed individuals, and others who don’t have a regular job, can apply beginning April 10. Hopefully!
For more information on the PPP check out the Treasury factsheet here.
Just don’t wait too long as the program is capped at, ah, $349 billion. Whoa!
In the meantime, the EIDL program is about to shovel money out the door of Congress to try to keep small businesses and the self-employed off the bread line.
The EIDL is an expansion of the SBA’s existing disaster loan program that is offering $10,000 “advances” to provide relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a loss of revenue.
By simply going online right here, you can access the advance. On the screen you’ll see a box marked “Advance.” Tick that! The money is meant to be deposited directly into your bank account within three days and is due to start flowing this week.
However, since the CARES Act was passed the SBA has issued “guidance” and is now saying you only get $1,000 per employee under the advance. Sole proprietors, says the SBA, will therefore get just $1,000. Hmmm.
That said, under the EIDL, eligible businesses can also borrow up to $2 million with an interest rate of up to 3.75 percent.
If you want a loan for less than $200,000, you aren’t required to submit personal guarantees. The SBA will request collateral if the loan exceeds $25,000, but if you can’t provide collateral you aren’t automatically disqualified.
Super important point here: Unlike the PPP loans the EIDL loans aren’t forgivable. Only the $10,000 advance is free money under the EIDL.
Yes, you can apply for both the PPP and the EIDL but the funds can’t be used for the same purpose.
It’s also worth checking out the SBA Express Business Loan for small businesses which currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 quickly.
And under the SBA Debt Relief program the SBA will automatically pay the principal, interest, and fees of current 7(a), 504, and microloans for a period of six months. Microloans granted before September 20, 2020 will also be eligible for the program.
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