The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, while still evolving, continues to take toll on the civil engineering profession – especially when it comes to maintaining and operating small businesses. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed in late March, created the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), allocating $349 billion for low-interest loans that can be forgiven in full if used for qualified expenses, such as wages and salaries. However, the historic, detrimental impacts of the pandemic caused the Paycheck Protection Program to be oversubscribed, and on April 16th the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that they exhausted all funding for the program.
America’s small businesses require aid in order to survive the pandemic. As a response to the SBA announcement and to expand small-business aid, Congress passed this week a $484 billion supplemental bill: the Paycheck Protection Program Increase Act of 2020. The legislation includes:
- An additional $321 billion for the depleted Paycheck Protection Program, with $250 billion open to all lenders;
- $60 billion reserved specifically for smaller lenders; and
- $10 billion reserved for emergency grants.
The bill also includes:
- $60 billion in loans and grants for economic disaster assistance,
- $75 billion for hospitals, and
- $25 billion for coronavirus testing.
But what exactly is the PPP and does your small business qualify for this program or another federal program aimed at protecting small businesses?
The PPP is designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep employees. All business types are eligible— including nonprofits, sole proprietors and other self-employed individuals— provided that they employ up to 500 people and meet other SBA eligibility requirements. Small businesses that receive a loan will have that loan fully forgiven if the money is used to keep employees on the payroll for eight weeks and they must only use the funds for their intended purpose. Outside of payroll, allowable uses also include paid sick or medical leave, insurance premiums, rent, mortgage interest, or utility payments. The maximum benefit for any small business is 250% of the employer’s average monthly payroll, excluding salaries greater than $100,000, for a maximum benefit of $10 million. Those small businesses interested in the program can apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, or the Farm Credit System. The PPP is intended to be available through June 30, 2020, however the new round of funding is also expected to be quickly utilized.
So, what if your small business is unable to access the PPP? Other resources available to small businesses include:
- Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). The CARES Act authorized the Small Business Administration (SBA) to designate states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. EIDL assistance declarations issued by the SBA would make loans available statewide to small businesses and private, nonprofit organizations and will apply to current and future disaster assistance declarations related to COVID-19. EIDL may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. The Paycheck Protection Program Act provides an additional $10 billion for EIDL grants and maximum relief is up to $2 million per small business.
- The CARES Act also directed the U.S. Treasury Department will create a program to provide financing to banks/ lenders to make direct loans to eligible businesses (including nonprofits) with between 500 and 10,000 employees.
Additionally, as your small business is navigating these unchartered waters, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration continues to provide enforcement guidance to employers. So far in April 2020, OSHA released several enforcement memoranda concerning COVID-19.
Finally, as Congress continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, ASCE supports economic relief and investments in our nation’s infrastructure, as well as for small businesses throughout the country. ASCE will continue to urge Congress and the Administration to use future economic stimulus packages to invest in both the nation’s infrastructure and that workforce that the nation’s infrastructure relies on.