Help is on the way for some small businesses that are still struggling financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) reopens this month with an additional $284 billion that entrepreneurs can borrow to help keep their businesses afloat. If the money is spent on payroll and other approved expenses, the PPP loan can convert to a grant that doesn't have to be paid back.
Like stimulus checks and increased unemployment benefits, the PPP is one of the economic lifelines federal stimulus laws have created to help families and businesses weather the economic storms the pandemic has caused. While the PPP faced criticisms last year for providing loans to larger businesses that had better ties to banks, the program was still widely seen as a success for quickly getting $525 billion in federal aid out to companies.
When can I apply?
The PPP will begin accepting applications for new loans on Jan. 11 and 13, but those first two dates are available only to businesses applying for federal aid through community financial institutions focused on lending to minority- and women-owned businesses. Lawmakers added these exclusive dates to address concerns that these groups had been disadvantaged during the PPP process last year. According to a recent Associated Press analysis, in previous rounds of PPP funding, businesses in predominantly Black ZIP codes did not receive loans until the final weeks, leaving them desperate for help for months.
The PPP will start taking applications filed through small lenders on Jan. 15 and will fully open to all eligible businesses on Jan. 19, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced. The deadline for loan applications is March 31, 2021, though this round of the PPP could end sooner if all the money has been distributed to businesses.
If you want to apply for a PPP loan, you start the process with your business's primary bank or financial institution. You can also consult the SBA's list of participating lenders.
I got PPP money last year. Can I get money in the second round, too?
If you're a smaller business, yes. The big criticism of last year's PPP was that larger companies grabbed big chunks of money before mom-and-pop businesses could even figure out whether to apply.