Chris Myers applied for a forgivable loan from the federal government. He's running his business as if the additional lifeline may not be on its way.
"I'm just cobbling enough work together to try covering my studio rent and a little bit of incidentals," said the Baltimore-based photographer. Hospitals and colleges are his usual clients, and he's expanded into taking more freelance photojournalism work with local magazines.
"Hopefully, I don't beat up my bank account too much – 90% to 95% of business is gone right now, so I'm just keeping the lights on," Myers said.
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Myers is among the millions of entrepreneurs who applied for a slice of the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program or PPP. It's been five days since he's applied, and he's still not sure whether he'll receive funding.
The first-come, first-served forgivable loan program dried up on Thursday, April 16 with many small-business owners still uncertain about where they stand.
Some 1.6 million loans were extended as of Thursday, according to Treasury. Three out of 4 loans were for $150,000 and less.
"People are waiting for money," said Michael Maksymiw, partner at Marcum in West Hartford, Connecticut. "They're trying to get this money and pay employees so they can buy groceries and function."
Self-employed people and independent contractors like Myers were at a disadvantage from the beginning, accountants said. For starters, they were only able to apply for the program as of April 10 – a full week after it opened to small businesses.
"This was first-come, first-served and you had all these businesses going into the queue with no banks set up to take the applications" said Eric Hjerpe, CPA at Hjerpe & Tennison in Bloomington, Illinois.
"Independent contractors got screwed on the back end; they go to the back of the line automatically," he said.
Here's where things went sideways for independent contractors and how they should proceed.
Myers applied for the loan via online lender Kabbage on Monday, April 13, submitting his 2019 income tax return.
Treasury didn't release guidance on what indie contractors would need to apply for funding until April 14.
These applicants are supposed to submit Schedule C from their 2019 income tax return and the supporting Form 1099-MISCs that show compensation they received, as well as bank statements.
The new guidance, as well as on-going changes for calculating the loan amount, left entrepreneurs and their accountants scrambling to pull the documents together.
"We have a lot of people who are self-employed and who were left holding the bag," said Dan Herron, CPA and principal at Elemental Wealth Advisors in San Luis Obispo, California. "We got the guidance three days ago and the money's dried up."
Early birds who submitted paperwork too soon run the risk of having their application sent back to them with requests for more data, said Hjerpe.
Further, funding and approval is up to each individual bank.
"Some clients were funded on the same day of approval and others were funded four days later," said Maksymiw.
Accountants report that some banks — particularly community and local lenders – were more responsive to applicants, versus those who went to large national banks.
Ultimately, it's up to Congress whether to pour money back into the program.
Here's what to do in the meantime so that you're ready if there's a second round of funding.