EIDL Q&A 101

Questions and Answers about EIDL

Small Business Owners have so many questions about the COVID-19 EIDL program such as: 

  • “Are EIDL loans forgiven if a business closes?” 
  • “What happens if I can’t pay back my EIDL loan?”
  • “Are business owners personally liable for EIDL loans?”  

Many business owners reach out to us through our website and our YouTube channel seeking answers to these questions because of our expertise with the EIDL program.

To find the answers to these and so many other questions, the normal course of action would be to visit the SBA website or to call the SBA to ask these questions. 

However, in our opinion, SBA has a terrible reputation in providing clarity about procedures and programs. In our experience working with SBA since 2018, the administration’s communications are simply terrible.

Another aspect to these questions is that each business has a unique “personality.” Answers to questions for any given “unique” business cannot be simple “one size fits all” responses. 

EIDL Q&A 101 blog Nov 27 2023

There’s too much room for nuance and a typical answer to a specific question posed by a business owner must be crafted to include the unique traits of that business.

This has been our experience in working with Small Business Owners and answering their questions during and after the SBA’s COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. No two situations are the same, and we find that our responses to the queries we receive must resonate with each different business situation.

A good example is a defaulted EIDL. The business closed due to no fault of the business owner; these things happen out there in the wide landscape of the small business world. The business has a $500,000 COVID-19 EIDL on the books, but since the business is closed, there’s no way to make payments on that loan. 

The business owner consults with their attorney and realizes that the option of filing two bankruptcies, one for the business and one for the business owner’s personal asset protection, are not viable options, especially on the personal side.

What is the business owner to do in this situation? When calling the SBA, the administration’s response is that the loan must be repaid, one way or another, including assignment to the United States Treasury for collection action by the IRS. 

The loan includes a personal guarantee provision, therefore the business owner is on the hook for full liability to make good on the defaulted loan. But how to repay the loan when the business is closed and has no revenue? How to protect the business owner when personal bankruptcy is not an option?

This is a description of an actual client scenario we’re currently working on here at Aurora Consulting. Through our expansive interview process, combined with the experience of our resident retired Loan Officer, Trevor, we examined the unique circumstances of this business and the business owner to arrive at a solution.  

The SBA provided zero assistance in arriving at the solution, other than a recent change to their collections practices which offered an opportunity to complete our recommended strategy.

We are inundated with questions from Small Business Owners on a weekly basis about the various aspects of the COVID-19 EIDL program. Often, those folks have discovered information from other sources. But too often that information is incorrect or incomplete based on a different business’ different needs. 

As mentioned above, each unique business has a personality all its own, and solutions that work for one business may not work for another.  

The day before Thanksgiving we fielded this question from a comment (note: we’ve not edited the comment below to correct any typos or grammar) on one of our YouTube videos: 

If the SBA did really care and didn’t wanted (sic) us to fail, the least they could do, is wipe all the acrued (sic) interest, my payments are $425 per month and my acrued interest is about $5,000 right now, so basically I’m only doing payments just to cover interest over interest and nothing is going to capital. I tried to do payments for about 5 months, but i gave up…

This comment is an excellent example of the lack of clear information about the loan program available from the SBA directly and, indirectly from multiple internet sources.

First, the SBA is a federal agency and, in the case of the COVID-19 EIDL, they’re a direct LENDER. There’s no “emotion” built into the program to “care” because the SBA is tasked by the United States Congress to first lend the money and secondly, to collect the debt through regular monthly repayments of the loans.

Next, “wipe” the interest is not something the SBA is permitted to do under legislation passed by Congress. The agency has provided deferments of payments for up to 30 months, but the interest still accrues on the loan because it’s a LOAN. It was not a gift or a grant. The American taxpayers funded these loans and SBA is required to protect the taxpayers’ interests to collect repayments, including interest.

