Friday, May 22, 2020

17. New news from Washington DC on PPP

In case it's helpful, here are the 'rumors' I've heard about what may be coming
This week auto workers got back to work in Detroit.
down the pike from Washington D.C. in terms of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). 
  • Next week, May 28th, the Treasury is expected to issue more guidance on rules related to PPP forgiveness.
  • No new funding for the PPP program is expected right now. Once the current amount is gone, it's gone.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) may become a deductible expense for tax purposes for businesses.
  • The PPP forgiveness amount will hopefully soon be confirmed by Treasury as tax free.
  • SBA might extend the 8 week covered period into a 16 or 24 week period. They are taking into consideration how businesses may have a hard time bringing back all of their employees if there are still governor's executive orders keeping them closed.


16. Apply for PPP Forgiveness Like a Pro

This week the Small Business Administration sent out Paycheck Protection
Page 1 of the PPP Forgiveness Application
Program (PPP) forgiveness applications and more guidance on usage. You should have received this document from your lender. The 11 page document (see image of pg. 1 here) is basically a 1 page application with many pages of instructions to help you get the numbers right. There are 11 lines requiring numbers, with the 11th being the "Forgiveness Amount" for which you are applying.

This week the SBA also sent guidance about when the eight week "covered period" starts. The period no longer has to start on the day the loan was disbursed. Instead the employer may start the eight week period on the immediately following pay period. So if the loan was distributed April 24 and the next pay period starts May 1, the eight week period may start May 1.

PRO-TIPS:
1. The application provides a worksheet to help you calculate payroll costs. I would augment this with spreadsheets many CPA firms have already developed to assist with PPP payroll monitoring and reporting. CLICK HERE for an example prepared by Capocore Professional Advisors. The slide deck and webinar that goes with this spreadsheet are available on this Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) website.

2. CLICK HERE for a webinar from a month ago with a CPA company provided by SBAM on applying for PPP loan forgiveness. TODAY (May 22) the same CPA company is giving webinar on forgiveness using the new SBA application.

3. Get your documents together. For utility costs this can get cumbersome. Remember, getting government money for free takes an investment of time. For example, your phone costs can be counted as utilities. But you've got to provide (to your banker) phone bills and evidence (statements, receipts or checks) showing you paid those bills. For payroll, do you have a third-party payroll company? Their reports will usually be accepted by your bank. If you don't have a payroll company, get ready to make reports with details on each employee.

4. Are you using a work-share program? I.e. with your state, to allow employees to partially come back on payroll, and also get unemployment insurance? This, in many cases, is good for employees because they will still be eligible for the $600 additional per week, but it's not going to help you get more forgiveness on the PPP. That's OK - being good to your employees is the right thing to do.

5. The big two questions are, did you maintain your employee count and did you maintain wage rates? So the application walks you through calculating whether you reduced your "full-time employee" (FTE) number, which (ironically) can be a decimal. Then it walks you through whether you reduced wage rates. This gets confusing because the application was on a quarter basis (13 weeks) and the forgiveness is on an eight week basis. The instruction from the SBA is now to use annualized numbers for both numbers.

6. Understanding the term "Safe Harbor": This is referring to the fact that SBA said they want you to bring an employee back to the time and wage rates you were paying (pre-February 15) and you have until June 30 to do this. If you do not bring them back to at least 75% of full hours and full wages by June 30, the payroll for this employee does not count towards your forgiveness. For employees that ramp up their time and wage rates over the covered period (reaching at least 75% by June 30), a partial forgiveness amount is calculated. This "partial forgiveness" is the Safe Harbor.

7. How do you calculate FTE? Many CPAs thought that 30 hours/week would be considered 1 FTE. Nope! U.S. Treasury has now confirmed you must use 40 hours/week as the definition of 1 FTE. They do offer a simplified method such that anyone less than 1 FTE can be counted as .5 FTE. If you use this simplified method, you must use it throughout your application.

