Getting a PPP Loan: Advice From SBOs on How to Make Your Application Seamless

Advice from small business owners on how to get your Paycheck Protection Program application submitted

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Andy LaPointe and his wife of Traverse Bay Farms set their alarms for 5:30 a.m. on April 3, 2020 to submit their Paycheck Protection Program application. After spending the previous day filing it out and preparing documents, they wanted to be sure their application was one of the first their bank received — and it’s paid off. They’ve been approved and are awaiting disbursement.

Andy’s advice: “Be patient, be persistent, and get up early.”

The Paycheck Protection Program is part of the CARES Act, the largest stimulus bill ever passed by the U.S. government. PPP is a $349 billion allotment to incentivize small business owners to keep employees on payroll. As an SBO, you’re potentially eligible to receive 2.5 times your average monthly payroll costs for 2019, up to $10 million. The money is available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Andy’s advice: “Be patient, be persistent, and get up early.”

The CARES Act was signed into law on March 27 with applications for PPP opening Friday April 3. The fast roll out meant there was little time for lenders or borrowers to prepare. Information changes daily and there are still a lot of questions we don’t have answers to, like when exactly the money will be dispersed and what happens after 8 weeks.

Here’s what you need to know as a small business owner applying for PPP.

How can I prepare for the process?

Be organized and make a plan. Download and fill out the PPP application. Collect core payroll and business documents.

Each bank will have a specific set of documents they’ll like to see and processes they’ll follow, but the Association of International Certified Public Accounts has compiled a list of essential business documents lenders should ask for. Talk to your accountant, CPA, bookkeeper, or consult your payroll software to collect these and be prepared to submit them to your lender.

  • Federal tax reports
  • Compensation records (e.g., commissions)
  • Group health care benefits
  • Retirement plan benefits
  • Master payroll report

How do I find a lender?

Reach out to the banks you have an existing relationship with. Banks have been flooded with applications — Bank of America has already accepted $36 million in loans as of Tuesday, and Wells Fargo has resumed lending after initially halting applications over the weekend when it reached a $10 billion cap required by previous Fed restrictions.

Things are changing quickly and SBOs are working to get their applications in before the money runs out. Talk to banks you’ve worked with previously and try local if you can.

Deb Morris is a small business owner from Colorado who recently had her PPP application accepted. “I think what made us successful while others haven’t been was our choice of banks.” Deb and her husband applied through a local community bank with whom they’d long ago established a relationship.

“I think what made us successful while others haven’t been was our choice of banks.” Deb and her husband applied through a local community bank with whom they’d long ago established a relationship.

NYC-based small business owner Teodore struggled with his Chase application. The online portal crashed multiple times, but after 45-minutes he was finally able to submit the application.

“It was challenging because you had to sign out of the Chase session before trying again, otherwise it would say there was an error with the system,” he said.

Teodore said he found it easier to clear his cache and cookies before trying again.

  • Check the top 100 SBA lenders for a regularly updated list of what banks are still accepting applications
  • Talk to all the banks and credit unions you’ve worked with previously
  • Use the SBA’s online search function to find lenders in your area

Pro Tip: If the online portal you’re applying through is crashing, try clearing your cache and cookies or using incognito mode before trying again.

What alternatives are available in the meantime?

There are a few.

Another part of the CARES Act was the allocation of $10 billion to the existing Economic Injury Disaster Loan fund. Eligible SMB can apply for an emergency advance as a grant, meaning it doesn’t have to be paid back. The advance is limited to $1,000 per employee and capped at $10,000.

Eligible businesses are supposed to receive the money within days of their successful application.

Wilfrid Baptiste of Blind Spot Financial has been hosting daily webinars helping individuals navigate the COVID-19 crisis. He recommends tapping into local resources to get access to funds up until disbursement.

“A lot of cities counties and states have developed programs — grants or loans — to help tide their business owners over while they wait for federal funding.”

Tips for finding alternatives

  • Google “[your state] + COVID-19 bridge loans”
  • Speak with your local and state centers for commerce for leads
  • Check eligibility for the SBA Express Bridge Loan if you’ve already applied for an EIDL and have an urgent need for cash flow

Small business owner Andy’s final advice? “Expect glitches and long wait times. And be kind to the folks you’re speaking with.”

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