New PPP Rules Changes Give Small Businesses More Options

Bipartisan PPP Flexibility Act Helps Small Businesses Recover from COVID-19

WASHINGTON –The recently enacted Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Flexibility Act provides additional clarity and flexibility for small business owners to meet the requirements of the PPP loan program created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. When the President signed the bipartisan legislation into law, it gave more time and discretion for when and how the loans can be spent to keep employees on payroll and keep up with accounts payable to further assist the nation’s economy’s recovery from COVID-19.

To date the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program has provided more than 4.5 million small business well over $510 billion in potentially forgivable loans, directly ensuring 50 million American workers stay connected to their jobs.

“Small businesses and their advocates at all levels of government have spoken consistently about the PPP; it works and it’s a success,” said U.S. Small Business Administration Regional Administrator Steve Bulger, who oversees the agency’s operations in the Atlantic and Mid-Atlantic Regions. “As we continue to combat the Coronavirus, our small businesses needed more give when it comes to when, where and how to apply. The Flexibility Act puts the decision-making power in the hands of the business owners who know best how to keep their businesses afloat while serving their employees and their customers.”

The SBA will issue rules and guidance, a modified application form, and a modified loan forgiveness application implementing the following amendments:

  1. Extend the loan forgiveness period from eight to 24 weeks after loan disbursement. Borrowers who have already received PPP loans retain the option to use the eight-week covered period.
  2. Lower the forgiveness requirement for borrowers to use 75% of loan proceeds and loan forgiveness amount be used for payroll costs to 60 percent. If a borrower uses less than 60 percent for payroll, the borrower remains eligible for partial loan forgiveness.
  3. Provide loan forgiveness safe harbor based on reductions in full-time equivalent (FTE) employees for borrowers who are unable to return to the same level of business at which they were operating before February 15, 2020 due to compliance with COVID-19 requirements or guidance issued between March 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020 by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
  4. Provide loan forgiveness safe harbor based on reductions in FTE for borrowers unable to rehire employees or hire similarly qualified employees for unfilled positions by December 31, 2020.
  5. Increase to five years the maturity of PPP loans approved by SBA (based on the date SBA assigns a loan number) on or after June 5, 2020.
  6. Extend the deferral period for payments of principal, interest, and fees on PPP loans to the date that SBA remits the borrower’s loan forgiveness amount to the lender (or, if the borrower does not apply for loan forgiveness, 10 months after the end of the borrower’s loan forgiveness covered period).

Additionally, the new rules confirm that June 30, 2020 remains as the last date upon which a PPP loan application can be approved. More than $130B remains in available PPP funding as of June 4.




Surviving COVID-19

Bonnie and Donald Johnston, photographed together on the front porch of their home in La Crosse, Virginia.

In early March, many Americans started hearing more about a novel Coronavirus also known as COVID-19 that was spreading like wildfire across our nation.  Most people didn’t know a lot about this virus and wondered if it would even reach the local people of rural Southside Virginia. 

On March 23rd, VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital admitted the hospital’s first COVID-19 patient; and that patient was La Crosse resident Donald Johnston.  Donald had been fighting a high fever for a few days and decided to make a trip to his primary care physician to get checked out.  During his check-up he was instructed to go to the VCU Health CMH emergency room and get tested for COVID-19; that test would come back positive.

In an interview with Donald, he stated that at this point he didn’t know how sick he really was or the fight he was about to begin.  That fight, would be a fight for his life.

Donald was transported and quarantined in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where CMH doctors and nurses cared for him.  Because of the COVID-19 restrictions, Donald was not allowed any visitors, not even his wife, Bonnie. 

“Every day I felt helpless as I wasn’t able to see him.  We tried to talk on the phone, but Donnie could hardly breathe,” said Bonnie.  “On the 10th of April, my daughter Crystal and I had a video chat with Donnie’s doctor in the ICU.  We were told to prepare for the worst.  I remember that night, not being able to sleep as I kept thinking what am I going to write for Donnie’s obituary.”

Donald would spend 14 days in the ICU. “I don’t remember much about being there.  But I do know that if it wasn’t for the doctors and nurses in the ICU, I wouldn’t be here today.  The doctors and nurses along with God saved my life.”

