Check out Day 1 of The Big Week for Small Business from CO—.

As 2020 has progressed, small business owners have faced intense challenges and yet still shown incredible resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of trying to sustain demand or change business models, companies also have had to navigate complex but still important government programs such as PPP and EIDL.

With the launch of The Big Week for Small Business this week, CO— gathered a panel of heavy-hitters to talk about some of the big issues owners are still facing and what they should be thinking about as 2020 closes. They also answered questions from audience members.

The primary panel was moderated by CO— content director Jeanette Mulvey and included insights from Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Manny Cosme, president and CEO of CFO Services Group; and Lenore Horton, partner at FisherBroyles, LLP. Following the panel, Bradley then spoke with the Hon. Jovita Carranza, administrator for the Small Business Administration.

Here are some insights the speakers shared during the event.

What’s next for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

The Small Business Administration’s PPP program played an important role in helping small businesses stay afloat during the early days of the pandemic. Ultimately, 5.2 million forgivable loans worth more than $525 billion were dispersed. Applications for the program closed on August 8, but Bradley says another version of the program could return for businesses that did not apply before.

“Sadly, there is still money left, but by law, no one can apply for them anymore,” Bradley said. “It’s currently under discussion [to open it again]. We don’t suspect it could get done before the election, but when it does get done, one thing is certain: We expect the PPP program to reopen.”

Additionally, some businesses may also be able to apply for a second PPP loan in the reopened program. But Bradley said the terms would be strict about what businesses qualify.

“You will only be eligible for a second loan if you can demonstrate that you had a reduction in gross receipts of above a certain amount, like 25 to 35 percent,” Bradley said. “It will be for businesses with significant revenue loss.”

Where to seek additional funding

While PPP and EIDL funding options may be exhausted for businesses, there are still options out there for those who need capital. Cosme said that on top of talking with traditional lenders, he would recommend having discussions with local Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and local governments.

I would always advocate to check out a local CDFI, Cosme said. “They exist to boost the local economy. One of the major ways they do that is to give loans or lines of credit to small businesses that maybe cannot get funding from traditional lenders. ... And always check with your local and state governments. Here in Washington D.C., we just had a new grant program roll out a few days ago to help brick-and-mortar businesses. It’s brand-new money, so you want to be constantly checking these channels.”

Horton added later in the session that if you require funding or grants, there is often something out there for you, no matter your background.

“I’m a big believer that there is always some money out there,” Horton said. “If you think there is something out there for you, go look for it. There are people out there that are giving scholarships and grants ... especially given to businesses that are aligned with the organizations. Get to researching. The biggest part is pursuing it and not giving up.”

I’m a big believer that there is always some money out there. If you think there is something out there for you, go look for it.

Lenore Horton, partner, FisherBroyles, LLP

Tips for renegotiating your agreements

Horton shared advice about how to talk about renegotiating with creditors or landlords, an important topic for businesses in 2020.

“Business owners should take a look at this, especially if you have a debt where you know it’s not possible to meet your obligations until you reopen or until you are back at more consistent market levels,” Horton said. “For some of them, it’s not a difficult conversation, but for others, it might be a longer negotiation. Be proactive and keep the conversation going. For example, I’ve seen where we draft letters and help the client craft communications where we explain to creditors what is going on and what they are doing to generate new revenue or working to pivot. Radio silence is not going to be a confidence-building measure for those you owe money to right now.”

Status of H-1B and other visas

Bradley spoke about a significant recent development regarding H, J, and L temporary work visas and visa sponsorship by businesses that are seeking workers from outside the country — an issue that affects both large and small businesses alike.

“The U.S. Chamber, along with others, sued to block that executive order because it was our belief that it exceeded the authority the president has,” Bradley said. “A federal judge last week concurred … Going forward the U.S. Chamber and other associations who sued [now are in the position] that our organizations and our members can sponsor and apply for visas under those categories.”

Call on Congress to provide more assistance

When it came to the topic of an additional coronavirus relief package in Congress for small businesses and individuals, Bradley said something would likely be passed in the next several months, if not sooner.

“It should have happened months ago,” Bradley said. “They are way past due on getting this done. It may come together, but it might also happen after the election during the lame duck session. There is too much that needs to be done to support the economy for nothing to happen. But the timing is questionable.”

Bradley suggested small business owners should also be in touch with their representatives in the House and Senate.

“In the United States, our elected representatives work for us, the people,” Bradley said. “It’s OK to demand your representatives get something done. My best advice is to pick up the phone for your member of Congress and call their district office. Tell them you are a small business and how much this matters. It’s so critical to keeping so many small businesses alive and so many people employed. Demand action and don’t accept any excuses.”

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published October 14, 2020