Friday, April 10 was the first day independent contractors and self-employed individuals could apply for loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), but they've had to do it without guidance that had been expected from the Treasury Department.
"We were up late last night, hitting 'refresh' and hoping it would show up," said Neil Bradley, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's executive vice president and chief policy officer. "It didn't."
Bradley was speaking with Inc. editor-at-large Kimberly Weisul during Friday's National Small Business Town Hall. Inc. and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are hosting the weekly live webinars to help small-business owners navigate the quickly changing details of the PPP and the government's other small-business relief efforts.
Register for the fourth in this series of National Small Business Town Halls, at 12 p.m. Eastern, Friday April 17, here: https://events.inc.com/nationaltownhallevents.
Bradley said it appears that independent contractors--who file their taxes using 1099 forms--should apply for the PPP using the same form that small businesses use, and substitute their own income for the average monthly payroll.
One issue still lacking clarity is whether PPP loans received by 1099 workers can be forgiven. "For 1099s and independent contractors, your payroll is your net earnings from self-employment," said Keith Hall, president and CEO of the National Association for the Self-Employed. "It is my expectation, from a practical standpoint, that these PPP loans for 1099 people will be forgiven."
The issue affects a lot of people: Bradley pointed out that 23 million Americans earned income as independent contractors last year.
Earlier this week, the SBA opened up the PPP application process to online lenders, with fintech companies expected to follow in the coming days. Bradley pointed out that those institutions can be good options, especially for securing smaller loans like the ones that independent contractors will be applying for, since they're capped at $100,000 in annual wages.
Bradley added that while it's unclear whether there are restrictions on applying for loans at multiple institutions, it's important not to accept loans from multiple institutions.
A sore subject among business owners recently has been the $10,000 economic injury disaster loan (EIDL) emergency advances, which the Treasury instructed the U.S. Small Business Administration to disburse within three days of being requested. Earlier this week, the SBA placed a restriction that allows businesses to receive only a $1,000 advance per employee.
Bradley also pointed out that for many business owners, EIDL advances are taking 10 days or more to arrive. He said that while the EIDL program currently is oversubscribed, the Chamber is pushing Congress to add more funds to the EIDL pool. Congress allocated $17 billion for EIDLs, but nearly four million businesses have applied, totaling $383 billion. "If it's added, there's no reason the SBA can't increase the loan amounts," he said.
Bradley was asked about the fact that many small-business owners have been racing to apply for the loans under the impression there won't be enough money to go around. "We're confident that before the PPP money runs out, Congress will replenish it," he said. "There's not a risk of small-business owners being left without the ability to get a loan through the PPP program."