5 Tips for the PPP from a Mercer Island Business Owner

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An additional $310 billion was added to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) on April 24. The Small Business Admistration (SBA) resumes accepting applications for this federal funding source this Monday, April 27, at 7:30am PST.

If you have not reconnected with your lender about the PPP yet, do so as soon as possible. Likewise, if you have not applied yet, reach out to your bank or find a lender immediately, as these funds will go fast again! You can find a list of eligible lenders using the SBA’s online tool.

Suzanne Zahr, founder and principal architect at Suzanne Zahr, Inc., received her PPP loan earlier this month. We asked her to share her tips for the process. Keep reading for five tips, from one Mercer Island business owner to another.

1] Be prepared.

Lenders require a variety of documents when you submit your application. "I requested info from my accounting manager, CPA, and attorney ahead of time so that all my paperwork was on-hand and ready to upload," says Zahr. She operates S Corporations and was required to submit the following:

  • Payroll documentation (W3 / W2 reports and 941 tax filings)
  • Payroll calculation x2.5 (make sure you understand what does and does not qualify)
  • Summary of health benefits and retirement contributions
  • Business License / Certificate of Formation
  • Articles of Incorporation
  • Bylaws
  • List of business owners
  • Recent meeting minutes
  • Name-change documents (if applicable)
  • Information about affiliated businesses
  • ACH Deposit information

Talk with your accountant, lender, or other financial experts you work with to ensure you have the correct documentation for your business type. Startup425 has also launched new services to assist local businesses on the Eastside during the COVID-19 crisis. If you need technical assistance for the PPP or the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), consider reaching out to one of their advisors.

2] Queue up quickly.

Hop on your lender's application page early to ensure you're in line when the application reopens at 7:30am on Monday. "I literally sat at my laptop refreshing my bank's application page until their link was published [and] then quickly submitted my application of interest," says Zahr.

3] Be redundant, and be a squeaky wheel.

From lack of communication with business owners to application webpages crashing, we've seen many challenges on the lender side during the PPP process. Zahr recommends that business owners continually follow up with their lenders instead of waiting to hear from them. And, if your lender isn't being helpful, consider finding another bank or credit union. "After realizing that my bank wasn’t being as responsive as I’d hoped, I started to ask around to fellow small biz owners to see if they’ve had any success," says Zahr. "I was introduced to a small community bank (one that I hadn’t even heard of prior), and they were the ones that ultimately got it done! I also appreciated having direct access to a live human being instead of just a weblink and emailed form letters."

If you're struggling to find a local lender, use the SBA's online tool: https://www.sba.gov/paycheckprotection/find

4] Borrow only what will be forgiven.

"It's always been my intention to keep my team intact," says Zahr. "This SBA loan will keep us going without depleting our company savings. This allows us to come out of the gate strong once we're released to work safely." The PPP aims to help businesses weather about eight weeks of economic impact and is up to 100% forgivable if you use it for eligible expenses.

However, consider how much debt you take on when accepting funding. "Many [businesses] need this money to ease cashflow concerns, so only take what you need to get by. If you're looking for more than this program provides, seek other small business loan options," says Zahr.

The most recent funding bill also replenished the SBA'S Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, which provides long-term support during the COVID-19 crisis. Learn more about the EIDL here. Businesses can apply for both the PPP and EIDL.

5] Take deep breaths, and know you're not alone.

"Though this health crisis is scary and can cause great anxiety in our small business community, I’m encouraged by the immense support, grace, and camaraderie shown by our competitors, clients, collaborators, and local leaders," says Zahr. "Now that Governor Inslee has allowed Washington to restart construction with heightened safety protocols in place, fellow General Contractors on Mercer Island (led by Jamie Hsu of Lakeville Homes) have banded together in support of obtaining the proper PPE and sharing knowledge through our local industry organizations. At a time when we’ve otherwise been in competition with each other, we’re now arm-in-arm assisting in each other’s re-launch, always with the well being of our collective health and prosperity in mind."

Many thanks to Suzanne Zahr for sharing these tips! She also shared helpful information for local business owners on her blog, and we continue to update Let's Talk with information to help small businesses through this difficult time.

The City of Mercer Island wants to support local businesses during this uncertain time. Contact Sarah Bluvas, Small Business Liaison, at sarah.bluvas@mercergov.org to let us know how we can help.

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