Your company was among the lucky ones to take advantage of the government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). You received much-needed relief to help your business weather the economic uncertainty ahead. That’s it … call it a win and move on, right? Not so fast.
In the weeks since the first PPP allotment of $350 billion was depleted, public outrage has ensued over large public companies securing millions in loans while hundreds of thousands of small businesses seeking relatively small loan amounts were left in limbo.
We’re all for rallying for the “little guy.” We want neighborhood pubs and salons, local small businesses and manufacturers to pay their employees and survive. Yet, businesses around the globe have been devastated — and most of them are not SMEs. Just because your business is not among the most visible casualties of COVID-19, doesn’t mean you’re not in need of support.
The list of public companies strong-armed into giving back PPP funds continues to grow. Here’s a list of the 40 largest PPP loans disclosed by public companies. After all, this government program was sold to help Main Street — not Wall Street — fight its way back from COVID-19 devastation.
Although your company may not be publicly traded and, therefore, not required to file a public disclosure regarding the PPP funds received, it’s only a matter of time before PPP recipients — and their loan amounts — will be public knowledge.
Should you prepare for scrutiny?
You met the loan criteria, followed the process and certified your need. You participated in a loan program “today” to help you get to a better tomorrow. No one can predict with certainty what lies ahead with this pandemic. Still, media (public) scrutiny may be headed your way. Think how you might respond to the following:
- Even though your business and employees were deemed essential — or continued working from home, you’ve been making money this whole time. Why did you take PPP funds?
- While you haven’t yet felt the financial impact, you know your performance is often a lagging indicator. Why did you deserve the funds when a local restaurant closed due to COVID-19?
- Didn’t you have access to adequate sources of liquidity to support ongoing operations? Why should the government have bailed you out?
- Your business has been around for decades and you live in Indian Hill, couldn’t you have identified another source of funds to make it through the rough patch?
Do any of the questions above make you squeamish? How would you answer them? Have you ever heard of the law of unintended consequences? Maybe you should freshen-up because you may be crossing paths with it soon.
Even if an investigative reporter isn’t tracking you down for comment, you should prepare to discuss — with comfort and confidence — the subject of your company’s worthiness of PPP funds, especially if you don’t fit the quintessential mold of the “little guy.”
The PPP program is evolving in real time and rules are being written (and rewritten) to provide clarity and added restrictions as program complications and loopholes are discovered. Make sure you’re familiar with the latest FAQ published by the Treasury Department. And, then develop your own Q&A.
As with any issue or area of vulnerability faced by a company, you need to plan. Prepare and anticipate the likelihood for tough conversations ahead.