Why small businesses are still in danger, even with an extended PPP deadline

Personal Finance

Lawmakers are giving cash-strapped entrepreneurs more time to apply for emergency funding.

But the effort might be insufficient to keep business owners afloat.

The Paycheck Protection Program, the forgivable loan program that was established through the federal CARES Act, was originally intended to cover eight weeks of payroll costs, plus mortgage interest, utilities and rent expenses.

June 30 was supposed to be the last day for a bank to sign off on one of these loans.

The Senate made an eleventh-hour save on Tuesday night, voting to extend the deadline to Aug. 8. The measure sailed through the House on Wednesday.

President Donald Trump must sign off on the proposal to put it into effect.Since the program first opened on April 3, about $520 billion has gone to small businesses.

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However, accountants say that this move falls short — even as small-business owners grapple with a contracting economy and the possibility of closing even longer amid spikes in coronavirus cases.

“I don’t know who is out there clamoring for these loans that didn’t get them already,” said Adam Markowitz, enrolled agent at Howard L. Markowitz PA CPA in Leesburg, Florida.

“Senators spoke about the hospitality and tourism industry, restaurants and bars,” he said. “These companies already theoretically had gotten PPP, so they either need more of it or they need some other funding device.”

Indeed, while the first $349 billion of PPP funding was claimed in the first two weeks, the second infusion of $310 billion on April 27 still hasn’t been spent down.

Approximately $134 billion remains unclaimed, according to the Small Business Administration.

“The appetite seems to have dropped off significantly, otherwise round two would be exhausted,” said Albert Campo, CPA and managing partner at AJC Accounting Services in Manalapan, New Jersey.

Beyond longer deadlines

PPP loans have undergone significant change since they came about.

A legislative tweak in late May gave firms 24 weeks to spend their PPP allotment and allow for forgiveness if at least 60% of the funding goes toward payroll. Partial forgiveness is also now an option.

However, this — along with the additional time to apply for the loan — doesn’t do much for businesses that used their proceeds in eight weeks.

“My clients who received PPP kept people on payroll and did what they were supposed to do,” said Markowitz. “But when the rules changed and you could use it for 24 weeks, they got screwed.”

Those businesses paid workers even when they were closed so that they could meet the PPP’s payroll requirements, he said. Now they’re out of funding — and with Covid-19 cases rising, it will be a long time before they can fully reopen.

“If you applied in the first month, it’s all gone,” Markowitz said. “It was used predominately to keep people off unemployment.”

Even lawmakers noted that there needed to be more PPP relief beyond giving entrepreneurs more time to apply for funding.

Scrimping to get by

Accountants are looking to the next piece of coronavirus relief legislation to grant more relief to small businesses. For instance, the HEROES Act, which was introduced by House Democrats in May, has a provision that allows small-business owners to use PPP and the employee retention tax credit.

Short of that, business owners who are out of PPP funding are scouring for other sources of aid.

Markowitz has helped clients apply for local grants in Florida’s Orange County.

Others are looking at stacking different relief packages.

“The Economic Injury Disaster Loan comes into play here,” Campo said.

While businesses can’t use both the EIDL and PPP for the same costs concurrently, they may be able to tap EIDL funding after they’ve run out of PPP loans, he said.

Uncomfortable conversations are around the corner for many small businesses.

“There are also frank conversations of closing doors,” Campo said. “Some businesses are just maintaining and making agreements with suppliers and landlords to stay afloat.

“But not many businesses have adequate capital.”

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