After leaving the ICU, Donald would be transported to a regular patient room as he was still recovering. Bonnie said, “At this point it was still hard to talk to Donnie, his doctors and nurses were my lifeline to him.  They would call me and keep me updated on how he was doing.  The communication was as good as I could have asked.  The hospital staff was truly wonderful to us.”

On the path to recovery, Donald would spend six more days in his patient room.  He had finally reached the point where he was COVID negative and could be transported to an isolation wing of the Hundley Center where he would start rehab.  Donald didn’t know that the CMH staff had a surprise for him as he exited the hospital.

“When I came out of my room into the main hallway there were doctors and nurses lined all the way down cheering and clapping as I was being transported.  As I got further down the hallway I saw my wife for the first time in weeks.  It lit me right up; I was smiling from ear to ear, but she couldn’t see it because I was wearing a mask.  That was a memorable experience,” Donald said.

Donald would spend the next 24 days in an isolation wing of the Hundley Center.  His goal was to continue to recover and get stronger.  He worked with Hundley Center therapists on a set schedule to rehab his body since his illness had caused him to lose about 30 pounds since entering the hospital.  Donald said, “The Hundley Center staff was very professional.  I really looked forward to my time with the therapists and really enjoyed that experience, they were the best.”  Donald put in the rehab work needed to get stronger and now was finally healthy enough to go home and see his wife.

Donald said, “I had previously told the CMH staff while I was in the main hospital that I’m going to get home to my wife, I’m not dying here, I’m walking out of here.”  After a total of seven and a half weeks in the hospital and Hundley Center, that’s exactly what he did.

“I was discharged from the Hundley Center on May 14th at 11:30 AM.  I remember walking through the doors of the glass window corridor and everyone cheering as I walked down toward the exit.  I turned to the exit door and my wife was right there.  I know I hugged her for at least two minutes.  It’s something I will never forget,” said Donald.

Bonnie said, “It is truly a miracle that Donnie’s still here with me.  I hope the CMH doctors and nurses know how appreciative we are for saving his life.  I don’t think he could have been in a better place than CMH.”

“I’m feeling good and getting better day by day,” Donnie said. “I work in the yard and stay as active as I can.  To survive COVID at the age of 79, I thank Jesus every day.”

VSU Agricultural Researchers Awarded More Than $1 Million in Grants

Researchers at Virginia State University’s Agricultural Research Station (VSU-ARS) were recently awarded $1.4 million in capacity building grants (CBG) from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Dr. Chyer Kim, Food Scientist at VSU-ARS, was awarded $499,644 on a CBG entitled, “Preparing for the Future: Building Capacity for Food Safety Compliance at Farmers’ Markets.” Kim is principal investigator for the project. Dr. Theresa Nartea, marketing Extension agent with the Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) at VSU is a collaborator on the grant along with scientists at Delaware State University (DSU) and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES).

Kim is also a collaborator on a CBG entitled, “Assessments of the Impact of Cryptic E. Coli on Current Water Quality Monitoring and Management,” valued at $435,028. The principal investigator of the project is Dr. Guolu Zheng at Lincoln University. A scientist from USDA ARS is also collaborating on the project.

Dr. Toktam Taghavi, Plant and Soil Scientist at VSU-ARS, is a collaborator on a CBG entitled, “Developing an Integrated Approach to Combat Gray Mold in Strawberries,” valued at $599,905. The principal investigator of the project is Dr. Kalpalatha Melmaiee at Delaware State. Scientists from USDA, ARS, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC) and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VT) are also collaborating on the project.

Additionally, Dr. Rafat Siddiqui, Food Scientist at VSU-ARS, was awarded $65,000 from Abbott Pharmaceuticals, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the U.S., to investigate the modulation of vascular function by nutrients.

VSU-ARS director Dr. Wondie Mersie said researchers are grateful for funding to support new and continued research. “These awards will strengthen the research capabilities of VSU’s Agricultural Research Station as we work and collaborate to find solutions to pressing agricultural issues, such as water quality, food safety, shelf life preservation and how nutrients improve vascular function, Mersie said.

For more information about research at VSU-ARS, contact Dr. Wondie Mersie at wmersie@vsu.edu.

Virginia State University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, marital status, disability, age, sexual preference, political affiliation or any other bias prohibited by Virginia or federal law. Virginia State University is fully accredited by The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award baccalaureate, masters and doctorate degrees.

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