ST. LOUIS—With the U.S. Senate’s vote last week to approve a House-passed COVID-19 recovery bill, there is now the possibility that some key changes will be made to the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program. The legislation would triple the time allotted for small businesses and other PPP loan recipients to spend the funds and still qualify for forgiveness of the loans, according to news reports. With the Senate approval, the House bill, called the Paycheck Protection Flexibility Act, now moves to the desk of President Trump, who is expected to sign it.
Among the key provisions of the legislation is a change in the threshold on the amount of PPP funds that are required to be allocated to payroll costs to qualify for forgiveness to 60 percent of the loan amount, according to a report by the Journal of Accountancy. (This is a decrease from the previous requirement of 75 percent.)
Following the Senate vote, the American Optometric Association (AOA) advised its members that there are “many areas [of the legislation] that still require clarification.” The AOA noted that it is working to obtain information and will provide rule guidance to members and industry professionals “as soon as it is available.”
The PPP legislation passed in a unanimous voice vote hours after Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin had initially blocked it. The vote had to be unanimous because the Senate is not officially in session, according to the Journal of Accountancy. That meant that any senator could force the matter to be delayed until the Senate returned to Washington with enough members for a quorum and a vote.
According to the AOA, some of the key aspects of the bill are:
- The covered period is extended to 24 weeks. Borrowers who already received a PPP loan can choose to maintain an 8-week covered period.
- Loan payoff period is moved to five years, up from two years.
- Rules regarding reductions of full-time equivalent staff members have been relaxed but not eliminated.
There also are a number of unanswered questions, according to AOA. They include:
- Will owners be able to pay more than $15,385?
- Will non-owners wages increase to more than $15,385?
- Will the loan interest rate change or will it remain at 1 percent?
The AOA said it will host an updated #AskAOA webinar that complements its previous PPP webinars once critical clarifying information is obtained. In the meantime, AOA said members can send questions or feedback to AskAOA@aoa.org.