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Think PPP isn’t for you? ? Here are six reasons to think again

Yvonne Garcia, Karen Kelleher and Glynn Lloyd

If you are a Black or Latinx business owner, a self-employed woman or a solo entrepreneur, you’ve probably heard that the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the federal government’s pandemic lifeboat for small businesses, is a poor fit for you or your business or nonprofit. Recent program changes intended to address systemic inequities in the program, combined with free help for small and underserved businesses in Massachusetts, mean that minority- and women-owned businesses should take another look before the program sunsets at the end of May.

Let’s start with the perceptions about the program that are getting between you and these federal relief dollars. We’d like to clarify the updated program requirements and dispel some myths.

1. You don’t need employees to qualify. The name of the program, the Paycheck Protection Program, suggests that this program will help only those who have employees. That is not true. Solo entrepreneurs and self-employed people can qualify for PPP loans to replace revenues lost due to the pandemic. And a recent program change will increase loan amounts for many self-employed entrepreneurs.

2. Forgiveness actually makes your PPP loan a grant. Many struggling business owners and nonprofits want to avoid getting underwater with traditional debt and loan repayment obligations. But a PPP loan does not need to be repaid if it is spent on eligible costs. Free advisers are available to help you make a plan to qualify for forgiveness. If you spend some of the funds on ineligible costs, only the ineligible portion becomes repayable — but with very favorable terms:  You’ll only pay 1% interest, you have five years to repay, and you don’t need to provide collateral or put your personal assets at risk.

3. You don’t need to bring your own banker. At the outset of the PPP program, many banks would only take PPP applications from their existing customers. This is no longer true. Many banks are taking applications from non-customers. Better yet, Massachusetts business leaders and nonprofits have come together to provide free help with referrals to pro bono advisors and PPP lender partners through the Massachusetts Equitable PPP Access Initiative, which is supported by Small Business Strong.

4. Immigrant and background-check barriers have been lifted. Until recently, legal immigrants with ITINs and entrepreneurs with student loan delinquencies or with past felony convictions were ineligible for PPP loans. Changes to the program have opened the door to all three categories of business owners in most circumstances.

5. Spent your PPP loan and still need help? Get another one. PPP loans were only intended to cover two-and-a-half months of costs, but the pandemic and related shutdowns have lasted much longer. Since January, businesses with less than 300 employees that have spent their first PPP loan may be eligible to apply for a second one. The easiest way to get one is to reach out to the same lender who gave you your first PPP loan.

6. It seems complicated, but we can help. The PPP application form is only two pages long. Yes, you have to get familiar with program requirements, calculate your loan amount, and only spend it on eligible costs. But we’ve helped hundreds of entrepreneurs with businesses of all types and sizes through the process and we can help you, too. If you run your own business, you’ve done much more difficult things.

Don’t wait to apply. The program sunsets on May 31, and it is possible funds will run out before then. 

The Paycheck Protection Program rollout has been far from ideal for Black, Latinx, immigrant and very small businesses, many of which are the lifeblood of our communities of color. But recent changes are targeted at increasing access for small and underserved businesses. We are working together, along with dozens of partner organizations throughout the commonwealth, to connect eligible minority- and women-owned businesses to these funds, by providing free PPP support for minority-owned and other underserved businesses. Find us at the Massachusetts Equitable PPP Access Initiative,, to sign up for a workshop or one-on-one assistance.

Yvonne Garcia is chief of staff to the chairman and CEO at State Street, a founding member of Small Business Strong. Karen Kelleher is executive director of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Boston. Glynn Lloyd is a member of the steering committee of Small Business Strong and is executive director of the Foundation for Business Equity and Mill Cities Community Investments.