Two low-interest loan programs that are among the myriad measures in last week's $2.2 trillion federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act economic rescue/stimulus bill figure to be useful to many Bay Area small businesses, nonprofits and other organizations, members of a recent local business panel said.
During a "telephone town hall" meeting Tuesday convened by state Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, three small business experts said the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the economic injury disaster loan (EIDL, or "idle") contain some key differences, but both should provide some help for businesses beleaguered by the loss of customers (and sometimes employees) who've been told to stay home.
"The lenders don't have all the information yet, but we're hoping that these will be available by the end of this week," said Zae Perrin, president and CEO of the Danville Area Chamber of Commerce.
He was one participant of the discussion as part of Glazer's eighth "telephone town hall" in which area experts on various topics come together and discuss and answer questions.
Both of these loans are overseen by the federal Small Business Administration, with SBA-approved lenders providing the money.
The PPP, newly created as part of the massive stimulus package, is designed for small businesses with fewer than 500 employees, and includes sole proprietorships, independent contractors, self-employed people, various "gig economy" workers, private nonprofit organizations, 501(c)(19) veterans' organizations and churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship affected by the COVID-19 coronavirus. That money can be spent on payroll, health insurance, utilities and other business-related expenses.
The EIDL loans are not new, but a new facet of EIDL written into the stimulus package offers the self-employed and small business owners a $10,000 advance on a loan that doesn't have to be paid back, even if the loan itself isn't approved.
Applications for the PPP loans should be open starting Friday, said Scott Rogalski, associate director of the Northern California Small Business Development Centers, during the telephone town hall.
And even with $350 billion set aside in the stimulus package, Rogalski said, "It's not a lot of money - it's first-come, first-served."
Glazer's small business discussion went beyond the stimulus package loans. Rogalski said the stimulus bill allows self-employed workers, including independent contractors, freelancers, gig workers and farmers to file for unemployment benefits.
A Bay Area winery and tasting room with 36 acres of its own grapes emailed a question asking whether that temporarily shuttered operation could qualify for an SBA loan.
Mark Herbert, the California vice president for Small Business Majority, a San Francisco-based small business advocacy organization, said wineries with growing grapevines are generally considered to be farms or agribusiness, which aren't covered by these loans. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Herbert said, has separate programs that may be more applicable.
The stimulus bill does include provisions for paid sick leave. Rogalski said businesses with fewer than 500 employees are supposed to be reimbursed by the federal government for paying sick-leave costs, though details of that -- and many aspects of applying for stimulus bill benefits -- are still being worked out.
A sound strategy for businesses that can do it, Perrin said, is to trade in a business model that isn't working for one that does, especially in the fast-shifting coronavirus economy.
A great example of that, he said, is the Danville-based Choicelunch. That is a business that since 1992 has been assembling lunches for schools. When all the area schools closed a few weeks ago and that business dried up, the company pivoted to doing drive-up grocery service.
"It transformed to meet a community need," Perrin said. "It's a godsend and an asset."