8. Exceptions to FTE for employees who refuse to come back to work: if an employee refuses to come back to work, or resigned, you do not have to reduce your forgivable amount for this employee's wages (as long as you did not replace them). So for the wages

9. Owners payroll calculation - owners of the business have their wages calculated separately from employees on Line 9. This is totally separate from Table 1 and Table 2 in the Schedule A worksheet. Owners' "pay" will be calculated as 8/52 of whatever was the net income on the owner's 2019 Schedule C. In other words, the pay used to to apply for the loan is the limit of the pay that can be used for forgiveness.

10. Do not rely on your bank to catch calculation errors - this is like doing your taxes. The SBA will come to you, not the bank, with questions.


Thursday, May 7, 2020

15. More Guides on Safe-Return-To-Work

We are excited that conversations are turning more and more towards how to return to work safely. Hopefully, this is a sign that both the health crisis and the economic crisis are beginning to ease. Here in Michigan, the governor announced today that manufacturers (including the big three - GM, Ford, Chrysler-Fiat) can restart safely as of Monday, May 11. See EO 2020-77 here

The Small Business Assoc. of Michigan (SBAM) has created a handbook to help all small businesses think through the range of issues related to safely operating in our new COVID19 world. Click here to download the handbook. Or, as mentioned in the previous post, go to the "Get Back to Work Safely" page on SBAM's website to browse a slew of related resources. 

Today's tip from Brian Calley, SBAM's president, was that every employer should be prepared to be required to take employees' temperatures on a regular basis. The details on how often and what requires a worker to go home are not clear, but buying a lot of thermometers is likely part of the future for any cafe-owner.


Wednesday, May 6, 2020

14. PPP Loans - It's Not Too Late

For any roasting businesses that have pursued, but not received a PPP loan yet, I have some tips from a small business briefing today.

1. As of May 6, $183 billion of the latest $310 billion has been spent. So there should still be some money out there.

2. PayPal comes through! A lot of companies have been successfully switching away from the first place they apply when the first institution isn't able to help them. Today, one story was conveyed of a Michigan business where the owner got started late, just this week, because it was only this week that a customer failed to renew a contract. He started on Monday, May 4, went through three banks where he had relationships, and all 3 said they couldn't help. Then he went through Paypal, and got approved within 24 hours!  Click here for more info on PayPal PPP loans.

3. Another "online bank" that I've heard is helping businesses get PPP loans is NAV. https://www.nav.com/


Monday, April 27, 2020

13. Get-Back-To-Work Resources for Roasters

@lineacaffe and Pinhole Coffee in San Francisco
  • What are the new OSHA requirements as I re-open?
  • What is HR best practice for messaging and managing bringing employees back from stay-home work or non-work?
  • Can anyone help me find PPE supplies?
If you're a roasting company considering opening soon, these are critical and important questions. Check out this new page on the Small Biz Assoc. of Michigan (SBAM) website with many answers and resources:  CLICK HERE. At least in Michigan, a documented "preparedness and response plan" is part of the governor's latest executive order. SBAM believes having this written plan is a good idea. In addition, they recommend writing a communication plan for messaging you will give to both employees and customers.

Also, do not wait until the day before! Start preparing now, so that lack of supplies, facility changes or staff do not hinder you opening by even one day! People need your coffee!!
No longer allowed! Even for take-out, baristas need masks!

Especially challenging is the question of health screening employees as they come back to work. This topic is addressed also on SBAM's page, (click here, then scroll down a bit).


Tuesday, April 21, 2020

12. Roaster Experiences with PPP, EIDL and other grants

Today we'd like to share a few of the roaster experiences we've heard.

Small roaster in SE Michigan has 1 cafe and 15 - 17 employees. All but 4 of them were laid-off at the beginning of the crisis. This business owner (so far) has chosen to:
* Applied for the EIDL Advance grant (no word on that yet)
* Applied for a Wayne County small business emergency relief grant and was awarded a couple thousand from this fund. This was a great relief as it basically paid one more month's rent. Her landlord was unwilling to consider any forgiveness or delay of the rent schedule.
* Did NOT apply for the PPP. Finds the benefit may not be worth the hassle on a number of levels. Not sure about loan forgiveness. Not sure about rules regarding bringing back employees when she's not sure she can employ them safely. Not certain the 8 week forgiveness period is long enough for her to put them on payroll if they are not working.

