Be Wary of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan Scams – Small Businesses Should Be Vigilant for Scams Promising Help Getting Stimulus Money
On Friday, March 27, 2020, the US President signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law. This legislation contains $376 billion in relief for American individuals and businesses. Parts of that is the $349B Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) which intends to help small businesses pay for payroll and retain employees. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the “Treasury and the Small Business Administration expect to have this program up and running by April 3rd so that businesses can go to a participating SBA 7(a) lender, bank or credit union, apply for a loan and be approved on the same day.”
Today I listed in on the National Small Business Town Hall hosted by Inc. Magazine and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to discuss the Paycheck Protection Program and how small businesses can apply for a loan. The approximately one-hour town hall live stream had a few thousand questions from business owners trying to save their livelihoods. US Chamber Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer Neil Bradley and Marilyn Landis, President and CEO of Basic Business Concepts, Inc. and other panelists clarified how the money can be used, who is eligible, and how to apply.
The loans are meant to be a lifeline for small businesses that have had to furloughed workers for lack of work. They are meant to be easy to get with no personal guarantees or collateral required. Payments are deferred for six months and may be forgiven entirely if the business uses the money for payroll or certain expenses.
But there are doubts as to whether the PPP Loans will provide enough relief to save American businesses. The first-come, first-serve nature of the program could leave some small businesses out in the cold with nothing. This opens up an opportunity for hackers and scammers to take advantage of well-meaning business owners who are struggling to take care of their employees.
This would not be the first Economic Impact Payment Scam – the IRS has warned consumers that there may be a number of Scams exploiting stimuls payments to individuals.
On the live stream Landis and Bradley recommend the small businesses owners be vigilant for future PPP Loan scams.
- The US Small Business Administration (SBA) and the US Treasury are administering this program. Be wary of any other organization working on behalf of the SBA. Go to the Small Business Administration website AmericasSBDC.org for help and information
- Any SBA emails would only come from .gov email addresses
- No one can expedite your loan application. This should not be needed as the PPP Loan can be approved the same day by the lender. It is intended to be fast and simple.
- The PPP Loan application is intentionally simple and is intended for the business owner to complete the application themselves. You don’t need to pay anyone to apply for this program. Although you may want to have your accountant review that.
- There is NO fee or charges to apply for a PPP Loan – this includes your bank. If there is a fee, the bank must pay it.
- Small businesses should only work with existing trusted individuals and banks
- The SBA will not be mailing you to tell you about this program so be wary of any email, phone call, or texts that you may receive offering to help a business apply
- Submit applications online. Email is not a secure way to submit sensitive data. Emails can be hacked or intercepted. They are especially risky if you are not using a secure WiFi network or are sharing your WiFi with employees or customers.
- Email the SBDC with questions
Go to the Small Business Administration website AmericasSBDC.org /https://americassbdc.org/coronavirus-information/ to locate your local SBDC office. There you’ll also find resources on how to apply and dates of future informational webinars. Business owners can also request counseling. According to Bradley the best way to contact them right now is via email as everyone is working remotely.
What Lenders are Accepting Applications Today?
Banks had only four days to get an online application system running that offered same day approval. Today was the first day the program went live and only traditional SBA 7(a) lenders (about 1800 banks) were ready. The loan system is being rolled out in tiers, leaving many small businesses worried they even won’t be able to apply before money runs out. Some business owner on the call complained that banks who were ready were only accepting current customers applications. Bank of America was reported to be the first bank accepting application, but potential borrowers complained on Twitter that they were turned away.
It is hoped that other financial institution’s program, beyond banks, – like credit unions – would be ready rolling out over the weekend. It is expected that the program will expand to include 1099 contractors and some sort of coverage for business owners who do not get paid by check. If you don’t have wage employees, you are probably not captured in what they have opened up for applications today. This needs clarifications.
What is the SBA?
The U.S. Small Business Administration is a US government agency that provides support to entrepreneurs and small businesses. The SBA runs the Office Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Program which offers 63 local and regional offices to help small businesses manage their businesses.