At the end of 2020, the federal government passed a $900 billion coronavirus-related stimulus bill designed to help small businesses in multiple ways. These included the reopening of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), expanding the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC), setting aside new funds for Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) grants and creating new live venue grants.

During the January 19 Small Business Update, U.S. Chamber of Commerce executive vice president and chief policy officer, Neil Bradley, and chief digital officer, Mike Morello, discussed the latest developments concerning the stimulus bill. Bradley also answered many of the trickiest questions concerning PPP, ERTC, EIDL grants and live venue grants that had been posed by audience members.

Here are some of the top questions and answers from the session.

When will small businesses be able to apply for a first or second PPP loan under the newly reopened program?

Community lenders began accepting the first wave of new PPP loan applications on January 11, 2021. Then, on January 19, the PPP was fully reopened for any eligible business that wants to apply for either a first- or second-draw PPP loan. Companies must apply directly with participating lenders for PPP loans.

“Today is the first day that everyone can submit applications through their lender for the reopened PPP program and the second-draw PPP program,” Bradley said. “You go through your lender, so you reach out to your bank or credit union or whoever you do business with, and find out if they are accepting applications for PPP loans.”

What is the deadline to take advantage of ERTC for 2020 payroll?

In most cases, the ERTC must be claimed when filing quarterly taxes. Most businesses will submit quarterly tax payments by the end of January 2020 for operations in Q4 of 2021, so that will be the last chance for many companies to get the ERTC for 2020. The 2020 ERTC is worth up to $5,000 per employee, so it’s vital to check with your tax preparer or payroll processor about this.

If you already got a PPP loan, can you also get ERTC?

Yes. The December 2020 stimulus bill revised the rules around PPP and ERTC so that businesses can take advantage of both. However, there is one significant limitation.

“The only limitation is that you can’t claim PPP to pay for the same payroll costs that you are doing for ERTC,” Bradley said. “You can’t at the same time claim ERTC for the same wages you paid with the PPP program. … The rule is virtually you can’t get two dollars for the same one dollar of expense.”

You can’t at the same time claim ERTC for the same wages you paid with the PPP program. … The rule is virtually you can’t get two dollars for the same one dollar of expense.

Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Can new PPP funds be used retroactively for 2020 expenses?

No. The PPP is designed for paying expenses incurred during the “covered period” between 8 and 24 weeks. The covered period starts when you receive your loan, so if you receive a PPP loan in 2021, the proceeds must be used on new expenses after the loan is received.

Can you lower salaries and still get PPP loan forgiveness?

Generally speaking, it is not advised for businesses to lower salary levels when taking a PPP loan. “The goal of the program is to not lower employee salaries,” Bradley said. “If you reduce employee salaries by more than 25% relative to their prior salary, then you risk having your loan forgiveness reduced by a similar proportional amount.”

Is there a benefit to delaying your PPP loan forgiveness application?

Bradley notes that because PPP forgiveness rules were recently revised in December, it’s unlikely there will be more substantial changes forthcoming. As such, there is now no clear benefit to delaying the process, and businesses are advised to submit applications for forgiveness in a timely fashion.

Are healthcare premiums and other employee benefits included in payroll calculations?

When businesses are calculating total payroll costs for two and a half months (the maximum PPP loan amount), yes, they should include benefits such as the cost of employee healthcare and paid leave in those calculations.

What businesses are eligible to receive the new live venue grants?

The SBA has outlined that only certain types of businesses are eligible for new live venue grants, including venue operators or promoters, theatrical producers, live performing arts organization operators, museums, zoos, aquariums, motion picture theater operators and talent representatives.

“You have to meet very specified criteria,” Bradley said. “You have to generate something like 70% of your income from ticket sales for that live event. If you have a restaurant or bar where you have bands playing and you make a little bit of money from cover charges, you’re likely not going to qualify for a live venue grant.”

When will new EIDL grant and live venue grant applications go live?

The SBA has not announced the date for when EIDL grant and live venue grant applications will go live. Bradley suggests businesses that are looking to apply for these grants check the dedicated pages for EIDL and live venue grants frequently.

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What the new stimulus bill means for small business

Watch our event replay from Tuesday, January 19, where we continue to discuss and answer questions on the new coronavirus relief bill and how it pertains to small businesses.



Published January 19, 2021