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How just a few days cost some small businesses thousands on their PPP forgivable loans

For some of the smallest businesses that applied for forgivable loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, waiting just a few days or weeks would’ve gotten them thousands of dollars more.

But they had no way of knowing what was coming.

The Biden administration in late February announced a slew of changes to the loan program, which offered forgivable loans in return for keeping employees on a company’s payroll, after it reopened in January with $284 billion in funding. Those amendments included an adjusted loan formula that would mean larger amounts for sole proprietors as well as expanded eligibility for small business owners with certain criminal records, were delinquent on student loan debt or were non-citizens.

Missing out on thousands of dollars

The change was critical for the self-employed. In the updated calculation, the SBA uses gross income, or line 7 of IRS Form 1040 Schedule C, as a substitute for payroll costs for sole proprietors, who often have no employees. Previously, the loan formula used net profit, or line 31 on Schedule C, even though that included deductions that meant some got very small loans or were ineligible.

In many cases, the difference amounts to thousands of dollars.

For Sarah Foster, 49, who runs a jewelry and design store in Prescott, Arizona, the new calculation would’ve meant nearly $9,000 more in forgivable funding. Foster applied for a second PPP loan as soon as she could this year and got about $5,250 the first week of March.

Sarah Foster applied for a second draw PPP loan as soon as she could. If she’d waited, her loan could’ve been about $9,000 larger thanks to new rules.
Sarah Foster

That amount was calculated from line 31 on her schedule C. If it had been calculated using line 7, it would’ve been about $14,000, she said.

“That’s huge,” said Foster, of the difference, adding that she was frustrated when she heard about the new rules that changed things midstream. “It would make up for what I was losing, whereas $5,250 doesn’t.”

Some could go back and reapply

Through March 7, the PPP has funded more than 2.4 million loans totaling nearly $165 billion, about 60% of the money allocated this time. Borrowers and lenders have said it’s taken longer to get loans approved, because of increased SBA security measures to prevent fraud.

Some are hoping that the slower process means they still have some wiggle room to go back and apply for larger loans under the new formula.

The SBA told lenders that applications that had been submitted but not approved could be withdrawn so that borrowers could reapply. If borrowers had a loan that was approved but had not yet been disbursed, lenders could cancel it and the borrower could re-apply.

 
It’s going to be heartbreaking, frankly, to some of these business owners.
Chris Hurn
chief executive of Fountainhead Commercial Capital

Even if a loan had been disbursed, lenders could cancel the loan and borrowers could repay the money and re-apply with the new applications, but only if the lender had not yet submitted Form 1502, which includes payment and loan information, to the SBA. Lenders are required to submit these forms to the SBA on a monthly basis, but many send them in more frequently.

If the form has been filed, the SBA said that there is nothing borrowers or lenders can do to take advantage of the new calculation. Loan amounts cannot be increased for sole proprietors in this situation, per the SBA.

This rule isn’t quite fair, said Chris Hurn, chief executive of Fountainhead Commercial Capital, a non-bank lender. The Covid relief bill passed in December made it possible for some borrowers who hadn’t yet received forgiveness, returned all or part of PPP loans or didn’t take the full amount they were eligible for to request that their loan be modified for the difference.

“Why we aren’t doing that for the smallest borrowers is baffling to me,” said Hurn, adding that the rule seems to be favoring larger, more sophisticated businesses. “It’s going to be heartbreaking, frankly, to some of these business owners.”

Mike Kelly may be able to re-apply for a larger PPP loan and take advantage of the recently updated calculation formula for sole proprietors.
Mike Kelly

Mike Kelly, 39, who runs a personal fitness training studio in Springfield, New Jersey, just heard that his lender has not yet filed Form 1502 for the loan he got in February.

That means he could cancel his loan, repay it and re-apply under the new rules. That step would lead to a larger amount. In 2019, his gross income was nearly $140,000, but his net profit was about $34,000.

