The Paycheck Protection Program, part of the CARES Act, grants loans to businesses under generous terms. Even better, the government will forgive your loan if you meet certain conditions.

Keep in mind, however, that regulations and future adjustments can tweak certain provisions and that there are more details that a qualified professional can help you interpret.

The PPP loans are for small businesses. How do I know if mine is considered small?

You have to be a business or charity with fewer than 500 employees. However, some businesses with more employees may still qualify. For example, in the restaurant and hospitality industries, the 500-employee cap is waived as long as there are no more than 500 employees at any one physical location. The SBA goes into further detail, noting that even businesses with 500+ employees qualify as long as they satisfy the existing statutory and regulatory definition of a “small business concern” under Section 3 of the Small Business Act, 15 U.S.C. 632. Official guidance lists a full range of exceptions.

The CARES Act excludes from the definition of payroll costs any employee compensation in excess of an annual salary of $100,000. Does that include benefits?

No. This refers only to cash compensation. You do not have to count any of the following toward the $100,000 ceiling: contributions to retirement plans, insurance premiums to group health plans, or state and local payroll taxes the business has to remit.

Are we eligible even though we’re a seasonal business?

Yes. A lender may consider whether a seasonal borrower was in operation on February 15, 2020, or for an 8-week period between February 15, 2019, and June 30, 2019.

We work through a PEO. Are we still eligible?

Yes. Payroll documentation provided by the payroll provider that indicates the amount of wages and payroll taxes reported to the IRS by the payroll provider for the borrower’s employees will be considered acceptable PPP loan payroll documentation. For purposes of the PPP, employees of the eligible borrower will not be considered employees of the eligible borrower’s payroll provider or PEO.

We make payments to independent contractors and sole proprietors. Are these payments included in calculations of our payroll costs?

No. Those payments are not considered payroll. However, the independent contractors or sole proprietors may themselves be eligible for their own PPP loans.

Do companies have to apply for the loan in person?

No. Major banks like Bank of America and Chase, for example, have created an online process.

How can my loan be forgiven?

To turn the loan into a grant, you must spend at least 75% as payroll. You are allowed to use PPP loan proceeds for various other expenses, but that portion of the loan will not be forgiven. If the full amount is forgiven, you owe no interest. Any unforgiven portion will accrue interest at an annual 1% rate and mature in 2 years with a 6-month deferment.

It’s also essential to keep an eye on your staffing to be eligible for forgiveness: Your loan forgiveness will be reduced if (1) you decrease your full-time employee headcount or (2) you decrease salaries and wages by more than 25% for any employee who made less than $100,000 annualized in 2019. You have until June 30, 2020, to restore your full-time employment and salary levels for any changes made between February 15, 2020, and April 26, 2020.