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CARES Act loan program applications expected in few days

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Small businesses and qualified nonprofits interested in obtaining some of the federal assistance available to them through the recently passed coronavirus relief bill should be aware that loan applications for many of the emergency programs will not be available until Friday at the earliest, as the federal government works out the details of lending programs.

On Tuesday, Executive Vice President Neil Brady and other leaders affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce outlined some of the provisions of the $350 billion in aid available for small businesses and nonprofits after Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Information is also available on the chamber’s website (www.uschamber.com) and the Small Business Administration website (www.sba.gov).

Payroll Protection Program loans from the CARES ACT are available to employers with fewer than 500 employees, including small businesses, 501(c)(3) nonprofits, qualified tribal and veterans organizations, and independent contractors and sole proprietorships. But officials said they also want organizations to be aware of potential scams about immediate funds.

“As financial institutions, we have to wait for specific guidance from the SBA before we can move forward and we have not received that guidance,” said Eric Tunbridge, vice president of US Bank. “Please be prepared and remind members of your business community that there are a lot of fraud opportunities around. There are a lot of people who are taking advantage of this program and are going to prey on small business owners that are desperate. If you hear from institutions that they are ready to apply for it and they have everything they need and can get you the money in 24 hours, 48 hours, that is not the case. There is not a single lender in the county right now that has the go-ahead to move forward with this program.”

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Jerry Walker of the New Mexico Independent Bankers Association urged people to “double-check” every offer made and to work with their usual lenders.

The Roswell Police Department also has issued a warning on its Facebook page concerning the increased risk of scams, advising people not to give out any information to people calling them to say they are providing stimulus relief funds.

At this time, money for the Payroll Protection Program will be available only through lenders approved by the Small Business Administration. Loan applications for small businesses and sole proprietorships could be available as early as Friday, while loan applications for independent contractors and the self-employed should be available starting about April 10. People are encouraged to apply as soon as possible once loan applications are available.

The exception is the U.S. Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan, which provides working capital loans of up to $2 million and emergency advances of up to $10,000. Business owners already can apply now for those loans on the Small Business Administration website.

The CARES Act includes what is called the Paycheck Protection Program. That is intended to encourage organizations to keep their employees on their payrolls by providing loans to reimburse — and, in some cases, advance refunds — for payroll expenses. Larger businesses and organizations can receive up to 2.5 times their monthly payroll amount, not to exceed $10 million. Independent contractors and sole proprietorships can receive up to $100,000. In some instances, a forgiveness of a portion of the loan is possible.

A Friday webinar hosted at noon by the New Mexico Economic Development Department will provide additional information and answer questions. A call-in number also is available, and the webinar will be recorded for later viewing. For more information, contact Johanna Nelson at johanna.nelson@state.nm.us, or 505-827-0264.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.