The PPP provisions of the CARES Act were further interpreted by the Small Business Administration in an interim final rule (the “Interim Rule”) issued late in the day on April 2, 2020. This Alert has been updated to reflect that interim interpretation and to add some additional practical insights into the PPP program. The key updates from the Interim Rule are highlighted in red text for ease of reference. The Interim Rule provided important information on the calculation of the loan amount, added some further requirements, and stated that additional guidance will be published on affiliate rules and on the calculation of the forgiveness amount. Businesses need to understand both programs as well as the additional financial and other relief (including an Emergency Relief loan program for eligible mid-size employers) that may be available under the CARES Act in order to make short- and long-term planning decisions. The CARES Act provides assistance to many businesses that may not meet the customary small business thresholds. Given the various qualification criteria, the programs and incentives enacted under the CARES Act must be evaluated separately for each business, considering industry, legal requirements and financial and other contractual commitments during this challenging time. For more information on the CARES Act, follow this link.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
PPP loans are 100% federally guaranteed loans for small businesses intended for companies to maintain their payroll levels and allow partial loan forgiveness, as described below. Unlike most typical SBA loans, the PPP Loans are unsecured loans requiring no collateral, no personal guarantee, and no showing that credit is unavailable elsewhere.
The Interim Rule clarifies that the PPP loans, to the extent not forgiven, will have:
- A 2-year term (decreased from the maximum maturity of 10 years under the Act),
- An interest rate of 1% (increased from prior Treasury guidance that set the interest rate at 0.5%)
- Principal and interest deferred for 6 months and no interest charged on forgiven amounts
The SBA borrower application is available (here). Lenders may require borrowers to complete additional paperwork. Loans are offered through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any eligible and participating federally insured depositary institution, federally insured credit union, Farm Credit System institution and certain other depository or non-depository financing providers.
In general and subject to certain SBA exclusions, to be eligible for a PPP loan, a company must be either (i) a small business concern under the SBA regulations, or (ii) a business concern, nonprofit organization, veterans’ organization, or Tribal business concern that employs not more than 500 employees whose principal place of residence is in the United States (or the number of employees in the size standard applicable to the borrower’s industry, which for some industries is up to 1500 employees). This reference to United States residence is a new detail that was added by the Interim Rule, but not addressed in the CARES Act and possibly subject to further clarification by additional guidance. Businesses in the Accommodation and Food Services Industry with more than 500 employees in multiple locations can avail themselves of the PPP loan program as long as they have 500 or fewer employees per location. The Interim Rule does not reference or further interpret the Accommodation and Food Services Industry rules.
Notably, the CARES Act waives the SBA’s affiliation rules for determining PPP program eligibility for certain specific categories of businesses, including businesses in the Accommodation and Food Services Industry, businesses operating as a franchise that are assigned a franchise identifier code in the SBA Franchise Directory (available here), and businesses that receive financial assistance from a licensed Small Business Investment Company. Given this limited waiver, subject to guidance expected from the SBA, the remainder of eligible businesses appear to be subject to the SBA’s affiliation rules. The Interim Rule states that the SBA intends to promptly issue additional guidance with regard to the applicability of SBA’s affiliation rules at 13 CFR 121.103 and 121.301 to PPP loans. Subject to additional guidance, the SBA’s affiliation rules appear to continue to apply to PPP loans without change under the CARES Act or the Interim Rule. Notably, the affiliation rules used for this purpose are different than the affiliation rules used for purposes of establishing whether a company is subject to the paid sick leave and expanded FMLA requirements under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which uses the integrated employer test under the FMLA.
Eligible companies must have been in operation on February 15, 2020 and must have, as of that date, had employees for whom the entity paid salaries and payroll taxes, or paid independent contractors. Additional guidance is needed to understand whether companies that use professional employer organizations satisfy this requirement.
Additionally, when applying for a PPP loan, a borrower must certify that the uncertainty of current economic conditions makes necessary the loan request to support the ongoing operations of the eligible recipient and acknowledge that the funds will be used to retain workers and maintain payroll or make mortgage payments, lease payments, and utility payments. The borrower also must certify that it is eligible for a PPP loan under the CARES Act and guidance in place as of the application date. These and other certification requirements are significant, as false or misleading certifications could potentially give rise to civil False Claims Act liability or criminal penalties.
Amount of the Loan
The maximum amount of a PPP loan available to each borrower is equal to the lesser of: (a) $10 million, or (b) 2.5 x its average total monthly payroll costs (as defined below). The CARES Act and Interim Rule provide that average monthly payroll costs should be calculated over the 12-month period preceding the application, but the application form itself states that monthly payroll costs will be calculated using 2019 payroll costs for most applicants.
For purposes of the PPP, “payroll costs” include:
For a borrower other than an independent contractor, the sum of payments of any compensation with respect to employees, that is:
- Salary, wage, commission, or other similar compensation (not in excess of $100,000, prorated, and excluding any employee whose principal place of residence is outside of the U.S.)
- Cash tips or equivalent (not with respect to any employee whose principal place of residence is outside of the U.S.)