Under the new calculation, Kelly could get the maximum amount for sole proprietors, which is $20,833. That’s nearly three times the $7,100 loan he got under the old formula.

If he does that, though, he may be cutting it close to the program deadline of March 31. He’d need to have a loan approved by the SBA by that date to make sure he gets the money.

What might change

To be sure, there is a chance that the PPP will be extended. The American Rescue Plan signed into law by President Biden Thursday includes an additional $7.25 billion for PPP, and expands eligibility for the program.

And, on Thursday, bills were introduced in the House and the Senate that would extend the deadline two months to May 31 and give the SBA an additional 30 days to process loans.

If the legislation passes, it could open the door for further changes to the program that may help sole proprietors.

Peggy Russo could’ve gotten nearly four times more forgivable funding if her latest PPP loan was calculated under new rules.
Peggy Russo

But until that happens, borrowers like Peggy Russo are out of options. Russo, 53, applied for a second PPP loan in February to support the childcare business she’s run for 18 years in Eldridge, Iowa.

She was awarded $5,340 – roughly the same amount as her first draw – on Feb 22. Just days later she found out about the updated rules, including the better loan calculation.

Under the new formula, she’d be eligible for a nearly $20,000 loan, roughly four times the amount she was given. She called her lender and her local SBA office to see if there was anything that could be done but found out that her lender had already sent Form 1502, meaning that she can’t go back and re-apply for a larger loan.

“It’s very hard to accept,” said Russo. “I can’t sleep at night – it’s not that I did anything wrong.”

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Drinking, Drunk, Deadly: Know the Signs of Alcohol Overdose

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) offered these reminders about the dangers of alcohol overdose and urged everyone to drink responsibly or not at all.

Binge or high-intensity drinking -- drinking too much too quickly -- can lead to significant impairment in motor coordination, decision-making, impulse control and other functions, according to the NIAAA. Continuing to drink despite clear signs of significant impairment can lead to an overdose.

Signs of an alcohol overdose include mental confusion, difficulty remaining conscious, vomiting, seizure, slow heart rate, and slow or irregular breathing (fewer than eight breaths per minute or 10 seconds or more between breaths). Other signs are clammy skin, extremely low body temperature that might include pale or bluish skin and dulled responses, such as no gag reflex. The gag reflex can prevent choking.

An alcohol overdose happens when there is so much alcohol in the bloodstream that areas of the brain begin to shut down. These control basic life-support functions, including breathing, heart rate and temperature. This can lead to permanent brain damage or death, the NIAAA said.

Binge drinking is defined as having four drinks over a two-hour period if you're a woman, or five drinks if you're a man. High-intensity drinking is two or more times that amount.

Teenagers and young adults are at a particular risk because research shows they often engage in this type of drinking.

Even small increases in blood alcohol content (BAC) can decrease motor coordination and cloud judgment, increasing the risk of injury from a fall, car crash or violence or from engaging in unprotected or unintended sex.

BAC can continue to rise even when a person stops drinking or is unconscious as alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream.

Never leave an unconscious person to "sleep it off," the NIAAA warned.

If you suspect someone has an alcohol overdose, call 911 immediately. Do not wait for the person to have all the symptoms. Be aware that a person who has passed out can die.

Do not leave an intoxicated person alone, as he or she is at risk of injury from falling or choking, including on his or her own vomit.

Be aware that cold showers, hot coffee or walking do not reverse the effects of alcohol overdose and could actually make things worse.

While waiting for medical help to arrive, be prepared to tell first responders as much as you can about what the person was drinking, whether he or she took drugs and any health information that you know about the person, including allergies, medications and existing health conditions.

Keep the person on the ground in a sitting or partially upright position rather than in a chair. Help a person who is vomiting by having the person lean forward to prevent choking. If a person is unconscious or lying down, roll him or her onto one side with an ear toward the ground, also to prevent choking, according to the NIAAA.

