By Gina Rubel and Sarah Larson
As restaurants, hotels, retailers and gyms furlough or lay off workers in droves, the federal government has authorized one of the most far-reaching economic assistance packages in United States history.
The $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act aims to help small businesses nationwide stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to providing $1,200 to many individual Americans, the bill includes $349 billion in forgivable loans for small businesses through a new Paycheck Protection Program.
The program will be administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The Washington Post notes that it “is designed to get cash in the hands of suffering small businesses quickly, with less red tape and fewer guardrails than the SBA’s existing loan programs. It is designed to incentivize business owners to keep employees on payroll by offering them loan forgiveness.”
The loans are supposed to become available on Friday, April 3. News organizations and business advocacy groups are sharing information daily on how to access the money and what to expect. Here’s what they are reporting:
SBA small-business loans: 8 things to know about the Paycheck Protection Program, Fortune
“If small businesses maintain payroll during this economic crisis, some of the money borrowed through the newly created Paycheck Protection Program can be forgiven. The goal is to help small-business owners and their employees ride out this economic storm.”
- Types of eligible businesses include nonprofits, sole proprietorships, self-employed individuals, independent contractors (a.k.a. gig economy workers), and veteran organizations.
- Borrowers must certify that their business has been affected by the coronavirus slowdown.
- Organizations must have been in operation as of Feb. 15 to be eligible.
- Loan amounts can be up to 2.5 times the borrower’s average monthly payroll costs, which include everything from salaries, bonuses, and retirement benefits to parental leave and health care benefits. For high-earning employees, the portion of salary in excess of $100,000 is excluded from the eligibility calculation.
- The loans will last for two years and carry an interest rate of 1%. (The rate initially was .5%, but the SBA increased that to 1% on April 2, after the American Bankers Association lobbied for the increase in order to allow smaller community banks to participate.)
Here’s how to get a small business loan under the $349 billion coronavirus aid bill, The Washington Post
“The Small Business Administration has a network of 1,800 approved lenders that process small business loans. If you are interested in a Paycheck Protection Program loan, you should first contact your bank to see if it is an SBA-approved lender. If your bank is not an SBA-approved lender, you can contact the SBA to find one.”
- Businesses must have fewer than 500 workers.
- For food service businesses, the 500-employee cap is per physical location, not the entire company, according to a fact sheet published by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
- Loan amounts are capped at $10 million.
Coronavirus cash: Here’s what small businesses need to know about money from CARES stimulus, The Philadelphia Inquirer
“It’s a bold effort to keep Americans working as small businesses stagger under coronavirus shutdown orders. There are nearly six million U.S. small businesses with one to 500 workers. Together, they employ 60 million people, almost half the private-sector workforce.”
- Paycheck Protection Program loans are forgivable, meaning business owners don’t have to repay the money if they use it to keep paychecks going to people who earn up to $100,000 a year, or for monthly rent, mortgage, or utilities.
- Be careful which loan program you apply to. The federal government also has injected $10 billion more into the SBA’s existing emergency loan program, making those loans easier to get. Those loans are available at participating banks now, but they are not intended to be forgiven.
The SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) website directs borrowers to “apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating in the program. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans once they are approved and enrolled in the program. You should consult with your local lender as to whether it is participating in the program.” If you wish to begin preparing your application, you can click here to download a sample form to see the information that will be requested from you.
For more information, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce website includes a downloadable guide to emergency coronavirus loans. For Pennsylvania businesses, the Small Business Development Centers is hosting a series of webinars on applying for SBA loans.
For other business resources from Furia Rubel, check out:
Evaluate Your Online Reputation and Reviews While Physically Distancing
6 Community Support Ideas for Emotional Health
Assessing Public Relations, Social Media and Marketing During a Pandemic
How to Prepare for Coronavirus to Hit the Small Business Owner
For more coronavirus resources, please visit our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Crisis & PR Resource Center.