Finally, the most challenging part of this person’s comment is the lack of understanding that they are paying some principal on the loan. During the deferment period, no payments are required, but if a borrower makes a payment, the total of that payment goes to the interest only.  Once the 30-month deferment period ends, regular amortization of the loan commences with each monthly payment going towards principal and interest.

We know from our own experiences of questioning SBA that their communications are not always clear on this aspect. And there’s nothing to be discovered on the SBA website that explains this aspect.   Likewise, SBA is not fully disclosing that the deferred interest will be due as a “lump sum” balloon payment at the end of the loan term of 30 years.

In 2021, we created an expert comprehensive guidebook, the “Post-Closing Blueprint.”  The purpose of this guide is to answer all the questions we could anticipate that Small Business Owners would have about the SBA’s COVID-19 EIDL program. 

Whether a business is challenged to repay the loan or has a simple question about how the repayment of principal and interest works, we anticipated these questions and answered them in our guidebook.

We did this for two reasons. First, because we saw how much confusion already existed around the program due to SBA’s poor communications. We knew that Small Business Owners would have these 30-year loans and their questions would come up from time to time.

The second reason we created the guidebook is because our availability would eventually become limited to answer questions like the ones posed above by the owner of the closed business with the defaulting EIDL and from the comment on our YouTube video. 

Currently, we continue to update our YouTube videos with relevant and timely information. We also respond to comments, offer one-hour paid consultations, and offer in-depth consulting. But we won’t be offering these services forever. 

Like so many other Small Businesses, we’ve found that it’s time for us to move on from the COVID-19 EIDL program and find other sources of revenue for our Small Businesses. We have so much valuable information to share with businesses that borrowed money from the SBA’s EIDL program.

Based on our success with obtaining about $70 Million in approved loans for our Clients and our estimate of assisting other small businesses with free advice with another $30 Million in loans, we’ve spoken to thousands of small business owners and hundreds of SBA agents. We worked on hundreds of EIDL files, and we have continued to interact with the SBA and small business owners in various capacities since the program ended in May 2022.

But we won’t be available as an expert resource for more than another year or two.  And these loans are 30-year loans. We’ve answered your questions with expert guidance in our “Post-Closing Blueprint” and we encourage you to purchase the guide as your “on the shelf” handy reference for any time in the future when you might need a simple question answered or when you have a complicated situation arise and you need our guidance before you contact the SBA.

By example, we answered the comment about the accrued/deferred interest and principal and interest payments with an entire CHAPTER in the guidebook.

We anticipated and covered every possible situation and question that could arise.  If you are the kind of small business owner who takes your responsibility under the COVID-19 EIDL program seriously, and you want to properly honor the restrictions and repayment obligations of the loan, our guide is your single-source resource. 

We continue to provide revisions and updates to the guide as SBA develops new responses and procedures. And we’re providing those updates FREE of charge to anyone who purchases the guidebook through December of 2024.

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The Problem with Crowdsourced Knowledge

We believe crowdsourced knowledge can be useful for two reasons ONLY.

    1. Ascertaining general knowledge on a topic with which you’re unfamiliar.  An example is changing a tire on a car.  If you’ve never changed a tire on a car and you either ignore the instruction manual in the glove compartment or don’t have one (you can download it online in most cases), then crowd-sourcing other people’s experiences with changing tires can be useful to the extent that you’ll learn special tips or come to understand the general concepts: jack, bolts, tire pressure, etc.
    2. Obtaining referrals to experts.  After learning of other people’s experiences with changing a tire, you may decide there’s too much at stake—such as the car falling off the jack. For this reason, you may decide to not undertake the job yourself.  You seek out advice from expert providers of tire-changing services.

Both of these concepts are valuable, but should only be used as a starting point if you have absolutely no knowledge or experience of the task or information you’re researching.  Or, if the task is complicated and requires true expert knowledge of the subtleties and nuance of the information.

The starting point of using crowdsourced knowledge can become a “fork in the road” to move forward with the activity you’ve been researching.

