CINCINNATI — Cincinnati small business owner Tommie Lewis is happy his company could see some relief now that the $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program has been extended by the House of Representatives. But what Lewis isn’t pleased about are all the answered questions the new package poses.
"How much is due back, if it's a loan or a grant, when is it due, and what is the appropriate paperwork to be filed and to whom?” Lewis asked. “Our banking institution? Or to the PPP program? There's still a lot of ambiguity that we're needing some clarity."
Even members of Congress have agreed the rules are confusing.
U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot said the decisions on these issues are anything but final.
"Some will be partially forgiven or some not at all,” Chabot said. “But we think the vast majority should have the loan forgiven so they can invest their money in their small business and supporting their employees."
The extension of the program is designed to help about five million small businesses crippled by the coronavirus pandemic. It was set to expire on July 1, and Chabot said it took a bipartisan effort by Republicans and Democrats who worked together to get the extension passed.
June’s PPP was a lifeline for Lewis’ HR management, diversity and inclusion coaching firm, Make It Plain Consulting. He said the program helped him make payroll and even recruit new employees while his business restructured to serve customers virtually. The COVID-19 pandemic hit his firm hard.
"It wasn't completely lost that (we) weren't able to recoup,” Lewis said. “But, all of it was canceled and or postponed. So for a two-month period we had zero revenue."
The unanswered questions surrounding the newly approved PPP are causing Lewis to spend money only on essentials like rent, utilities and networking support while he waits for clarification. He said he wants lawmakers to consider many stakeholders in the small business community.
"Reconsider opening the PPP programs to take care of the people who run the businesses,” Lewis said. “Businesses cannot run on their own. We need people. We need customers and we need the support of the state of Ohio to not only support our large corporations, which it typically does, but our medium size and more specifically small business organizations.”
The PPP extension passed by the House will extend the relief until August 8. The measure now goes to President Trump for approval.