Since the economic shutdown brought on by the coronavirus and the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, businesses have increasingly been turning to Small Business Administration loans to cover payroll and fixed costs like rent, utilities and payments on long-term debt.
Millions of businesses have filed for credit through the SBA's Paycheck Protection Program or Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, but very few are actually approved. Between eligibility restrictions and funding caps on these loan programs, not every small business who applies is going to get the SBA funding it needs. Even fewer will get all of the funding that they request. So, what should they do then?
What are SBA 7(a) and 7(b) loans?
Both the SBA's 7(a) and 7(b) loans are programs that small business owners can use to apply for loans to replace lost revenue. These loans are meant to help businesses avoid layoffs by covering payroll expenses as well as rent, utilities, and other fixed expenses, including payments on long-term debt.
The SBA's 7(a) Paycheck Protection Program loans are issued by SBA-approved lenders, including banks. The funds available through this program are based on a business's payroll expenses and are meant to provide companies with funding equal to eight weeks of wages for up to $100,000 of compensation (annualized) per employee.
The SBA's 7(b) Economic Injury Disaster Loans, on the other hand, are issued directly by the SBA through the agency's disaster loan program. Like 7(a) loans, EIDL funding is usually based on payroll and is also meant to replace eight weeks of wages for employees. However, the EIDL program can also be used to replace lost income for self-employed individuals, independent contractors and gig workers. The program limits loans to $1,000 per employee or $10,000 in total.
Coronavirus loan program limitations
As most business owners are aware before they apply for these programs, both the PPP and EIDL are restrictive. For example, business owners can technically use the funds they borrow however they'd like, but not if they want to be eligible for loan forgiveness later. If they want a chance of their loans being forgiven under the 7(a) program, business owners must use borrowed funds for things like payroll, rent, utilities and interest payments on long-term debt.
Because the EIDL is also designed to help self-employed individuals and independent contractors, it offers a bit more flexibility. Funds borrowed through this program can also be used to replace lost wages for self-employed business owners and contractors so they can pay personal expenses like a mortgage.
So, while these loan programs can help businesses in a big way, they don't cover all of a business's expenses. They also don't help all businesses equally. Owners of some businesses have had a lot of trouble qualifying, and others are only getting a fraction of the funds they need.
These are some of the businesses that struggled to secure funding through the SBA 7(a) and 7(b) relief programs:
- Staffing companies
- Farms, ranches and agricultural operations
Even though the EIDL is supposed to provide support for self-employed individuals, contractors and freelancers, the program greatly restricts the amount of money that can be borrowed. Loan requests must also be supported by documentation such as 1099s, which can present difficulties for some.
What to do if you get turned down for SBA 7(a) or 7(b) funding
Even though many states are slowly beginning to reopen their economies, it's hardly business as usual. Depending on location and industry, many businesses may still be closed and need to remain closed for some time yet.
However, even during the shutdown, business owners have expenses to meet. They need to make their payroll if they don't want employees to leave. They also need to pay rent and utilities, as well as make payments on any other outstanding business loans.
So, business owners who don't get approved for funding through the SBA's 7(a) or 7(b) programs – or only get approved for part of what they need – will need to find a way to secure the funds necessary to make it through the rest of the shutdown and continuing economic slowdown.
Top non-SBA funding options
How to use it
Both employees and business owners can qualify for benefits.
Take out a new card to pay for things like inventory and supplies.
Alternative business loans
|Make payroll, pay for marketing efforts, and expand your business.|
|Personal money||Many business owners have personal savings or lines of credit they can tap to cover funding shortages.|
The SBA has created multiple loan programs specifically to provide relief for companies that have been impacted by the coronavirus. However, these programs won't necessarily replace all of a company's lost revenue, nor will they cover all of a business's expenses. Some of these funding sources may need to be tapped even if a business is approved for SBA 7(a) or 7(b) funding.
Many business owners who have trouble securing funding are having to lay off workers and try to hire them back once they can reopen. What's more, with extra benefits from the federal government, some employees can actually make more money on unemployment than they can working.
Unemployment isn't just for employees, either. Some business owners can qualify for their own benefits if they're forced to close as a result of the pandemic.
Limitations and costs
- You have to qualify for benefits, which can be challenging for business owners.
- There's no cost to employers; in fact, business owners who go on unemployment themselves can expect about $1,000 per week.
- Benefits run out after a set number of weeks. They are currently being extended an additional 13 weeks.
2. Credit cards
Both business and personal credit cards can be applied for and approved quickly. Cards usually don't have super-high limits, but they let you finance certain business expenses, like equipment or inventory, and pay them off over time.
Plus, many credit card companies offer cards with 0% introductory periods that allow business owners to delay paying expenses for months – even a year or more – making this a great option for business owners who need to pay for things like supplies and inventory.
Limitations and costs
- You can only use them to cover certain expenses.
- You need to have good credit to qualify.
- Rates average 18% to 25% after the 0% introductory period ends.
3. Alternative business loans
In these times of uncertainty, it can be difficult to find conventional business loans from traditional lenders like commercial banks. However, alternative loans such as business lines of credit (BLOCs), merchant cash advances (MCAs) and invoice financing products are still largely available. Borrowers should expect to pay higher costs for the financing, but these loans are typically easier to qualify for and provide funding much faster than conventional financing.
Limitations and costs
- You have to find a lender who is still funding.
- Some funders don't offer financing for companies in certain industries.
4. Personal funds
Unfortunately, some business owners don't have enough business credit to qualify for a business loan. Others have already maxed out their business credit. So, when they need capital for their business, they're forced to choose between tapping their own savings and relying on personal loans such as a home equity line of credit (HELOC).
Using personal assets or credit for business is extremely risky. Once business owners use their savings, the money is gone until they save more. When they take out a personal loan, they're personally liable for repayment.
Nevertheless, in certain cases, these options can be ideal for business owners who have the cash or credit to use them. If you need cash to pay business expenses, personal savings can be available as quickly as the same day. Unsecured personal loans can be funded within three days and typically charge lower interest rates than unsecured business loans.
Limitations and costs
- Capital is limited to how much you have saved or what you can get approved for.
- Loans are based on your personal credit, and you are personally liable.
- There are missed returns when you deploy savings.
- Personal loans charge interest rates of 6% to 12%.
- Some lenders charge an application fee.
Through the CARES Act, Congress has authorized the SBA to provide businesses with critical financing through its 7(a) and 7(b) loan programs so they can cover fixed expenses – especially payroll. But not everyone is going to qualify.
If you get turned down for SBA 7(a) or 7(b) funding, that's not necessarily the end. If you are denied funding or only get a fraction of what your business needs, be sure to consider whether one of these financing options is right for you so you can keep your business afloat.