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Covid-19

Federal, State and Local Resources Available to Small Businesses and Non-Profits Dealing With the COVID-19 Outbreak (U.S.A.)

This advisory was updated on March 27, 2020, to include analysis of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was passed by the Senate and signed by the House of Representatives and the President on Friday, March 27, 2020.[1] It appears as a new Section B in this advisory (along with conforming changes in other sections).

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In an effort to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic the federal government, as well as various states, enacted a number of mandates aimed at promoting social distancing. This included temporarily expanding unemployment benefits, and issuing a variety of “workforce reduction” and “stay at home” executive orders. Our analysis of these various pieces of legislation can be found in our toolkit (which is being updated as the response develops).[2]

Many small businesses and non-profits will not qualify as “essential” during the shut-down, and will likely remain closed for a month or more if their work cannot be done remotely. A number of federal and state programs are coming on-line to help them weather the economic storm, and we outline them below. Because these programs are being updated in real time, please check the links in the advisory regularly.

We will continue to update this advisory on a weekly basis.

A. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program

Small business owners and non-profits in designated states and territories are eligible to apply for low-interest loans due to COVID-19. A list of the currently eligible states, which include New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, can be found on the SBA’s COVID-19 response landing page. The SBA will work directly with state Governors to provide targeted, low-interest loans to small businesses and non-profits that have been severely impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19).[3]

The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provides small businesses and non-profits with working capital loans of up to $2 million, which can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing.

These loans carry an interest rate of 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for nonprofits. Loan repayment terms vary by applicant, up to a maximum of 30 years. They may be used to cover accounts payable, debts, payroll and other bills COVID-19 has affected the ability to pay. The SBA loan application is contingent on the following:

  • Credit History – Applicants must have a credit history acceptable to SBA.
  • Repayment – Applicants must show the ability to repay the loan.
  • Collateral – Collateral is required for all EIDL loans over $25,000. SBA takes real estate as collateral when it is available.

See New Jersey’s FAQ on SBA loans.[4]

SBA will not decline a loan for lack of collateral, but the SBA will require the borrower to pledge collateral that is available. The CARES Act is set to significantly streamline the program by, among other things, waiving personal guarantees for loans up to $200,000, limiting other criteria for consideration, and providing temporary grants of $10,000 while the loan application is pending.[5]

While Economic Injury loans are available for amounts of up to $2,000,000, the actual amount of each loan is limited to the economic injury determined by the SBA, less business interruption insurance and other recoveries up to the administrative lending limit. The SBA also considers potential contributions that are available from the business and/or its owner(s) or affiliates.

B. New Payroll Protection Program (Forgivable) Loans Under the CARES Act

The $2 trillion CARES Act significantly expands the available SBA programs, while also creating new programs that will be administered through the SBA. It also significantly expands what qualifies as a “small business” for the purpose of these programs, generally applying to businesses employing up to 500 employees (the same threshold to which the sick leave provisions of the previous Families First Coronavirus Response Act, applied). Businesses that are assigned a North American Industry Classification System code beginning with 72 (Accommodations and Food Services) are eligible if they employ no more than 500 employees per physical location.[6]

The key provision is the new Payroll Protection Program, which provides for forgivable loans that can be used to cover things like payroll, continuation of group health care benefits during sick leave, and mortgage, rent, and utility expenses.[7] An eligible business can borrow the lesser of (1) 2.5 times the business’s average monthly payroll in the prior 12 months (capped at $100,000 in annualized salary per employee) and (2) $10,000,000. The forgiveness feature of the loans can, in many situations, convert some or all of the loan principal into the equivalent of a grant.

Key terms of the Payroll Protection Program include: (1) the loan amount is reduced by previously obtained loans refinanced into the program; (2) the loans are non-recourse, and personal guarantees are waived[8]; (3) the loans carry a 4% interest rate and have a maturity of up to 10 years; (4) the principal of the loans is forgivable, up to a maximum amount of 8 weeks of covered expenses (including payroll, rent and utilities); and (5) the amount of forgiveness is reduced if the number of employees of a business, or the wages of employees who make less than $100,000/year on an annualized basis, are reduced. However, if, in the period beginning on February 15, 2020 and ending 30 days after adoption of the CARES Act, a business reduces its employees, or their wages, but the business subsequently rehires those employees or restores their wages by June 30, 2020, that reduction will not affect the business’s eligibility for forgiveness. See Section 1106(d).