 

Risk varies and can be influenced by age, sensitivity/tolerance, gender, drinking speed, medications a person is taking or how much food has been eaten. Opioids, certain sleep and anti-anxiety medications, and even over-the-counter antihistamines can increase the risk of an overdose.

Using alcohol with opioid pain relievers such as oxycodone and morphine or illicit opioids such as heroin is a very dangerous combination, the agency warned.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on alcohol and public health.

 

SOURCE: U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, news release, March 2021

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Pew’s Sandra Eskin named as USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety

The new administration in Washington has yet to name an Under Secretary for Food Safety, but it has named a “power player” as Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety. She can take office immediately as Senate confirmation is not required for the USDA job.

Named in the secondary role at USDA’s Office for Food Safety (OFS) is Sandra Eskin, (above) long known as the food safety project director for The Pew Charitable Trusts. In that role, Eskin was known for bringing diverse parties together to work on common solutions for food safety challenges.

She’s led Pew’s work on food safety in the charitable trust’s campaign to reduce health risks from foodborne pathogens by working with the federal government, industry and other stakeholders to improve food safety.

Until the president nominates and the U.S. Senate confirms a USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety, Eskin will head the OFS, which is charged with carrying out the Biden Administration’s food safety priorities.

Although multiple deputies have served in the past, it’s likely Eskin will replace former Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) Administrator Paul Kiecker, who was “acting deputy” during the transition.

Working closely with stakeholders and food safety partners across government, the OFS provides leadership and vision for its sole agency, the FSIS, to ensure that the nation’s supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome and properly labeled.

Before joining Pew, she was a public policy consultant to consumer and public interest organizations, providing strategic and policy advice on a range of consumer protection issues, including food safety, dietary supplement safety, and food and drug labeling and advertising

Eskin also was a federal government staff attorney, legislative representative for the Consumer Federation of America, deputy director of the Produce Safety Project — a Pew initiative at Georgetown University — and has served on numerous federal advisory committees.

Eskin received her bachelor’s degree in classics and semiotics from Brown University and a Juris Doctor from the University of California Hastings College of the Law.

She frequently comments on food safety issues. Food Safety News has collected several examples of her written opinions that were offered during the past year, including:

  • The Food and Drug Administration’s decision late last year not to order a mandatory recall of yellowfin tuna that sickened at least 50 people in 11 states threatens to undermine a crucial tool of last resort to protect consumers from hazardous food. FDA leaders should reverse course and require that the company responsible for these products remove them from the market.
  • Foodborne Salmonella causes more than 1 million illnesses a year in the United States and is showing no sign of declining. With chicken, the most consumed meat in the U.S. and a significant source of these infections, strategies to reduce Salmonella contamination along the entire poultry production chain could reduce the impact of this disease. No vaccines exist to fend off Salmonella infections in humans, but vaccination programs for chickens and turkeys — combined with other on-farm interventions — have helped significantly reduce contamination from some of the many varieties, or serotypes, that make people sick. This progress is encouraging.
  • Effective efforts to prevent foodborne illnesses require expanded and improved collaboration throughout the food safety system to ensure that emerging pathogens can be spotted and addressed as early as possible. Increased coordination among industry and public sector stakeholders, along with dissemination of identifying information and other surveillance data that can provide critical warnings, is crucial to enhancing the United States’ response to new or growing food safety risks. Without such steps, Americans’ food supply will remain unacceptably vulnerable to contamination by new strains of bacteria and other pathogens.
  • The Food and Drug Administration unveiled a blueprint on July 13 for its plans to improve food safety over the next decade amid a host of challenges, among them recurring disease outbreaks linked to leafy greens and changes in the ways that food reaches consumers. Titled “New Era of Smarter Food Safety,” the document emphasizes the central role of root cause analysis (RCA) in developing stronger systems to reduce contamination and human illness.
  • Dangerous E. coli bacteria that caused three foodborne illness outbreaks in late 2019 most likely came from cattle that grazed near fields of romaine lettuce or leafy greens, according to a recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration report. FDA’s findings make clear that growers, ranchers, and local, state, and federal agencies must work together to prevent contamination of leafy greens by pathogens commonly present in animal fecal matter. This food safety problem cannot be solved by a single industry or regulatory authority.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack expressed his support, saying “Sandra’s deep experience in food safety will strengthen USDA’s dedication to ensuring a safe, secure food supply for consumers and help to protect the safety of federal meat inspectors and workers throughout the food chain.”

