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Legal Alert

COVID-19: Key Business Resources Under the CARES Act

April 16, 2020

UPDATE: As of April 16, 2020, the Small Business Administration is no longer accepting new loan applications for the Paycheck Protection Program after reaching its $349 billion lending limit. Approved applications that remain undisbursed are not expected to be affected by this application freeze, but unprocessed applications will be on hold unless Congress approves additional funding.

President Trump signed into law an updated version of the CARES Act (the "Act") on March 27, 2020. The Act provides an estimated two trillion dollars' worth of relief for individuals and businesses in an effort to mitigate the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Act makes available emergency funds in the form of loans, credits, and grants to businesses of all sizes.

Given the emergent situation, the Act was drafted and passed expeditiously, which resulted in certain provisions (and programs) lacking detail or otherwise requiring further rulemaking. The summary below provides our current understanding of the Act, but as more details are made available (i.e., rules are promulgated by the applicable government bodies and/or insight is gained from our experience with the Act), Maslon will provide updates. 

Update: The summary below has been updated to include information on the Main Street Lending Program announced on April 9, 2020, and to reflect clarifications found within the Interim Final Rule for the Paycheck Protection Program released on April 2, 2020 (the "Interim Final Rule"). The full Interim Final Rule is available at sba.gov.

Scroll down to view the full information on key resources available to businesses, including provision eligibility and processes, or use the below links to go directly to the section which interests you most:

Business Loans

Paycheck Protection Loans for Small Businesses

The most significant financial resource available for small businesses under the Act is the "Paycheck Protection Program" (the "Program"). Employers with 500 or fewer employees can obtain loans under this Program through the Small Business Administration ("SBA") Section 7(a) loan program to pay for payroll costs and other expenses (e.g., interest on mortgage loans and other secured debt, rent and utility costs) from February 15, 2020, through June 30, 2020. Payroll costs include employee salary (up to $100,000/year for an individual employee), wages, commissions, payment for vacation, parental, family, medical, or sick leave, health and retirement benefits payments, and other costs.

The SBA clarified in the Interim Final Rule that payments made to independent contractors do not constitute payroll costs. The SBA clarified in the Interim Final Rule – Additional Eligibility Criteria and Requirements for Certain Pledges of Loans that payroll costs also include partnership draws. Partnerships and limited liability companies filing taxes as a partnership may report the self-employment income of general active partners as payroll costs (up to $100,000 annualized) on a PPP loan application filed by or on behalf of the partnership. A partner cannot submit a separate loan application as a self-employed individual. The Interim Rule is inconsistent on whether the payroll cost calculation is based upon the trailing twelve months prior to submitting a loan application or the prior calendar year. Maslon will provide additional updates as more guidance becomes available.

Loan Eligibility

Loans under the Program are available to the following businesses as long as the business was operational as of February 15, 2020, had employees, and paid wages and payroll taxes:

  • Businesses with up to 500 employees, including part time employees.
  • "Small business concerns" are generally eligible for SBA loans, which are independently owned and operated for-profit companies with a place of business in the U.S. (and that operate primarily within the U.S. or make significant contributions to the U.S. economy through the payment of taxes or use of American products, materials, or labor). This would generally exclude nationally-recognized companies. Whether a business is an eligible small business concern is determined by established SBA regulations, based upon limits on either revenue or employee count. Such limits vary by industry. Refer to the SBA's Table of Small Business Size Standards Matched to NAICS Codes, available at sba.gov.
  • Businesses in the Accommodation and Food Service Industries (e.g., full-service restaurants, hotels) are eligible provided that if the business has more than one physical location, it does not employ more than 500 employees at each location.
  • SBA "affiliation rules"—meaning that the SBA generally counts the employees or annual receipts of a business's affiliates when determining eligibility—are also waived for: (1) businesses in the Accommodation and Food Service Industries that employ not more than 500 employees; (2) franchises; or (3) businesses that receive financial assistance from a small venture investment company licensed under the SBA. For example, if a restaurant owner owns 51% of another restaurant business, the general SBA rule that the employees or receipts of the second restaurant is/are counted in determining the business's eligibility is waived.