Loan amounts forgiven under the Payroll Protection Program are excluded from the borrower’s income for federal income tax purposes.

C. State Specific Loans and Grants

In addition to the SBA’s program, a number of states have set up their own programs to address the impact of COVID-19 on businesses they ordered closed.

New Jersey: New Jersey’ Economic Development Authority (NJ EDA) set up a resource page to address COVID-19’s impact on small businesses and non-profits.[9]

As the EDA explains, there are a number of existing loan programs available to small and mid-size businesses. These range from “micro” loans of $50,000, to “direct loans” of up to $2,000,000 (with up to $750,000 available to use as working capital). The interest rate for these direct loans is based on the 5-year US Treasury or floor of 2%, whichever is higher, with basis point additions for credit risk.[10] The EDA also has a pilot “Access” program which includes loan participation and a guarantee by the EDA of up to $1,000,000 for businesses that are more reliant on cash flow (as opposed to hard collateral).[11] The EDA has a number of other programs (including technical assistance, and programs targeted at minority, woman, and veteran owned businesses).[12]

Separate from the EDA, the Governor’s Office set up a resource page with live updates regarding the impact of COVID-19, and the Governor’s Executive Orders (https://cv.business.nj.gov). Specific questions can be addressed through the “live chat” feature on the website (though a thorough review of the Q&A first is strongly encouraged). The resource page indicates that the State is currently working on additional programs to address the economic impact of the outbreak.[13] This includes implementation of the legislation signed by Governor Murphy to allow the EDA to provide grants for the planning, designing, acquiring, constructing, reconstructing, improving, equipping, and furnishing of a project, including, but not limited to, grants for working capital and meeting payroll requirements.[14]

New York: Both the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and New York City have created centralized portals to help small businesses address COVID-19.[15]

The ESDC provides guidance on the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan, the process for having a business designated as “essential” if it is not already listed in the guidance issued on March 21, 2020, and for sending specific business related questions directly to the ESDC.

New York City’s portal provides additional detail on programs available to City businesses, including zero interest loans of up to $75,000 to help retain employees and ensure business continuity for business with fewer than 100 employees who have seen sales decreases of 25% or more. The City is also offering small businesses with fewer than 5 employees (including nonprofits) a grant to cover 40% of payroll costs for two months to help retain employees.

D. Deferring and Negotiating Liabilities

Finally, businesses and non-profits should consider if they are able to defer or modify some of their ongoing liabilities. This includes reaching out to their landlords and other creditors to see if they are able to modify or defer payments. While some lenders may already have hardship deferral procedures in place, business owners should check if any specific programs are in place in response to COVID-19.

For instance, the New York Department of Financial Services issued a circular letter to insurers urging all regulated entities to provide small businesses that can demonstrate financial hardship caused by COVID-19 payment accommodations (including no-cost extension of payment due dates). DFS also urges all regulated entities, in their capacity as creditors to businesses of all sizes, to work with and provide accommodations to their borrowers, including refraining from exercising rights and remedies based on potential technical defaults under material adverse change and other contractual provisions that might be triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.[16]

While some cities (like New York) announced eviction moratoriums during the outbreak, this does not generally relieve a tenant of the obligation to pay. This does not mean that the landlord will be unwilling to negotiate a different payment schedule or other accommodation. It is much preferable to have this discussion before a payment is missed and a default is triggered.

Certain payments and filings, like federal quarterly and annual taxes and returns due on April 15, have been delayed to July 15, without interest or penalty.[17] States have discretion to set their own deadlines for payment and filing of state-level taxes and returns. However, some states, including New York, have announced that they are following the federal example and delaying their payment and filing deadlines for taxes and returns due on April 15 to July 15.[18] Small business owners and non-profits should use the time to discuss the tax changes in pending and passed legislation. For instance, the added costs of mandatory federal paid sick leave during the outbreak is offset (to an extent) by a corresponding tax credit.[19]

E. Conclusion

The situation is quickly evolving, so this advisory should only serve as a starting point. New programs may be announced, in part based on how this situation evolves. Small business owners and non-profits are encouraged to get in contact with the relevant city, state and federal agencies as soon as possible, as they will likely be dealing with an overwhelming administrative burden during a time when resources are stretched to the limit.