Many small business owners and restaurants have been struggling with the rules regarding their Paycheck Protection Program loan (PPP) and the forgiveness provision. Some businesses may be currently closed due to state order, while others don’t have work available or their team is currently receiving Federal unemployment.
What follows are some resources and guidelines as to how I and other small business owners are choosing to navigate this process. While some of the resources added below come from the SBA and industry experts, I am not an accountant nor government official (yet!) – the ideas generated are anecdotal and aspirational. As ever, common sense and a safe-risk approach are encouraged.
This page was generated as part of Small Biz LIVE, a weekly small business livestream with other Main Street business owners, every Monday at 5pm. Follow me on Instagram to tune in.
RULES TO LIVE BY
I’ve seen a lot of articles and postings about how to ‘Only Spend What You Need’ or ‘Don’t Maximise Loan Forgiveness’ and I should make it clear from the outset – this NOT the approach I’m advocating for. With the level of uncertainty around our state executive orders, future prospects of stimulus funds waning, and our own anxieties around the longevity of our current business model, I feel strongly that we should not be treating these funds as way to maintain a status quo from two months ago.
Instead, what follows is some personal guidance – and safe risk-taking – to ensure these funds get spent on investments in our future business model and economy. With any way you spend these funds, you should be asking “would I be OK with paying this back at 1%?”
PAY PEOPLE TO WRITE
In many small businesses, we tend to devalue written word professions – we forgo paying ‘marketing specialist,’ ‘bloggers,’ and ‘copy editors’ in favor of physical work – cooks, painters, contractors, etc. Now is the time to invest in the brains – and pens – of your employees.
GO DIGITAL OR GO HOME
Whether an online ordering system or more user-friendly website, now is a great time to hire folks that can make your online presence effective and seamless. So many of us are accustomed to do things manually because we don’t know they can be handled digitally. Now is the time to pay folks to support our transition to the web, no matter the industry.
MAKE A DEAL WITH YOUR LANDLORD
If you’re like me, you’ve already talked to your landlord about rent abatements. Maybe you’ve been successful, maybe you haven’t, but with the PPP you have some leverage to encourage a supportive relationship. Rather than splitting up the 25% across utility and rent payments, I’m opting to pay my full rent for the next two months (despite being closed) because it will make asking for future concessions easier.
BUILD A CALCULATOR
At the end of the day, forgiveness will be determined by the money you spent from the PPP in the next 8 weeks. While ambiguity abounds, it seems evident that the basis for forgiveness is based on you hitting approximately the equivalent amount of pay over 8 weeks, for the equivalent number of jobs. You should make a simple calculator in excel that adds up all the different people you might pay – designers, copy editors, painters, etc – to try to match the equivalent headcount and payroll dollars week per week. You don’t want to end up with a lop-sided pay-out that might have banks and the SBA asking questions.
THREE RESOURCES THAT HAVE HELPED ME:
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Can I pay myself?
All indications suggest that you can. The SBA business owner guide states that owner compensation “over $100,000” is not eligible, which appears to indicate that under $100,000 qualifies. You should speak to an accountant or your bank regarding how to do this.
Can I pay independent contractors?
As Independent Contractors and self-employed individuals are themselves eligible for PPP, the best guidance I have received is that you as a business can not use your PPP to pay Independent Contractors and have it be forgiven (but it can still be rolled into 1% loan!)
Is it recorded on a cash or accrual basis?
It appears to be on a cash basis – so businesses who will run payroll outside of the 8th week should assume that *will not* count toward their payroll threshold.
Does is need to be the same employees / same hours / same FTEs?
While this has been anything but clear, guidance has come from the regional SBA office that the exact *person* does not matter, nor does the specific job function (e.g if someone used to cook, you could hire someone else to paint in their place). Ultimately, forgiveness will be weighed by total dollars spent and number of employees. Regardless of *who* you hire or *what* they work on, you should aim to meet about the same number of people and overall payroll.