What impresses me about this roaster, like many I have talked to, is the agility she has shown adapting very quickly to the changing situation. She innovated continuously for weeks, for example, creating a contact-free take out window and beefing up on-line ordering operations. After the store fully shut down, they promoted a weekend take-out event that was very successful.

Another small roaster, south of the Detroit metro area, has one cafe. They remain open for take-out with reduced hours staying open only from 8am - 1pm. On April 14 they launched a web-store for their bags of beans for the first time. The owner's daughter helped him get that launched. The owner applied for and received about $5,000 from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation's emergency fund which are state funds.

A roaster with two cafes, one in Detroit and one in a northern suburb, chose this path:
* Applied for the EIDL and have received the $10,000 advance.
* Applied for the PPP but have not received funds from that one (yet).
* Applied for city-level grants and successfully received funding from those.
* Has been able to make arrangements for some leniency with landlords.
This roaster commented that while his spending is way down now, he's only now getting through paying for bills incurred in March just before the "shelter-in-place" orders were issued.

A St. Louis roaster with three locations has one of them open for pick-up, 8am - 3pm, and the other two are temporarily closed. The situation is dynamic for them, as with everyone, but when we talked on April 7th, the status was:
* Applied for the PPP
* Still considering applying for EIDL and local business emergency grants.
* Considering other SBA loan programs, not just the emergency loans, to help the business expand.
I was struck with this roaster's determination to not give up on business development plans. Slow down, perhaps, but not give up! They also promoted a Saturday take-out event at a store that sold out three hours before they had planned to end!

A New York roaster with 20 stores across Manhattan and Queens has about 200 employees. All stores have been closed and all but a core team of about 5 - 7 people had to be laid-off, which was "devastating" they told me. On top of that, their head of human resources moved to a different company in March and has not yet been replaced. They are still roasting for their wholesale accounts and on-line sales. The representative I talked to was confident that all government programs were being considered for possible fit, but was not aware of which, if any, SBA programs were being accessed. He shared that the company was serious about offering all employees job security. They've sent repeated messages to the laid off staff that the company will hire them back as soon as circumstances allow.

We hope this summary of economic and business realities of different roasters gives some reassurance, "you are not alone"! Pull up those boot-straps!

Monday, April 20, 2020

11. Great Resources and Unanswered Questions

Today we're sharing links to great resources we've found for roasters on the "small business"
Ken Pargulski at Espresso Royale in Whitmore Lake, MI
management front.
  • CPA firm's Q&A on the PPP loan. See especially the section towards the bottom on forgiveness. CLICK HERE  . For a spreadsheet to help you calculate your forgiveable amount, CLICK HERE -- created by CPA firm Capricore.
  • For questions about the weekly $600 additional unemployment benefit, and your costs as an employer, see this website's overview of the DoL guidelines.
  • Comment: the $600/week benefit remains an especially relevant issue for cafe-owners. Several times the advice has been given that you as the employer have the right to essentially threaten to remove that benefit from them, if you prefer to have them come back on payroll. You would do that by offering your employees a job, encouraging them to come back to work, and if they refuse, you need to be sure they refuse in writing. Then you file that with your state and the employees are no longer eligible for the UI benefit. The unanswered question, of course, which worries cafe owners is, "what is the "right" thing to do, not just what is my "right" as an employer?"  Add your comment below on how you will answer this question!


  • Small Biz Assoc of Michigan's (SBAM) COVID19 resources page is curated and updated daily. It's a valuable resource because they add the recordings of all the webinars and daily updates videos they are doing. If your state doesn't have a small biz association that's well organized, check this out! A lot of what they are recommending and sharing is relevant for small businesses across the country.