Note: On April 13 at 11:23 a.m. EST this post was updated to include new information regarding fintechs gaining direct lending approval.
Getting an emergency small-business loan under the new new $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is not for the faint of heart.
Besides the chaotic rollout that's confounded bankers and borrowers, demand for the Covid-19 relief loans has been considerable. As of April 9, the U.S. Small Business Administration had processed 587,000 loan applications for a total $152 billion. That's caused many business owners to wonder whether they'll even be able to access the massive program--particularly if their longtime bank hasn't been responsive.
You do have options. Here are some tips for those looking for a plan B:
Tap a community bank.
Your existing lender is often your best resource when applying for Covid-19 relief loans, as banks are typically more responsive to their current customers. That said, you might want to tap a community bank in your area, advises Ami Kassar, Inc. columnist and founder and CEO of MultiFunding, a small-business loan adviser. In his experience--having spoken with hundreds of business owners throughout this crisis--these smaller lenders are getting money out the fastest, says Kassar, who was offering his advice during a webinar co-hosted by his company and Inc. Take note that the bank may ask for you to sign up for a checking account in exchange for a PPP loan. While that's an extra hurdle, at least you'll be able to get the funds you need when you need it most.
Apply with multiple banks.
Ultimately, you should widen your search. Different banks have deployed different resources, and some may be better at handling the influx of loans than others. Beware though, if multiple lenders submit a loan application to the government on your behalf, a fraud alert could be triggered, warns Kassar. So he advises you ask for a guarantee that the lenders will contact you before submitting your file.
Consider alternative lenders.
Fintech companies have long awaited the opportunity to take part in the PPP program; to this point, fintech companies have needed to partner with institutions insured by the FDIC to make the loans. On April 8, the U.S. Treasury finally made an application form available for them to apply and on Friday, April 10, Paypal and Intuit Quickbooks were approved by the SBA to take part in PPP. According to CNBC, in addition to acting as a direct lender, Intuit QuickBooks will process payroll information. Currently, according to Kassar, Fundera.com also has sources for loans, though he adds that the company currently has a long waiting list.
Of course, it's smart to be cautious about something that looks too good to be true. While plenty of alternative lenders are perfectly legitimate, many aren't. And this program in particular is expected to attract ample scammers. So beware, says Molly Day, a spokesperson for the National Small Business Association, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C. "Be careful with who you work with and who you trust."