No matter what type of business you run, it is likely that you followed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and invested in purchasing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to protect yourself, your employees, and the broader public health. Although you likely grappled with PPE shortages and your use of personal protective equipment may have once been high, the pandemic is starting to abate, and you may find yourself with extra PPE that you don’t need. Instead of throwing this PPE away, there are several things you can do with it that may benefit others.
Donate your surplus PPE to local health care providers
Many hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other healthcare settings are still requiring that frontline healthcare workers use PPE for infection prevention. Healthcare personnel are still treating COVID-19 patients, some in intensive care, and are regularly donning and doffing PPE such as masks, gloves, gowns, and face shields to reduce the risk of infection for themselves and patients from multiple infectious diseases. Hospitals need to maintain adequate PPE for day-to-day patient care and also for anomaly situations where a patient might present with a rare disease like ebola. They may value donations of any size to protect their staff and patients from SARS-COV-2 and to help alleviate the additional costs of such items. You can typically find donation opportunities by reaching out to local health care facilities, hospitals, or health departments or by searching online for donation programs specific to your area. Jamie Hickey, of Coffee Semantics, a website that offers product reviews of coffee gear and brewing techniques, donated his extra PPE to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He explained, “They are still having shortages on PPE and are asking for donations of any size.” Linn Atiyeh, CEO of Bemana, a specialized recruiting and headhunting firm, also donated their excess PPE to local healthcare professionals and has tips for other small businesses looking to do so: “There are two ways that you can go about doing this. The first is to send a few emails out to any hospitals and aged care facilities to ask if they are in need of your surplus of personal protective equipment. Another great way to go about doing this is to contact a nonprofit that works at delivering appropriate PPE to people in need. If you are located near one of their centers in the United States, you could donate your extra equipment by going to DonatePPE.org. Otherwise, searching “Donate PPE” followed by your location on Google should hopefully provide you with a few credible options to choose from.” On DonatePPE.org, for instance, there is a list of health centers in New York that are accepting donations – specific items and instructions are provided. For instance, as of June 2021, Mount Sinai West is accepting N95s, Surgical Masks, Disposable Booties, Disinfecting Wipes, and Scrub Caps.
Not all medical establishments will accept donations of PPE but when do they, do they typically value the following items:
- All types of masks including surgical masks, N95 masks, N95 respirators, KN95 masks, and all filtering facepiece masks
- Face shields
- Eye protection
- Single-use / disposable gloves
- Alcohol wipes
- Surgical shoe covers
- Fluid resistant surgical gowns and coveralls
- Hand sanitizer to promote hand hygiene
- Hospital-grade Cavi wipes (disinfecting towelettes) to kill surface pathogens and promote infection control
- Clorox and Lysol wipes
- Garbage bags
- Respirators and ventilators
- Air-purifying respirator (PAPRs), providing respiratory protection and protecting workers from aerosols
You may be able to get a tax deduction for your business for donating PPE
Your business may be able to receive a tax deduction for the fair market value of the supplies you donate. Speak to a qualified accountant and look for resources at IRS.gov to determine if you can claim a deduction for any PPE that you donate to a nonprofit or 501(c)3. To determine if a nonprofit is tax-exempt you can use this IRS tool. Note that many large hospital networks are nonprofits, despite their size. It is always good to retain documentation, so get a receipt if you can and keep good records.
Offer your extra PPE to other small businesses that need it for their operations or employees
Even as masking requirements abate, many small businesses, particularly those with high customer traffic such as grocery stores and pharmacies, are still providing and/or requiring the use of PPE for their employees who are encouraged to use gloves, wear face masks and face shields, use sanitizer, and stay behind plexiglass barriers. Offering this PPE can help employees feel safer in their interactions with customers and may help customers that are high risk feel more comfortable. If you know of a peer small business near you – perhaps that you identify on social media – that still supplies PPE to their staff, you might consider donating your PPE to them. Look around the next time you shop at your local grocery store or small business to see if the staff are wearing masks and using PPE – then approach the owner and ask if a donation would be helpful. Another idea is to donate PPE back to small businesses that were required by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) pre-COVID to protect their employees from hazards like dust and disease as, they were some of the first to donate PPE to healthcare providers back in the early days of COVID when there were shortages – many construction companies, for example, volunteered their N95 masks for hospital use. For instance, in 2020, the Building Trade Unions coordinated a “broad public appeal to any and all construction workers and companies who may have new, unopened respirators (N95) or other vital PPE equipment.” Donating supplies back to these small businesses can be a good way to support another business in your community.
Offer extra PPE to your employees to see if they have a use for it
You and your employees counted on each other during the pandemic. One thing you can do for your employees is offer your extra PPE to them for their personal use. They may want the PPE for their own personal health and protection or they may be interested in it for personal use or a hobby. They may also know of a specific charity or clinic that could use the donations that you wouldn’t know about without their help. Rick Hoskins of Filter King, an air filter delivery service, offered his spare PPE to his employees: “I started buying up PPE when the pandemic broke out, and at one point, we had far too much of the stuff. So I just let my staff take the excess.”
Another option is to hold onto the PPE
As we have all learned in the past year, life is highly unpredictable and various COVID variants have been rearing their heads around the world. Countries and localities have cycled in and out of COVID-related restrictions. You may need that PPE again for you and your staff. So if you have the means to store it without too much expense, you may want to hold onto your excess PPE.