Update: On February 16, the SBA announced that due to budget constraints it will reduce the amount of payment relief for certain SBA loans to three months, from six months.
The economic impact of Covid-19 has been a shock to all business owners. And while some have become overwhelmed with new demand, others are fighting closures and bankruptcy. If there is one constant across all situations, it is the lack of knowledge about the government programs in place to help.
Currently, most business owners are focused solely on receiving a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, a forgivable loan aimed at keeping employees on the payroll. This is not a bad thing. Many entrepreneurs have been able to save their businesses because of the funds they received through the PPP.
However, we have no idea if this latest round is going to be the last.
The Main Street Lending Program, like PPP, was part of the Cares Act and helped a lot of businesses that needed larger loans. That program has already ended. Sure, the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) already existed prior to the Cares Act, but what happens when the government declares an end to this national disaster? EIDL will no longer be an option then, either.
These three types of loans have been vital for business owners in this pandemic, but few, if any, are aware of the U.S. Small Business Administration's longstanding loan programs that may be an even better fit for their needs. The SBA's 7(a) and 504 loan programs were specifically designed to incentivize banks to lend to small businesses, which even prior to the pandemic are riskier bets than larger companies, as precious few tend to make it to year four.
The benefits to 7(a) and 504 loan programs include having more capital to expand into new facilities or grow your market footprint. You can also hire more people and purchase needed equipment--all with the backing of the U.S. government.
The reason to get in now is even more acute. As of February 1 and lasting through September (or until funds run out), the latest $900 billion stimulus package sweetened those SBA programs. Now they come with no fees, six months of payment forgiveness, up to $9,000 per month, and a higher guarantee of 90 percent, up from 75 percent and 85 percent, previously. It should encourage banks to make more loans. Naturally, banks won't be as motivated to do SBA backed loans once the guarantee percentages drop back down.
SBA-backed loans are not just for those businesses who need capital to survive; they're also for businesses who want to do more than just survive. Some of you may be thinking, "Why would I get a loan if my business can survive without it?" The answer is simple. Surviving is not the same as thriving. If the year 2020 taught us anything, it's to be prepared for the unexpected. There were some businesses that had to close their doors immediately and did not have enough reserves available to handle the additional economic pressures placed on them. Still others saw demand for their goods or services spike, and they didn't have the capital or resources to meet that demand. Both types of businesses would have benefited greatly from already having a SBA loan.
Even if your business isn't currently struggling to keep the lights on, it still could be the perfect time to apply. You could still use money to fund your growth. Indeed, if more small business owners knew exactly how the SBA could help them thrive, the economy, as a whole, could benefit. The reason being, a lot of the job growth the country will need in the coming months will come from the businesses that have stayed flat or grown during this time--and they'll need money to bring on what's likely to be a deluge of new workers.
Once the dust settles on this pandemic, and people return to work, some companies and thus some jobs will be gone forever. Those workers will need to find new homes. If we can educate small business owners about the benefits of receiving a SBA-backed loan to grow, we will also be able to help create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the years to come.
Our goal to train one million business owners about the SBA programs this calendar year is not going to be easy, as we're a small company, and we can't do this alone. We will be looking to build a coalition of partners to help market this effort and bring small business owners the comfort of knowledge during these trying times.