GREAT FALLS — Through the second round of funding made available by the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), over $500 billion in loans have been disseminated to thousands of businesses across the state and the country.
On May 15, the SBA released the PPP Loan Forgiveness Application, which will allow small businesses to change those loans into grants, and avoid owing the money that they’ve received through the Paycheck Protection Program back to the government.
“They (the SBA) issued the final interim ruling on how to apply for the forgiveness,” said Great Falls Development Authority Senior Vice President Jolene Schalper. “So, that turns that PPP loan into a grant. It’s an 11-page document, we really recommend that anybody that received a PPP loan, go and read that document yourself. You need to be well versed on it, we think that it’s very important for the borrower themselves to be familiar with it.”
Details, instructions, and the application itself can be found on the SBA and the U.S. Department of the Treasury websites. There are still guidelines that business must have followed when using the funds they received from the program if they want to be eligible for forgiveness.
Among those guidelines are rules for maintaining the number of full-time employees during the Coronavirus Pandemic, and a stipulation that says that at least 75% of the PPP funds had to have been used for payroll-related costs. You can find the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s fact sheet here.
“No, apply to get it turned into a grant, and frankly, our bank and credit union partners that have been doing these loans have been fantastic,” said Schalper when asked if there was any reason why a business would not want to apply for the loan forgiveness. “So, call your bank or credit union, whom you got the PPP loan through, let them know that you want to apply as soon as possible for the forgiveness.”
Just as lenders worked with business to get their loans approved in the first place, Schalper says that they can guide them through the forgiveness process too.
The Great Falls Development Authority has continued to work with businesses during the Coronavirus Pandemic as well, to help them make certain decisions and reach an agreement on what is best for business at a time when many industries have been struggling.
Among the topics that the GFDA offers assistance on is branding, which Jolene says is key to creating consumer confidence to the point where people have a reason to come back into restaurants, bars, and stores while the pandemic still looms.
“I’ll give you an example of a really successful destination brand, and that’s the Sip ‘n Dip. People come from all over the place to go to the Sip ‘n Dip. There’s Montana travelers, Great Fallsians with guests, whoever. They want to go to the Sip ‘n Dip because they’ve created a destination. There’s a lot of businesses in our community that could do that, but might need some help with that, so we are ramping up our staff and getting our staff out there more in order to help these businesses with that knowledge and information and share those best practices so that they can grow their market share, reduce expenses, and then access capital when they need it,” Schalper explained. “We have small business development coaches, advisors, that you can call, that will work with you, that will work with what’s best for your business, and your financial situations.”