President Donald Trump has signed into law a new $900 billion coronavirus relief and stimulus package. Among its provisions: An extension of last spring’s Paycheck Protection Program, allowing another $284 billion or so in forgivable, federally backed loans for ailing small businesses, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The initial program, overseen by the U.S. Department of Treasury and Small Business Administration, shepherded some $525 billion to more than five million recipients but was fraught with loopholes and liabilities that raised countless issues throughout an already complex process.
The new Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act clarifies questions about the loan process, but also adds rules about applying for new loans and seeking forgiveness for old ones. The bill gives the Small Business Administration 10 days to implement the new rules, so more specific rules could be coming. Until then, borrowers should turn to their lenders for guidance.
Here are some answers to questions business owners might have.
How does this round of loans differ from the last one?
Some aspects are broadly the same. Applicants have between eight and 24 weeks to use the funds, with at least 60% going toward payroll and the rest toward eligible expenses like rent and utilities.
New loans are capped at $2 million, compared to $10 million before. Applicants must have no more than 300 employees, instead of up to 500, and must demonstrate at least a 25% drop in revenues from the fourth quarter of 2019 to the same period this year.
The bill expands the type of covered expenses to include things like cloud computing or remote-work software; and equipment for government-mandated sanitation and social-distancing, like sneeze guards or air filtration systems. It even covers “property damage and vandalism or looting due to public disturbances that occurred during 2020.”
One notable aspect of the new bill that’s not directly tied to new loans is an expansion of the employee retention tax credit, a facet of the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Stimulus (CARES) Act that encouraged employers not to shed jobs. Originally, businesses that got Paycheck Protection Program loans were not eligible to claim that credit. Now they are.