Loan Details

  • Non-seasonal businesses (in existence between February 15, 2020, through June 30, 2020) may obtain loans for up to $10 million. However, the amount of the loan a non-seasonable business is eligible for would be the lesser of: (1) The average monthly payroll costs (as described above) during the year prior to making the loan x 2.5; or (2) $10 million. Note, however, that the outstanding amount of any loan made under the SBA's Disaster Loan Program between January 31, 2020, and the date upon which such loan may be refinanced as part of the Program will be added to the preceding sub-section (1), which could further increase the loan money available to a business.
  • Standard fees for SBA Section 7(a) loans are waived for loans made under the Program. The SBA's "credit elsewhere" test (i.e., the requirement that a small business is unable to obtain credit elsewhere) is also waived for these loans.
  • Loans are required to be without recourse, must be unsecured, and cannot require a personal guarantee. 
  • No yearly or guarantee fees for the loan, and all prepayment penalties are waived.
  • The SBA clarified in the Interim Final Rule that the interest rate for a loan is 1%.
  • The SBA clarified in the Interim Final Rule that loan payments are deferred for six months. Interest will continue to accrue during the deferment period.
  • The SBA clarified in the Interim Final Rule that least 75% of the loan amounts must be used for payroll costs.
  • The SBA clarified in the Interim Final Rule that loan maturity is 2 years.
  • Because payroll costs only include employee cash compensation and partnership draws up to $100,000/year, businesses should take care not to use loan proceeds to pay any portion of these items in excess of $100,000. For example, if an employee earns $120,000/year, the employer may use loan proceeds to pay $100,000 on a pro rata basis of the employee’s salary, but must pay the remaining $20,000 on a pro rata basis using other funds. For purposes of loan forgiveness, this means a maximum of $15,385 per individual of loan proceeds may be used during the eight-week covered period.
  • Please note that if PPP funds are used for unauthorized purposes, the SBA will direct businesses to repay those amounts. Knowingly misusing these funds may subject the business, shareholders, partners, and/or members to additional liability, such as fraud charges.

Loan Forgiveness

  • Loans used for eligible expenses incurred during the 8-week period following the date of origination may be forgiven. In addition to payroll costs, eligible expenses include mortgage and other secured-debt interest payments, rent, and utilities, so long as those expenses existed as of February 15, 2020. For non-seasonal employers, the amount eligible for forgiveness is reduced by the following formulas:
    1. For reductions in employees, the maximum amount eligible for forgiveness, multiplied by:
      1. The average number of full-time equivalent employees ("FTEs") per month, calculated by the average number of FTEs for each pay period within a month, for the period between February 15, 2020, through June 30, 2020, divided by either, at the election of the employer:
        • The average number of FTEs per month employed from February 15, 2019, to June 30, 2019; or
        • The average number of FTEs per month employed from January 1, 2020, to February 29, 2020.
    2. For reductions in wages, the amount of any reduction in total salary or wages of any employee for the period between February 15, 2020, through June 30, 2020, that exceeds 25% of the employee's salary or wages during the employee's most recent full quarter of employment before the period before February 15, 2020.
  • Employers who have terminated employees or reduced employee wages may be relieved from these forgiveness reduction penalties if they rehire employees or make up for wage reductions by June 30, 2020. Specifically, the above calculations to reduce amounts eligible for forgiveness will not apply if an employer either:
    1. Reduces its number of employees between February 15, 2020, and April 26, 2020, but subsequently "eliminated the reduction in the number of full-time equivalent employees"; or
    2. Conducts a salary reduction between February 15, 2020, and April 26, 2020, but subsequently raises salaries to pre-February 15, 2020, levels by June 30, 2020.
  • Loan funds used to pay additional wages to tipped employees are also eligible for forgiveness. The Act is unclear if this includes tips and base wages or just base wages.
  • Any forgiven amounts will not be considered taxable gross income.
  • The SBA is required to issue regulations on the specifics of loan forgiveness (and deferment) under the Program within 30 days of the Act's enactment (i.e., by April 26, 2020).
  • The SBA clarified in the Interim Final Rule that forgiveness for non-payroll costs (e.g. mortgage interest, utilities) is limited to 25% of the total amount forgivable.

