Withum COVID-19 Bill Update – 5/14/2020

May 14, 2020

Guidance on Eligibility – FAQ 46 was released on May 13 (full text below) which provided additional guidance on eligibility. Withum has released an article on this FAQ as well given its importance. Shortly after that, FAQ 47 was released which extended the deadline for those who wish to return their PPP funds to May 18th.

So what are the highlights?

  • Safe Harbor for loans below $2M: The big news is that the FAQ indicates that any borrower who received a loan that was less than $2M is “deemed to have made the required certification concerning the necessity of the loan request in good faith.”  This means that there is effectively a safe harbor in place for loans under $2M and those borrowers should NOT expect to have their eligibility questioned.
  • What about those who gave back proceeds?:  Many Company’s returned their PPP loans because they were concerned or frightened by what they were reading and hearing about eligibility. This new Safe Harbor begs the question:  Can I (and if so Should I) re-apply for my PPP loan if I returned it? We recommend if you want to explore that, you should discuss with your bank. We don’t know if borrowers can re-apply but certainly this FAQ allows for borrowers to feel more comfortable with the process.
  • Important clarity for companies above $2M of loans:  The FAQ provides relief for loans above $2M as well by indicating that while these Borrowers may still be subject to scrutiny regarding eligibility, the recourse for being found ineligible will be repayment of the loan (the SBA will NOT refer the borrower for civil or criminal penalties). Of course, the DOJ could always institute criminal charges on its own initiative, but the SBA is saying they won’t refer the case if the loan is repaid within the safe harbor period. This allows borrowers to at least have the confidence that the penalty is economic (repayment of the loan) rather than punitive. That is a big win for borrowers whose officers/employees have been stressed about this decision while having limited or unclear guidance. Certainly criminal penalties can still be in play for those who did not act in good faith.

“If SBA determines in the course of its review that a borrower lacked an adequate basis for the required certification concerning the necessity of the loan request,SBA will seek repayment of the outstanding PPP loan balance and will inform the lender that the borrower is not eligible for loan forgiveness. If the borrower repays the loan after receiving notification from SBA, SBA will not pursue administrative enforcement or referrals to other agencies based on its determination with respect to the certification concerning necessity of the loan request”

  • Extension of repayment date: The SBA extended the date in which Borrowers can repay their PPP loan to May 18th if they have concluded that they are ineligible. The question now is, why would you? If the penalty for being ineligible is repayment in the future (and is not criminal), and the loan is not personally guaranteed, perhaps the only reason to repay it would be to not saddle the Company with debt.

46. Question: How will SBA review borrowers’ required good-faith certification concerning the necessity of their loan request?

Answer: When submitting a PPP application, all borrowers must certify in good faith that “[c]urrent economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the Applicant.” SBA, in consultation with the Department of the Treasury, has determined that the following safe harbor will apply to SBA’s review of PPP loans with respect to this issue: Any borrower that, together with its affiliates,20 received PPP loans with an original principal amount of less than $2 million will be deemed to have made the required certification concerning the necessity of the loan request in good faith. SBA has determined that this safe harbor is appropriate because borrowers with loans below this threshold are generally less likely to have had access to adequate sources of liquidity in the current economic environment than borrowers that obtained larger loans. This safe harbor will also promote economic certainty as PPP borrowers with more limited resources endeavor to retain and rehire employees. In addition, given the large volume of PPP loans, this approach will enable SBA to conserve its finite audit resources and focus its reviews on larger loans, where the compliance effort may yield higher returns. Importantly, borrowers with loans greater than $2 million that do not satisfy this safe harbor may still have an adequate basis for making the required good-faith certification, based on their individual circumstances in light of the language of the certification and SBA guidance. SBA has previously stated that all PPP loans in excess of $2 million, and other PPP loans as appropriate, will be subject to review by SBA for compliance with program requirements set forth in the PPP Interim Final Rules and in the Borrower Application Form. If SBA determines in the course of its review that a borrower lacked an adequate basis for the required certification concerning the necessity of the loan request, SBA will seek repayment of the outstanding PPP loan balance and will inform the lender that the borrower is not eligible for loan forgiveness. If the borrower repays the loan after receiving notification from SBA, SBA will not pursue administrative enforcement or referrals to other agencies based on its determination with respect to the certification concerning necessity of the loan request. SBA’s determination concerning the certification regarding the necessity of the loan request will not affect SBA’s loan guarantee.

Reminder Section:  (what should I be doing):

  • Call your payroll company about claiming the payroll tax deferrals and employee retention credits that were made available in the CARES Act.
  • Talk to your payroll company about the Sick Pay Bill (passed prior to the CARE Bill).
  • Be in constant communication with your bank (about status of your PPP application).
  • Consider speaking with your bank to discuss changes to terms of existing debt facilities. The banking system remains strong.
  • If you have already applied for the PPP, start forecasting how you intend to spend the funds and how to qualify for the highest amount of forgiveness possible.
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