From the Employee Retention Tax Credit to the SBA’s Express Small Business Loans, small businesses have options beyond PPP for coronavirus relief.

By FINSYNC

Many struggling small businesses pinned their hopes on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which essentially offers free money to qualified small businesses who use it correctly to cover payroll. As good as it sounds, not all small businesses were able to capitalize on this popular program. Whether you don’t qualify, your application didn’t get processed before the money ran out, or you need aid outside of payroll relief, there are several programs beyond PPP that offer relief for SMBs that have been affected by coronavirus.

Employee Retention Tax Credit

Introduced in the CARES Act, the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERC) is similar to PPP in that it’s designed to encourage businesses to keep employees on the payroll. However, unlike PPP the Employee Retention Credit is a refundable payroll tax credit for qualified wages. Businesses that receive a PPP loan are not eligible for the Employee Retention Credit.

You don’t have to wait until you file your quarterly taxes to receive the credit. Eligible employers can receive the benefit now by reducing your employment tax deposits or by filing a claim for an “advance refund” of your credit for the quarter.

Amount of the Credit

The amount of the credit is equal to 50% of qualified wages that you pay your employees in the quarter — after March 13, 2020, and before January 1, 2021. Eligible wages are capped at $10,000 per employee, which means the maximum credit for each employee is $5,000.

Eligibility

To be eligible, your business operations must have been suspended partially or fully due to a government shut-down order caused by COVID-19. Your business is also eligible if your gross receipts have declined more than 50% for a quarter in 2020 (compared to the same quarter the prior year).

How to Receive the Credit

To receive eligible tax credits, businesses can claim credits on quarterly employment tax returns (IRS Form 941) starting with the second quarter of 2020. Alternatively, you can reduce the amount of employment taxes you pay without penalty. You can also submit Form 7200 to receive an advance refund.

SBA Express Bridge Loans

While it’s not new, the Small Business Administration’s Express Bridge Loan Program was expanded in March so that small businesses affected by COVID-19 are eligible. Designed to provide working capital to help businesses survive the economic downturn caused by coronavirus, the 7(a) loan program offers expedited SBA loans up to $25,000.

You can apply through any qualified SBA Express lender, though you must have an existing relationship with the lender. Funds for the SBA Express Bridge Loan Pilot Program will be received within 45 days of application approval.

SBA Debt Relief

If you have an existing SBA loan, chances are you’re already getting help paying it off through the SBA Debt Relief Program. The SBA will automatically pay the principal, interest and fees of current, eligible 7(a), 504 and microloans for a period of 6 months. The same applies for new 7(a), 504, and microloans disbursed prior to September 27, 2020.

For loans that are currently on deferment, SBA will start making payments on the next payment due after the deferment period is over.

Discontinued or Limited Coronavirus Relief Programs

Unfortunately, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Advance (EIDL) has tightened eligibility requirements and new applications are only being considered for agricultural businesses. In addition, the $5,000 Save Small Business grants have also hit capacity. Not to worry, in addition to the programs above, online lenders are another option for small businesses that need to access cash fast.

Alternative Lenders

Online lenders can provide a lifeline for small businesses who need funding to get through this downturn. Even before the coronavirus crisis, small businesses have been turning to alternative lenders in increasing numbers.

According to the Federal Reserve’s 2019 Small Business Credit Survey, 33% of small businesses applied for a loan from an online lender in 2018, up from 19% in 2016 and 25% in 2017. Why? Less stringent application requirements, a streamlined application process — and perhaps most importantly, a higher approval rate.

According to the Fed, online lenders approved funding for 76% of small businesses categorized as a medium or high credit risk in 2018. Contrast that with an approval rate of only 34% from large banks and 47% from small banks.

More Help on the Horizon: Main Street Lending Program

While there’s currently some debate over whether or not there will be a round 3 of PPP funding, additional relief programs have been announced and will be coming soon. One such program is the Main Street Lending Program, which is designed to help small and medium-sized businesses affected by COVID-19.

To be eligible for the Main Street Lending Program, businesses must have 15,000 employees or less, and 2019 revenues below $5 billion. The minimum loan starts at $500,000 and the term is four years. Eligible banks can extend new loans or increase existing ones, and interest and principal payment will be deferred for one year. The start date of the program has not been announced yet.

Additional programs and opportunities for small business coronavirus relief will also likely be introduced in the coming weeks and months. Take stock of your current options, and take advantage of the programs that can help your business weather this economic downturn.