Loan Process

  • To obtain a loan under the Program, eligible businesses should apply through participating lenders offering SBA loans. In applying, the business must make good faith certifications that:
    1. The uncertainty of current economic conditions makes the loan necessary;
    2. Acknowledge the funds will be used for the allowable expenses (i.e., applicable payroll costs, mortgage, and other secured loan interest, rent, and utilities);
    3. The eligible business does not have a duplicate SBA loan application pending; and
    4. The eligible business has not received any duplicative loan amounts under the Program at any time after February 15, 2020, through the date on which the business obtains a loan through the Program.
  • A business may not obtain multiple loans through the Program for the same purpose (i.e., loans that are duplicative of other loans received under the Program).
  • Self-employed individuals, sole proprietors, and independent contractors applying for loans under the Program are required to provide certain documentation to prove eligibility, such as payroll tax filings, Forms 1099-MISC, and income and expenses from the sole proprietorship. Beyond the additional documentation requirements, the application process for these individuals is the same as for other businesses.

Expansion of SBA Disaster Loans

The Act also expands business access to economic injury disaster loans ("EIDL") through the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program. This expansion will be in effect between January 31, 2020, through December 31, 2020. These types of loans were previously available only for small business concerns, as defined by SBA, but are now temporarily available to business concerns with up to 500 employees.

Loan Eligibility

  • Small business concerns, defined above; or
  • Businesses with up to 500 employees.

Loan Details

  • Unlike the Paycheck Protection Program, the Act does not provide for forgiveness of EIDLs.
  • The amount available under an EIDL is based upon cash flow projections and demonstrated need, with a cap at $2,000,000.
  • Loans may be used to pay expenses incurred in the ordinary course of business. Ordinary expenses include, but are not limited, to:
    1. Providing sick leave to employees unable to work because of the ongoing pandemic;
    2. Maintaining payroll;
    3. Meeting increased supply chain costs;
    4. Rent and mortgage payments; and
    5. Repaying debts that cannot be paid due to lost revenue.
  • In general, existing rules applicable to the terms of EIDLs apply. However, two existing requirements are revised for EIDLs obtained through December 31, 2020. Specifically, for loans made during this period:
    1. Personal guarantees are not required for loans up to $200,000; and
    2. The SBA will not require that the business is unable to obtain credit elsewhere.
  • Interest rates are subject to change, but currently set at 3.75%.
  • Term lengths of EIDLs are either 15 or 30 years.

Loan Advance

  • A business applying for an EIDL in response to COVID-19 may request an emergency advance from the SBA for up to $10,000. The advance must be paid by the SBA to the business within three days after receipt of the application.
  • An advance received does not have to be repaid by the business, even if the SBA ultimately denies the business's application for an EIDL.

Direct Loans for Eligible Businesses

The Act also provides $500 billion for loans, loan guarantees, and investments in the Federal Reserve's lending facilities to support "eligible businesses" particularly distressed by the ongoing pandemic, which include air carriers and U.S. businesses that have not received "adequate economic relief" in the form of other loans or loan guarantees under the Act. Note that loans under this program are not generally available to businesses that may have been adversely affected by COVID-19. Rather, particular industries that are most affected (e.g., airlines) would be eligible. The $500 billion is allocated as follows: $25 billion in loans and loan guarantees for air carriers; $4 billion in loans and loan guarantees for cargo air carriers; $17 billion in loans and loan guarantees for businesses critical to maintaining national security; and $454 billion for loans, loan guarantees, and investments in support of facilities established by the Federal Reserve.

