June 02, 2020
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How Maine businesses can navigate federal loan forgiveness

Lori Valigra | BDN
Lori Valigra | BDN
Owner Justin Ward inside Bridgton Books, which he has owned for 26 years on Monday, May 18, 2020. Ward said he hopes he‘ll get full forgiveness for his government loan.

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The first businesses that received loans under a federal stimulus program will be able to start applying for forgiveness for them on June 1, but guidelines released Friday on how to do it have raised more questions.

The U.S. Small Business Administration released the Paycheck Protection Program’s loan forgiveness application and instructions on Friday. Roughly one in 10 small businesses in Maine received a total of more than $2.2 billion in loans in the program’s first round, according to the office of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican who championed the program.

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But the application still is a work in progress, according to a local SBA official, with more changes coming. At the same time, lawmakers are considering changes to the program that would include giving businesses more flexibility to spend the money, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The application asks borrowers to supply payroll and nonpayroll costs including mortgage interest payment, rent and utilities. It also asks for adjustments for full-time worker equivalency and salary or hourly wage reductions. That and additional information will help the lender determine how much of the loan will be forgiven.

The loan program and now the application for forgiveness have been fraught with questions as the SBA intermittently provides more details on its requirements. That ambiguity has left many loan recipients uneasy.

Justin Ward, who has owned Bridgton Books for the past 26 years, said he received a $15,000 loan that let him keep his wife and one employee working to offer curbside delivery.

“I’m a little concerned about the forgiveness,” he said. “But I’m pretty confident I’ll get the bulk back.”

Businesses might want to wait until at least June 30 to start filling out the application. That is the deadline they have to get the same number of staff back that they had before the pandemic, which would increase their forgiveness amount.

Monday was the deadline for most recipients to cancel loans if they believe they will not qualify for forgiveness. On Wednesday, the SBA provided safe harbor for loans of less than $2 million, saying it will assume those borrowers requested the loan in good faith because they needed it.

More information is coming for businesses, including a form that banks need to fill out, Amy Bassett, director of the SBA’s Maine office said. The application from the borrower will be submitted to their lending bank, which will determine how much of the loan will be forgiven.

The bank also must fill out a form and send both to the SBA, which will review them as needed, she said.

“We’re telling people not to jump to any conclusions or request loan cancellations or make final decisions because there is more information to come,” she said.

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