On May 22, 2020, the U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) posted a fourteenth Interim Final Rule on Loan Forgiveness. This Interim Final Rule supplements previously posted interim final rules in order to help PPP borrowers prepare and submit loan forgiveness applications, help PPP lenders who will be making the loan forgiveness decisions, and inform borrowers and lenders of the SBA’s process for reviewing PPP loan applications and loan forgiveness applications. This rule is being issued to allow for immediate implementation of the forgiveness component of the program.
Our summary will focus on the sections of this Interim Final Rule which supplement previous regulations and guidance on discrete issues related to loan forgiveness:
Section 1 reminds borrowers of the costs incurred or paid during the covered period which are eligible for forgiveness:
- Payroll Costs: Payroll costs consist of compensation to employees (whose principal place of residence is the United States) in the form of salary, wages, commissions, or similar compensation; cash tips or the equivalent (based on employer records of past tips or, in the absence of such records, a reasonable, good-faith employer estimate of such tips); payment for vacation, parental, family, medical, or sick leave; allowance for separation or dismissal; payment for the provision of employee benefits consisting of group health care coverage, including insurance premiums, and retirement; payment of state and local taxes assessed on compensation of employees; and for an independent contractor or sole proprietor, wages, commissions, income, or net earnings from self-employment, or similar compensation.
- Interest payments on any business mortgage obligation on real or personal property that was incurred before February 15, 2020 (but not any prepayment or payment of principal).
- Payments on business rent obligations on real or personal property under a lease agreement in force before February 15, 2020.
- Business utility payments for the distribution of electricity, gas, water, transportation, telephone, or internet access for which service began before February 15, 2020.
This Interim Final Rule uses the term “non-payroll costs” to refer to the payments described in items 2 through 4. Eligible non-payroll costs cannot exceed 25% of the loan forgiveness amount.
Section 2 indicates to receive loan forgiveness, a borrower must complete and submit the Loan Forgiveness Application (SBA Form 3508 or lender equivalent) to its lender (or the lender servicing its loan). As a general matter, the lender will review the application and make a decision regarding loan forgiveness. The lender has 60 days from receipt of a completed application to issue a decision to SBA. If the lender determines that the borrower is entitled to forgiveness of some or all of the amount applied for under the statute and applicable regulations, the lender must request payment from SBA at the time the lender issues its decision to SBA. SBA will, subject to any SBA review of the loan or loan application, remit the appropriate forgiveness amount to the lender, plus any interest accrued through the date of payment, not later than 90 days after the lender issues its decision to SBA. This could potentially lead to a 150-day lag time between when a borrower submits their application and when the final forgiveness decision is made.
If applicable, SBA will deduct EIDL Advance Amounts from the forgiveness amount remitted to the Lender as required by section 1110(e)(6) of the CARES Act. If SBA determines in the course of its review that the borrower was ineligible for the PPP loan based on the provisions of the CARES Act, SBA rules or guidance available at the time of the borrower’s loan application, or the terms of the borrower’s PPP loan application (for example, because the borrower lacked an adequate basis for the certifications that it made in its PPP loan application), the loan will not be eligible for loan forgiveness. The lender is responsible for notifying the borrower of the forgiveness amount. If only a portion of the loan is forgiven, or if the forgiveness request is denied, any remaining balance due on the loan must be repaid by the borrower on or before the two-year maturity of the loan. If the amount remitted by SBA to the lender exceeds the remaining principal balance of the PPP loan (because the borrower made scheduled payments on the loan after the initial deferment period), the lender must remit the excess amount, including accrued interest, to the borrower.
The general loan forgiveness process described above applies only to loan forgiveness applications that are not reviewed by SBA prior to the lender’s decision on the forgiveness application. In a separate interim final rule on SBA Loan Review Procedures and Related Borrower and Lender Responsibilities, SBA describes its procedures for reviewing PPP loan applications and loan forgiveness applications.
Section 3a indicates payroll costs paid or incurred during the eight consecutive week (56 days) covered period are eligible for forgiveness. Borrowers may seek forgiveness for payroll costs for the eight weeks beginning on either:
- the date of disbursement of the borrower’s PPP loan proceeds from the Lender (i.e., the start of the covered period); or
- the first day of the first payroll cycle in the covered period (the “alternative payroll covered period” which is available for borrowers with bi-weekly or more frequent payroll cycles).
Payroll costs are considered paid on the day that paychecks are distributed or the borrower originates an ACH credit transaction. Payroll costs incurred during the borrower’s last pay period of the covered period or the alternative payroll covered period are eligible for forgiveness if paid on or before the next regular payroll date; otherwise, payroll costs must be paid during the covered period (or alternative payroll covered period) to be eligible for forgiveness. Payroll costs are generally incurred on the day the employee’s pay is earned (i.e., on the day the employee worked). For employees who are not performing work but are still on the borrower’s payroll, payroll costs are incurred based on the schedule established by the borrower (typically, each day that the employee would have performed work).