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Without Federal Relief Soon

The National Restaurant Association on Monday issued a letter to congressional leadership urging them to pass a new federal relief bill by the end of the year, bolstered by a state-by-state survey of more than 6,000 restaurant operators and 250 supply chain businesses from across the country.

According to the association’s “COVID-19 Restaurant Impact Survey” conducted in November, 52 percent of Georgia restaurant owners and food business operators expect sales to continue decreasing over the next quarter. As business conditions deteriorate, total labor costs higher than prior to the health crisis, and cold weather making outdoor dining less feasible, 27 percent of owners say they are now considering temporarily closing their restaurant until the pandemic ends. Nearly 40 percent of Georgia restaurant owners don’t expect their business to survive another six months without federal aid coming from Congress soon.

Like so many small business owners reeling from the financial crisis caused by the pandemic, Manuel’s Tavern owner Brian Maloof counted on another round of stimulus money this fall. With business down an average 62 percent and the bar losing around $25,000 per month since April, Maloof told Saporta Report recently it was likely he would close the bar permanently by the end of December. To put it into perspective, a typical December sees Manuel’s generating $310,000 in sales during the holidays. Maloof expects that figure to total just $75,000 this year.

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Atlanta Finally Allows City Restaurants

The Atlanta City Council on Monday unanimously approved an ordinance permitting restaurants and bars to offer seating on city streets to “provide safe, socially distant outdoor dining spaces” during the pandemic.

According to the ordinance, street seating must be located in front of or adjacent to a restaurant or bar and cannot exceed more than 50 percent of the total seating capacity for the establishment. Restaurants and bars can offer on-street dining Sunday through Thursday, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. Atlanta already allows dining on city sidewalks with a permit.

Restaurants and bars submit an application, along with a site plan that includes furniture placement, to the Atlanta Department of Transportation for approval. The on-street dining permit is good through the end of 2021. For now, ATLDOT plans to waive the permit fee.

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Minibar Delivery Service

Minibar Delivery service begins statewide shipping and home delivery of beer, wine, and liquor from Atlanta-area shops next week. A representative for Minibar Delivery says deliveries from the Juice Box in Marietta, Grant Park Market, Candler Park Market, and the Buckhead and Doraville locations of Tower Beer Wine and Spirits should begin Monday, December 14.

Home delivery of alcohol from Georgia gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, brewpubs, wine shops, and package stores became legal in August, when Gov. Brian Kemp signed House Bill 879 into law. Shops like Hop City Craft Beer and Wine, Perrine’s Wine Shop, 3 Parks Wine Shop, Elemental Spirits, and Beer Girl, Growlers and Bottleshop were early adopters of home delivery in Atlanta. Some businesses use third party delivery services, such as Minibar Delivery or UberEats, while others provide delivery as an in-house service.

“We plan to continue to onboard new store partners and increase our on-demand delivery coverage across the Atlanta area and beyond,” the representative for Minibar Delivery says. “Residents outside of the Atlanta area will be able to get wine and liquor shipped within 3-5 days with statewide shipping.”

As with other third party delivery services, people use Minibar Delivery to order beer, wine, and liquor online or via the mobile app from participating shops. An order for home delivery typically takes between 30 to 60 minutes to arrive. People can also schedule deliveries for specific times or set up a weekly or monthly subscription service through Minibar Delivery.

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