Loan Eligibility

The business must:

  • Be created or organized in the U.S.; and
  • Have significant operations in and a majority of its employees based in the U.S.

Loan Details

  • The loan must be entered into directly by the eligible business as the borrower and cannot be forgiven.
  • The interest rate of the loan must be based on the risk and the current average yield on outstanding marketable obligations of the United States of comparable maturity.
  • Any business receiving a direct loan is prohibited for 12 months after the term of the loan, from:
    1. For any officer or employee whose total compensation exceeded $425,000 in calendar year 2019, providing:
      1. Compensation to such individual over such amount over any consecutive 12 months during the covered period; or
      2. Severance benefits exceeding more than two times such 2019 compensation amount.
    2. For any officer or employee whose total compensation exceeded $3,000,000 in calendar year 2019, providing compensation that exceeds the sum of:
      1. $3,000,000, plus
      2. 50% of the amount in excess over $3,000,000 that the officer or employee received in calendar year 2019.
  • Air Carriers and related contractors (e.g., persons that perform catering functions or other functions at an airport directly related to the air transportation of persons, property, or mail) are subject to the same executive compensation limits outlined above, except that the limits apply to the two-year period ending on March 24, 2022, rather than the 12 months following the term of the loan.
  • Businesses that receive a loan may not conduct a stock buyback beyond the term of the loan, and must maintain at least 90% of its employment levels as of March 24, 2020, until September 30, 2020.

Mid-Size Direct Lending Program (Pending)

The Act also directs the Treasury Secretary to create a program to provide financing to banks and other lenders who make direct loans to mid-size businesses. Additional guidance on this program will be issued by the Treasury Secretary, including guidance that may permit receiving warrants, stock options, common or preferred stock or other equity under the program without triggering an ownership change under Section 382 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (i.e., allowing more favorable treatment and flexibility regarding net operating loss carryforwards).

Loan Eligibility

The business:

  • Have between 500 to 10,000 employees;
  • Be created or organized in the U.S.; and
  • Have significant operations in and a majority of its employees based in the U.S.

Loan Details

  • Loans made under the to-be created program are capped at a 2% (annualized) interest rate. During the first 6 months after a direct loan is made, or for such period set by the Treasury Secretary, no principal or interest will be due and payable.
  • Loans may be used for employee retention purposes, and funds must be used to retain at least 90 percent of the business's workforce, at full compensation and benefits, until September 30, 2020.

Loan Process

  • To apply for a loan under this program, an eligible business must make a good faith certification that:
    1. The uncertainty of economic conditions makes the loan necessary to support the ongoing operations;
    2. The funds received will be used to retain at least 90 percent of the business's workforce, at full compensation and benefits, until September 30, 2020;
    3. The business intends to restore not less than 90 percent of the workforce of the business that existed as of February 1, 2020, and to restore all compensation and benefits to the workers of the business no later than 4 months after the termination of the public health emergency declared on January 31, 2020;
    4. The business is domiciled in the United States with significant operations and employees located in the United States;
    5. The business is not a debtor in a bankruptcy proceeding;
    6. The business is created or organized in the United States or under the laws of the United States;
    7. The business will not pay dividends with respect to the common stock of the eligible business, or repurchase an equity security that is listed on a national securities exchange of the business while the direct loan is outstanding, except to the extent required under a contractual obligation that is in effect as of the date of the Act's enaction;
    8. The business will not outsource or offshore jobs for the term of the loan and 2 years after completing repayment of the loan;
    9. The business will not do away with existing collective bargaining agreements for the term of the loan and 2 years after completing repayment of the loan; and
    10. The business will remain neutral in any union organizing effort for the term of the loan.