Section 3b indicates if an employee’s total compensation does not exceed $100,000 on an annualized basis, the employee’s hazard pay and bonuses are eligible for loan forgiveness because they constitute a supplement to salary or wages, and are thus a similar form of compensation. Additionally, if a borrower pays furloughed employees their salary, wages, or commissions during the covered period, those payments are eligible for forgiveness as long as they do not exceed an annual salary of $100,000, as prorated for the covered period. No other limits have been imposed on the payment of bonuses, so the bonus payment apparently can exceed 8 weeks’ worth of the annual bonus amount and still be eligible for forgiveness.
Section 3c indicates the amount of loan forgiveness requested for owner-employees and self-employed individuals’ payroll compensation can be no more than the lesser of 8/52 of 2019 compensation (i.e., approximately 15.38 percent of 2019 compensation) or $15,385 per individual in total across all businesses.
In particular, owner-employees are capped by the amount of their 2019 employee cash compensation and employer retirement and health care contributions made on their behalf. Schedule C filers are capped by the amount of their owner compensation replacement, calculated based on 2019 net profit. General partners are capped by the amount of their 2019 net earnings from self-employment (reduced by claimed section 179 expense deduction, unreimbursed partnership expenses, and depletion from oil and gas properties) multiplied by 0.9235 (i.e. net of 7.65%). No additional forgiveness is provided for retirement or health insurance contributions for self-employed individuals, including Schedule C filers and general partners, as such expenses are paid out of their net self-employment income.
Section 4a indicates that non-payroll costs are eligible for forgiveness if they were:
- paid during the covered period; or
- incurred during the covered period and paid on or before the next regular billing date, even if the billing date is after the covered period.
The example included in Section 4a provides an example of a borrower’s covered period which begins on June 1 and ends on July 26. The borrower pays its May and June electricity bill during the covered period and pays its July electricity bill on August 10, which is the next regular billing date. The borrower may seek loan forgiveness for its May and June electricity bills, because they were paid during the covered period. In addition, the borrower may seek loan forgiveness for the portion of its July electricity bill through July 26 (the end of the covered period), because it was incurred during the covered period and paid on the next regular billing date.
This example allows for more than 56 days of electric costs. The SBA indicated that the 25 percent cap on non-payroll costs will avoid excessive inclusion of non-payroll costs.
Section 4b indicates that advance payments of interest on a covered mortgage obligation are not eligible for loan forgiveness because the CARES Act’s loan forgiveness provisions regarding mortgage obligations specifically exclude “prepayments.” Principal on mortgage obligations is not eligible for forgiveness under any circumstances.
Section 5 indicates that Section 1106 of the CARES Act specifically requires certain reductions in a borrower’s loan forgiveness amount based on reductions in full-time equivalent employees or in employee salary and wages during the covered period, subject to an important statutory exemption for borrowers who have rehired employees and restored salary and wage levels by June 30, 2020 (with limitations). In addition, SBA and Treasury are adopting a regulatory exemption to the reduction rules for borrowers who have offered to rehire employees or restore employee hours, even if the employees have not accepted.
Section 5a indicates employees whom the borrower offered to rehire are generally exempt from the CARES Act’s loan forgiveness reduction calculation. This exemption is also available if a borrower previously reduced the hours of an employee and offered to restore the employee’s hours at the same salary or wages. Specifically, in calculating the loan forgiveness amount, a borrower may exclude any reduction in full-time equivalent employee headcount that is attributable to an individual employee if:
- the borrower made a good faith, written offer to rehire such employee (or, if applicable, restore the reduced hours of such employee) during the covered period or the alternative payroll covered period;
- the offer was for the same salary or wages and same number of hours as earned by such employee in the last pay period prior to the separation or reduction in hours;
- the offer was rejected by such employee;
- the borrower has maintained records documenting the offer and its rejection; and
- the borrower informed the applicable state unemployment insurance office of such employee’s rejected offer of reemployment within 30 days of the employee’s rejection of the offer. This is new guidance and incremental to FAQ #40.
Section 5b indicates that in general, a reduction in FTE employees during the covered period or the alternative payroll covered period reduces the loan forgiveness amount by the same percentage as the percentage reduction in FTE employees. The borrower must first select a reference period: (i) February 15, 2019 through June 30, 2019; (ii) January 1, 2020 through February 29, 2020; or (iii) in the case of a seasonal employer, either of the two preceding methods or a consecutive 12-week period between May 1, 2019 and September 15, 2019. If the average number of FTE employees during the covered period or the alternative payroll covered period is less than during the reference period, the total eligible expenses available for forgiveness is reduced proportionally by the percentage reduction in FTE employees. For example, if a borrower had 10.0 FTE employees during the reference period and this declined to 8.0 FTE employees during the covered period, the percentage of FTE employees declined by 20 percent and thus only 80 percent of otherwise eligible expenses are available for forgiveness.
Section 5c indicates full-time equivalent employee means an employee who works 40 hours or more, on average, each week. The hours of employees who work less than 40 hours are calculated as proportions of a single full-time equivalent employee and aggregated.
