Paycheck Protection Program out of money; thousands of small businesses shut out

Author: CBS News and CNN
Published: Updated:
FILE – In this April 2, 2020 file photo, a notice of closure is posted at The Great Frame Up in Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. The government is closing in on the $349 billion lending limit on its Paycheck Protection Program that is sending relief money to the nation’s small businesses. The Small Business Administration says that it has approved more than 1.6 million loans worth more than $339 billion. The program will likely reach its ceiling Thursday, April 16. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

A key piece of the federal government’s stimulus efforts to help small businesses and their employees has run out of money, shutting out thousands of potential borrowers who were seeking aid amidst the coronavirus-driven economic plunge.

The U.S. Small Business Administration said Thursday morning the Paycheck Protection Program wouldn’t be accepting any more applications for the $349 billion program. The agency reported approving more than 1.6 million Paycheck Protection Program loan applications totaling more than $339 billion from over 4,900 lending institutions.

While that money has been approved, most borrowers are still waiting for those loans to be funded — and for money to even show up in their accounts.

“America’s small businesses are on the brink, trying desperately to keep their doors open and support their employees,” said Brad Close, president of the National Federation of Independent Business, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C. “We’ve been hearing from our members, every day, worried the $349 billion lending program would run dry before help gets to them. Today, their worries became a reality.”

The Paycheck Protection Program loans have an ultra-low 1% interest rate, and the interest on the loans does not have to be paid for the first six months. The program is focused on helping businesses with 500 or fewer employees.

But the biggest draw of the Paycheck Protection Program, which launched nearly two weeks ago, is that borrowers that don’t lay off workers in the next eight weeks will have their loans forgiven — principal along with interest. That’s created a crushing demand for the loans, but also confusion as more than a million businesses scrambled to get them.

Despite the demand, some economists and small business owners say the PPP loans are a bad fit for what they currently need amid a pandemic that has forced them to shutter their doors.

Some business owners who applied early say they are still waiting for their money. One large bank said it still has tens of thousands of applicants waiting for their loans to be approved, even as the SBA announced the program was tapped out.

Monty Bennett, the CEO of hotel-chain operator Ashford Inc., worked with five staffers non-stop through the first weekend of the program to get his loan applications filed. Hotel operators have been particularly hard hit with forced shutdowns across the country and Bennett has had to either lay off or furlough most of his staffers.

Hotels chains are allowed to apply for PPP loans, but they must apply for each hotel property individually to remain under the SBA’s 500-worker cap for small business aid. Bennet said he was hoping to use the PPP money to rehire some of his staffers but only a handful of the 129 individual hotel applications he has completed have been approved.

He also reports that no money has showed up in his company’s accounts yet: “None funded. A small fraction approved,” Bennett said Thursday. “The whole thing has been extremely frustrating.”

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4 free resources that small businesses can access right now

By Jeanne Sahadi, CNN Business

(CNN) — In a race to save their companies, small business owners have been scrambling to stay afloat while also trying to navigate a complex web of federal and state aid and figure out their legal options.

Many have had to do it all on their own because they can’t afford expensive lawyers, accountants and business consultants. And most are facing a cash crunch made worse by the fact that they’re still waiting on payments for jobs completed before the coronavirus shutdown.

For those who can’t afford the help, here are some of the programs, organizations and initiatives that provide small business owners with one-on-one consultations, tools and other support — all free.

1. Free legal consultations
The Lawyers for Good Government Foundation, working in conjunction with local small business nonprofits, has begun offering pro bono legal consultations for small business owners in cities and states across the country.

The first clinic was launched in New York City last week. And over the next two weeks, the program will begin in the states of Florida and Washington and the cities of Atlanta, Detroit and Charlotte, North Carolina.

The program, which also helps nonprofits, is aimed primarily at very small businesses — in New York, for instance, only those with 100 or fewer employees qualify. But each location will decide how small a company must be.

Small business owners seeking help will include their most pressing coronavirus-related legal questions on an intake form so they can be paired with a lawyer who has expertise in those areas. In addition to doing the remote consultations, lawyers will also direct pro bono clients to further resources.

So far, questions have focused on the new federal loans and grants available through the federal aid package, employment and bankruptcy laws, and the obligations that owners of so-called nonessential small businesses still have under commercial leases and contracts even though their ventures were shuttered.

While the program may not be able to fulfill every small business’ request for a pro bono consultation, the hope is to help thousands if not tens of thousands, said LGGF executive director Traci Feit Love.

Small business owners interested in being notified of when a legal clinic will open near them can fill out their contact information here.

2. Free business strategy consultation
The program SCORE, which is funded in part by the Small Business Administration, has been around for more than 50 years and includes a network of 10,000 volunteer mentors who are current or retired business owners and experts in key business and industry-specific topics.

The mentors are available for free, remote consultations — as many as needed — for any small business owner. They’re currently helping businesses out with a lot of Covid-19-related questions and concerns, including how best to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program loans and the economic injury disaster grants offered by the federal government, and figuring out how best to use the funds, if approved.

If a small business is not approved for any of the federal aid it seeks, SCORE will help it figure out next steps, including finding alternate sources of funding.

While SCORE will work with any small business owner, its most typical client has fewer than five employees and less than $500,000 a year in revenue, said SCORE acting CEO Bridget Weston.

3. Free interactive tools to determine PPP loan eligibility
Intuit just launched free interactive tools known as Intuit Aid Assist that will let any small business owner or independent worker assess whether they qualify for a forgivable PPP loan or an economic injury disaster grant from the Small Business Administration. It also helps them assess how much money to apply for and how much of the PPP loan would not have to be repaid if used for authorized expenses.

Addressing privacy concerns, Intuit said it will not be collecting data on small businesses that use the tool, according to an email from Bharath Kadaba, Intuit’s chief innovation officer. “Information is stored locally on the user’s browser only.”

And while Intuit itself just received approval to make PPP loans — and like other lenders, will be earning fees for every loan made — Kadaba said users of the interactive will not be driven to apply through Intuit, but rather will be given a published list of authorized lenders available through the SBA.

4. A campaign to get clients to pay small businesses faster
Small businesses need money right now to keep their doors open. Yes, federal and state aid will be critical. But it also would be a huge and immediate help to just be paid by clients for work they’ve already completed.

Fundbox, a business-to-business payments processor and small business lender, estimates that on any given day there is $900 billion owed to small businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

One business owner told CNN Business his cash reserves would increase by a month if he just got paid for the jobs his firm has already finished. Typically, small business clients make final payments 30 days or more after a job is done.

That’s why Fundbox and other companies serving small businesses have just launched a campaign called #paytoday to encourage big companies and government agencies to accelerate their payments to small business vendors.

Given that many small businesses don’t have enough cash to last them another month, getting paid in 10 to 15 days versus 30 can make a meaningful difference in their keeping the lights on until they receive government aid. Companies that want to step up and do the most expedient thing to help small businesses today can make their pledge public by joining the #paytoday club here.

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