Main Street Lending Program

On April 9, 2020, the Federal Reserve announced preliminary details of the Main Street Lending Program, a lending program established pursuant to Section 4003(C)(3)(d)(ii) of the CARES Act, which permits the Federal Reserve to make programs aimed at providing financing to small and mid-sized businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This program offers potential relief for businesses too large to take advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program ("PPP") (which is an SBA-based lending program for small companies). More details about this program can be found at: CARES Act: The Main Street Lending Program Offers Relief for Small and Mid-Sized Businesses.

Tax Credits

Employee Retention Tax Credits

The Act creates a tax credit each quarter to offset 50% of each employee's qualifying wages, including qualifying health care plan costs, on up to $10,000 of wages paid per employee (i.e., up to $5,000 in actual credit per employee). This employee retention tax credit is available for wages incurred from March 12, 2020 – December 31, 2020, but is unavailable for paid sick leave or expanded FMLA wages paid under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Notably, this credit is in addition to the payroll tax created under the FFCRA.

Employer Eligibility

  • The credit is available to employers, who do not receive a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program discussed above, whose (1) operations were shut-down or partially suspended due to a COVID-19 related shut down order, or (2) gross receipts fell more than 50% when compared to the same quarter in the previous year.
  • For employers eligible for the credit due to a decline in gross receipts, eligibility ends with the calendar quarter in which the gross receipts exceed 80 percent of the calendar quarter in the previous year.
  • Private employers of all sizes may apply for the credit; however, employers with more than 100 full-time employees, may only receive the tax credit for employee wages where the employee was not providing services due to one of the reasons listed above. Employers with 100 or fewer employees qualify for the credit, regardless of whether the business is shut down pursuant to a shut-down order.

Claiming Credit

  • The tax credit only offsets employment taxes owed by an employer. To the extent 50% of the qualifying wages exceed the employer's employment tax liability, the employer will be refunded the difference. The Treasury Secretary is expected to issue further guidance, forms, and regulations for these tax credits, including provisions allowing businesses to receive advance payment of the credit.
  • The CARES Act also facilitates reimbursement for employee wages paid pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act ("FFCRA").
  • Employers can claim the credit each quarter they are eligible through December 31, 2020.

Delay of Payment of Employer Payroll Taxes

To provide further assistance to employers, the CARES Act authorizes deferral of 2020 payroll taxes to 2021 and 2022. Half of the deferred 2020 employment taxes must be paid by December 31, 2021. Any remaining amount owed for 2020 employment taxes is due to the IRS by December 31, 2022. Like the employee retention tax credits, this deferral is unavailable to employers who receive a small business "paycheck protection" loan. Note, there is also no provision in the Act that the IRS "trust fund recovery penalty" (which is equal to 100% of unpaid employment taxes) is being altered in any way. This penalty may be assessed against any person (including officers, employees, members, and directors) who is responsible for managing and paying employment taxes on behalf of the employer and who willfully fails to collect or pay such taxes. Accordingly, if a business is unable to pay the deferred taxes after the deferral period (e.g., due to insolvency and bankruptcy), key officers and employees may remain liable for payroll taxes.

Net Operating Losses

The Act also suspends certain deduction limits previously imposed by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), including:

  • Allowing Net Operating Losses (NOLs)—which occur when a businesses's allowable deductions exceed its taxable income within a tax period—arising in 2018, 2019, and 2020 to be carried back for up to five years (under the TCJA, no carrybacks were permitted);
  • Suspending the TCJA's 80 percent cap on NOL carryovers for three years (cap would not apply to taxable years beginning in 2018, 2019, and 2020); and
  • Suspending certain rules relevant to farming losses for NOLs arising in taxable years beginning in 2018, 2019, and 2020.

Additional Provisions

The Act includes a number of additional provisions for the benefit of unemployed workers, financial institutions, community banks, the health care industry (including medical device companies), and borrowers of federally backed mortgage loans. For more information about these and other provisions, reach out to Maslon's Corporate & Securities Group.

We Can Help

Please contact Maslon's Corporate & Securities Group and Labor & Employment Group if you have questions or need assistance taking advantage of the relief provided under the CARES Act.

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