Section 5d indicates borrowers seeking forgiveness must document their average number of FTE employees during the covered period (or the alternative payroll covered period) and their selected reference period. For purposes of this calculation, borrowers must divide the average number of hours paid for each employee per week by 40, capping this quotient at 1.0. For example, an employee who was paid 48 hours per week during the covered period would be considered to be an FTE employee of 1.0.
For employees who were paid for less than 40 hours per week, borrowers may choose to calculate the full-time equivalency in one of two ways. First, the borrower may calculate the average number of hours a part-time employee was paid per week during the covered period. For example, if an employee was paid for 30 hours per week on average during the covered period, the employee could be considered to be an FTE employee of 0.75. Similarly, if an employee was paid for ten hours per week on average during the covered period, the employee could be considered to be an FTE employee of 0.25. Second, for administrative convenience, borrowers may elect to use a full-time equivalency of 0.5 for each part-time employee. The SBA recognizes that not all borrowers maintain hours-worked data, and has decided to afford such borrowers this flexibility in calculating the full-time equivalency of their part-time employees. The example does not require rounding to the nearest 10th, but we believe borrowers should apply that guidance included in the loan application.
Borrowers may select only one of these two methods, and must apply that method consistently to all of their part-time employees for the covered period or the alternative payroll covered period and the selected reference period. In either case, the borrower shall provide the aggregate total of FTE employees for both the selected reference period and the covered period or the alternative payroll covered period, by adding together all of the employee-level FTE employee calculations. The borrower must then divide the average FTE employees during the covered period or the alternative payroll covered period by the average FTE employees during the selected reference period, resulting in the reduction quotient.
Section 5e indicates that under section 1106(d)(3) of the CARES Act, a reduction in an employee’s salary or wages in excess of 25 percent will generally result in a reduction in the loan forgiveness amount, unless an exception applies. Specifically, for each new employee in 2020 and each existing employee who was not paid more than the annualized equivalent of $100,000 in any pay period in 2019, the borrower must reduce the total forgiveness amount by the total dollar amount of the salary or wage reductions that are in excess of 25 percent of base salary or wages between January 1, 2020 and March 31, 2020 (the reference period), subject to exceptions for borrowers who restore reduced wages or salaries (see Section 5g below). This reduction calculation is performed on a per employee basis, not in the aggregate.
The example included in Section 5e provides an example of a borrower who reduced a full-time employee’s weekly salary from $1,000 per week during the reference period to $700 per week during the covered period. The employee continued to work on a full-time basis during the covered period with an FTE of 1.0. In this case, the first $250 (25 percent of $1,000) is exempted from the reduction. Borrowers seeking forgiveness would list $400 as the salary/hourly wage reduction for that employee (the extra $50 weekly reduction multiplied by eight weeks). This example conflicts with the language of the calculation provided by the loan forgiveness application, as it reverts to a weekly salary amount as opposed to the annualized salary or wage rate calculation in the loan forgiveness application. We think this is an oversight and recommend borrowers follow the approach in the published application.
Section 5f indicates that, to ensure that borrowers are not doubly penalized, the salary/wage reduction applies only to the portion of the decline in employee salary and wages that is not attributable to the FTE reduction.
Section 5f provides an example of an hourly wage employee who had been working 40 hours per week during the borrower selected reference period (FTE employee of 1.0) and the borrower reduced the employee’s hours to 20 hours per week during the covered period (FTE employee of 0.5). There was no change to the employee’s hourly wage during the covered period. Because the hourly wage did not change, the reduction in the employee’s total wages is entirely attributable to the FTE employee reduction; and the borrower is not required to conduct a salary/wage reduction calculation for that employee.
Section 5g indicates Section 1106(d)(5) of the CARES Act provides that if certain employee salaries and wages were reduced between February 15, 2020 and April 26, 2020 (the safe harbor period), but the borrower eliminates those reductions by June 30, 2020 or earlier, the borrower is exempt from any reduction in loan forgiveness amount that would otherwise be required due to reductions in salaries and wages under section 1106(d)(3) of the CARES Act. Similarly, if a borrower eliminates any reductions in FTE employees occurring during the safe harbor period by June 30, 2020 or earlier, the borrower is exempt from any reduction in loan forgiveness amount that would otherwise be required due to reductions in FTE employees.
Section 5h indicates that when an employee of the borrower is fired for cause, voluntarily resigns, or voluntarily requests a reduced schedule during the covered period or the alternative payroll covered period (FTE reduction event), the borrower may count such employee at the same full-time equivalency level before the FTE reduction event when calculating the section 1106(d)(2) FTE employee reduction penalty.
Section 6 indicates the loan forgiveness application form details the documentation requirements; specifically, documentation each borrower must submit with its Loan Forgiveness Application (SBA Form 3508 or a lender equivalent), documentation each borrower is required to maintain and make available upon request, and documentation each borrower may voluntarily submit with its loan forgiveness application.
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