- Payment for vacation, parental, family, medical, or sick leave (other than qualified sick leave wages or qualified family leave wages under the FFCRA)
- Allowance for dismissal or separation
- Payment of group health care benefits and insurance premiums (generally, medical, dental, vision and health flexible spending account benefits)
- Payment of retirement benefits
- Payment of State or Local tax assessed on employee compensation (specifically excluding federal employment taxes, including the employee and employer share of FICA, Railroad Retirement Act taxes, and income taxes withheld from employees between February 15, 2020 and June 30, 2020)
- For an independent contractor, the sum of payments of any compensation or income of a sole proprietor or independent contractor that is a wage, commission, income, net earnings from self-employment or similar compensation (not in excess of more than $100,000 in 1 year, prorated)
Use of Loan Proceeds
The loans may be used for the following expenses/costs from February 15, 2020 through June 30, 2020:
- Payroll costs (as defined above)
- Costs related to the continuation of group health care benefits during periods of paid sick, medical or family leave, and insurance premiums
- Employee compensation
- Mortgage interest obligations (but not principal)
- Rent and utilities
- Interest on debt incurred prior to the loan
- Refinancing of SBA EIDL loans that are made between January 31, 2020 and April 3, 2020
A borrower of a PPP loan is eligible for loan forgiveness up to the full amount of the loan and any accrued interest for costs incurred and payments made during the 8-week period after the origination date, subject to proper documentation, on:
- payroll costs (as defined above),
- mortgage interest on mortgages that had been in place prior to February 15, 2020,
- rent with respect to leasing agreements that had been in place before February 15, 2020, and
- payment of service for the distribution of electricity, gas, water, transportation, telephone, or internet access for such services that began before February 15, 2020.
The reduction penalty will not apply to the extent the borrower restores their workforce count and salaries/wages by June 30, 2020.
Economic Injury Disaster Loan (“EIDL”) ProgramAnother option for small businesses is the SBA’s existing EIDL Program, which was expanded by the CARES Act and provides for longer-term loans with favorable borrowing terms. Companies in all 50 states, District of Columbia, and some U.S. territories are eligible for EDIL loans relating to economic injury caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While there are no loan forgiveness provisions applicable to EIDL loans, companies that have already applied for or received EIDLs due to economic injury attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic can seek to refinance their EIDL loans under the PPP to take advantage of the PPP’s loan forgiveness provisions. Additionally, while companies may be eligible for loans under both programs, they are unable to seek recovery under the EIDL loan for the same costs that are covered by a PPP loan.
The CARES Act expanded EIDL eligibility for the period between January 31, 2020 and December 31, 2020, to include any business with not more than 500 employees, any individual operating under a sole proprietorship or as an independent contractor, and any cooperative, ESOP or tribal small business concern with not more than 500 employees. Subject to guidance from the SBA, these applicants would also appear to still be subject to the SBA’s affiliation rules governing financial assistance programs. Entities previously eligible to receive SBA EIDLs, including small business concerns, private nonprofit organizations and small agricultural cooperatives, remain eligible for such loans under the more favorable terms authorized by the CARES Act.
To qualify for an EIDL under the CARES Act, the applicant must have suffered “substantial economic injury” from COVID-19. EIDL loans under the CARES Act are based on a company’s actual economic injury determined by the SBA (less any recoveries such as insurance proceeds) up to $2 million. EIDL loans may be used for payroll and other costs as well as to cover increased costs due to supply chain interruption, to pay obligations that cannot be met due to revenue loss and for other uses. The interest rate on EIDL loans is 3.75% fixed for small businesses and 2.75% for nonprofits. The EIDL loans have up to a 30-year term and amortization (determined on a case-by-case basis).
The CARES Act also permits applicants to request an advance of up to $10,000 to pay allowable working capital needs; the advance is expected to be paid by the SBA within 3 days. This advance is essentially a grant and is not required to be repaid, even if the application is denied, but the amount of the advance must be deducted from any loan forgiveness amounts under a PPP loan, described above.
EIDLs under the CARES Act do not require personal guarantees for loans up to $200,000, but do require personal guarantees by owners of more the 20% of the borrower for loans in excess of that amount. The CARES Act waives the requirement for the borrower to demonstrate that it is unable to obtain credit elsewhere. However, unless changed by the SBA, it appears that the requirement for collateral on EIDL loans over $25,000 would still apply, and, in processing a borrower’s application, the SBA must make a determination that the applicant has the ability to repay the loan. Further, the SBA can approve a loan based solely on the credit score of the applicant or other means of determining the applicant’s ability to repay the loan, without requiring the submission of tax returns, which should expedite approval of EIDLs during the covered period.
Given the very favorable terms of these two SBA loan programs and the potential for loan forgiveness under PPP loans, eligible small businesses who have been economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic should strongly consider taking advantage of these loan programs. Applications for EIDL loans should be submitted directly to the SBA, while PPP loans will be available from SBA-approved lenders and the other lenders described above.
For more information about recommended steps, contact Foley. Foley has created a multi-disciplinary and multi-jurisdictional team, which has prepared a wealth of topical client resources and is prepared to help our clients meet the legal and business challenges that the coronavirus outbreak is creating for stakeholders across a range of industries. Click here for Foley’s Coronavirus Resource Center to stay apprised of relevant developments, insights and resources to support your business during this challenging time. To receive this content directly in your inbox, click here and submit the form.