WILLSBORO — Small businesses eagerly await the next round of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), calling up lenders like Champlain National Bank to apply, but the bank says they can't accept those applications just yet.
"We're waiting for guidance from the SBA (Small Business Administration)," Bank President and CEO Steven Cacchio told the Press-Republican, referring to the federal agency tasked with overseeing both rounds of the loan forgiveness program.
"Through our channels, as far as web, email, things like that, we will be letting (businesses) know that we're ready to accept applications."
Cacchio expected the SBA to issue guidance sometime this week.
Champlain National would make some system updates, including alterations to the pre-existing PPP application, but the president thought the bank would have a quick turnaround.
"We're hoping that within a couple of days (of receiving guidance) we could be able to accept applications."
MILLIONS IN LOANS
The second round of PPP was approved with passage of the latest federal COVID relief bill. It put $284 billion up for grabs through the loan forgiveness program.
The program was expected to help struggling businesses make payroll and cover other expenses during the continued pandemic.
The first round was part of the $2 trillion CARES Act approved last year. Eligible New York State small businesses and non-profits had received approximately 349,000 PPP loans, totaling about $38.7 billion, the SBA reports.
Champlain National Bank was one of several local lenders that had participated. It alone had issued just under $26 million to more than 270 upstate businesses.
Businesses approved for PPP loans last year were eligible to apply again.
This time around, maximum loan amounts were equal to 2.5 times a borrower's average monthly payroll or $2 million, whichever was less. Businesses in the restaurant and hospitality industries were eligible for loans for 3.5 times average monthly payroll.
According to the SBA, borrowers were not required to take as much as they were approved for.
Through the program, lent monies could all be forgiven, if used in accordance with SBA guidelines. Among other conditions, the first round had required that at least 75 percent of loaned funds go toward staff salaries.
Champlain National Bank was now working on the forgiveness portion of its first round of loans. Of the 272, Cacchio said the bank had seen forgiveness on 29 loans so far, equaling $8.6 million.
The program expanded slightly this time, allowing funds to cover expenses for personal protective equipment (PPE), costs associated with outdoor dining and supplier costs, and payroll expenses were to comprise no less than 60 percent of eligible expenses.
Some other changes were made, requiring borrowers have fewer than 300 employees, down from the previous 500, and opening up the program to 501(c)(6) businesses.
Cacchio believed the major change to be the added requirement that eligible borrowers have a reduction in quarterly revenues of at least 25 percent compared to the same quarter in 2019.
"They'll have to show that," the bank president said. "I doubt they'll have 2020 tax returns or anything like that, so it's going to have to rely on information that they produce, showing the change in sales under that quarter."
The forgiveness process for smaller PPP loans of $150,000 or less was simplified, Cacchio added.
"That's a positive."
'DEFINITELY SOME NEED'
While Champlain National Bank had shifted some staff around, causing some to work extended hours, to make time for the loan forgiveness program, Cacchio said the bank never considered opting out of the second round of PPP.
"We're here to support our local businesses," he said. "There is no way that we could make that decision."
The bank president believed the added requirements would exclude some North Country businesses from reapplying, but felt more than half would again qualify. He pointed to certain sectors that he felt were really hurting for the funds, including restaurants and dining, as well as the hospitality industry.
"Anything that was required during the shutdowns to close have been significantly impacted," he said.
"There is definitely some need."
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