The U.S. Treasury Department and Small Business Administration (SBA) released two Interim Final Rules regarding the Paycheck Protection Progam (PPP). One rule assists borrowers in the preparation and submission of the PPP loan forgiveness application as well as provide guidance regarding the SBA’s process for reviewing PPP loan applications and loan forgiveness applications.
The “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” (CARES Act) authorizes the SBA to make loans to qualified businesses under certain circumstances. The provision established the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The program provides up to eight weeks of cash-flow assistance through 100% federally guaranteed loans to eligible recipients to maintain payroll during the COVID-19 public health emergency and to cover certain other expenses. If the recipient maintains their full-time staffing and wage levels, up to 100% of the loan is forgivable by the SBA if the loan proceeds are used to cover the first eight weeks of payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities following loan origination. No more than 25% of the forgiven amount may be for non-payroll costs. If full-time staffing is decreased or wages are reduced by more than 25%, the level of forgiveness is reduced.
The first Interim Final Rule regarding loan forgiveness covers the loan forgiveness process, payroll costs eligible for forgiveness, non-payroll costs eligible for forgiveness, reductions to forgiveness amount, and documentation requirements.
- Loan forgiveness process. Borrowers must submit the Loan Forgiveness Application (SBA Form 3508 or equivalent) to the lender. In 60 days, the lender will determine whether the borrower’s loan may be forgiven and requests payment from the SBA. No later than 90 days, the SBA will review the loan and remit the appropriate forgiveness amount to the lender including any interest accrued. If the SBA determines the borrower is not eligible for a PPP loan, the loan will not be forgiven. If forgiveness is reduced or denied, the remaining balance of the loan must be repaid by the borrower on or before the two-year maturity of the loan.
- Payroll costs eligible for forgiveness. Payroll costs paid or incurred during the eight consecutive weeks of the covered period (56 days) are eligible for forgiveness. The period may begin on the date of the loan disbursement or the first day of the first payroll cycle of the covered period (“alternative payroll covered period”). Because the eight-week period may not align with the borrower’s payroll cycle, borrowers with a bi-weekly pay frequency (or more frequent) may use the alternative payroll covered period. The rules clarify that if a borrower uses PPP loans to pay furloughed employees salary, wages or commissions, these will be considered payroll costs. Additionally, hazard pay or bonuses may be included in the calculation of payroll costs if the employee’s total compensation does not exceed $100,000 on an annualized basis.
- Non-payroll costs eligible for forgiveness. Non-payroll costs are eligible for loan forgiveness when: (1) incurred during the covered period and paid on or before the next regular billing date (even if the billing date is outside the covered period) and/or (2) paid during the covered period. However, advance payments of interest on mortgage obligations are not eligible for loan forgiveness.
- Reductions in forgiveness. Reductions in full-time equivalent employees or salary and/or wages during the covered period may result in a reduction in the forgiveness amount. Exemptions include restoring staff and/or salary and wage levels by June 30, 2020 or when an employer offers to rehire an employee or restore hours but the employee refuses the offer. The borrower should maintain documents of the offer and rejection and is required to inform the state unemployment agency of the work refusal within 30 days of the employee’s rejection. Borrowers will not be doubly penalized and the salary/wage reduction applies only to the portion of the decline in employee salary and wages that is not attributable to the FTE reduction. Any employee fired for cause, voluntarily resigns, or voluntarily requests a schedule reduction will not be counted towards the reduction.
- Full-time equivalent employee. The SBA and Treasury Department have clarified that a full-time equivalent employee (FTE) is an employee who works 40 hours or more. The rules note that the CARES Act did not define FTE and it has been decided rather than use the 30-hour standard for FTE as defined under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the SBA and Secretary has chosen to use the 40-hour standard.
Documentation requirements. The rules note that the Loan Forgiveness Application details the list of documents required with the application as well as documentation that must be maintained. The second Interim Final Rule regarding borrower and lender responsibilities explains that the SBA will review individual PPP loans, what representations and statements the SBA will review and when an SBA loan review will occur. The rules also clarify that if the SBA determines a borrower is ineligible for a PPP loan, the loan will not be forgiven. The SBA may seek repayment of the outstanding PPP loan or pursue other remedies. Finally, the rules provide the loan forgiveness process for lenders.