You can choose to take the knowledge and seek out an instruction manual for the car you wish to change the tire on.  You can then do the work yourself, guided by the instructions created by an expert—in our example, the vehicle manufacturer.

Or you can choose to conduct additional research on the experts you’ve seen recommended:

    1. You might look up each expert’s online reviews through other platforms.
    2. You might seek out the expert’s professional credentials through government regulatory authorities or check out the professional biography of the expert.
    3. You might ask your trusted circle of friends, family and colleagues if they have used any of the recommended experts to obtain further information and enhance your research.

Using these additional activities, the crowdsourced research can lead you to find a high-quality expert in the area you’re researching.

But there’s a small alleyway off the side of the road where the “fork” in the road lies. We call that “shortcut alley” because too many people don’t want to take on the extra work necessary to find the best results for the information they seek.  Instead, they want the shortest way to solve their problem. 

They’ll take the crowdsourced information they’ve obtained at face value as the be-all and end-all of expertise.

They fail to use the crowdsourced knowledge solely as a starting point, and then do the extra work necessary to gather data and inform the ultimate decision with comprehensive research.

In our opinion, this is a disaster in the making more often than not.  Yes, the crowdsourced information can often be very useful, such as learning to add a dollop of butter to your oatmeal at breakfast.  But when it comes to more complicated topics, the crowdsourced expertise is anything but expert.

We learned this through the pandemic as we sought to provide free expert information to small business owners trying to navigate the United States Small Business Administration’s COVID-19 disaster loan program.  Often, we’d encounter business owners telling us that our information was wrong. They would challenge us with the information they’d crowdsourced.  Our pushback was to say that the experience of one person was unique to that person and that the loan program was too complicated to rely on the one experience of one business owner with their particular scenario.

We continue to encounter these crowdsourced-fake experts as many small businesses fail or continue to face challenges repaying these COVID-19 disaster loans.  The crowdsourced-fake experts would have people believe they can simply walk away from the loan, to either ignore the consequences or, worse, to go about their days thinking, “The government will never come after me.

Because we rail against this terrible advice, we’re sometimes accused of being fear-mongers so we can sell our products and services.

While it’s true that we’re a small business and we have products to sell and services for hire to earn a living, we also give away volumes of free expert advice through our YouTube videos, free downloadable guides, and responses to video comments. Our expertise is derived from our respective careers in the financial services field, from the work we did during the pandemic, and from the ongoing work we do to assist small business owners with their interactions with the SBA post-pandemic.

In today’s New York Times, an article about a basketball player’s dream of owning a home in Canada provides probably the most succinct insight into the reasons why simply “crowdsourcing” your expert knowledge is a failed concept if you don’t do the additional work. This is a tale of the worst aspects of bad crowdsourced experience, and the shortcut mentality that led to a financial disaster.

In the article, the basketball player must vacate the house he purchased because nefarious characters continually show up at the house looking for the previous occupant.  The previous occupant is a person named Aiden Pleterski, a self-styled “crypto king” who declared bankruptcy in 2022, while owing 26.8 million Canadian dollars to more than 150 investment clients.

He’s under investigation for the massive financial fraud involving monies that he is alleged to have stolen from investors.

Pleterski had no professional or educational experience or expertise. In this quote from the article, you can see where Pleterski learned how to become a financial whiz: “Mr. Pleterski said he first became interested in cryptocurrency after using it to make purchases for video games and began trading it when he was still in high school. He started out with money from his family and his earnings as a part-time baseball umpire. His knowledge of trading and financial markets, he said, came from “YouTube videos, Google, quick Google searches.”

“The business, Mr. Pleterski said, operated through his personal bank accounts until December 2021, when he set up his company at the suggestion of a former landlord. His only record-keeping, he said, consisted of his texts and WhatsApp messages with customers. While Mr. Pleterski did create spreadsheets for a handful of customers who demanded them, he acknowledged that the investment return they showed was just “a general ballpark figure” he came up with after looking at his bank accounts.”

We understand that the nuances of some activities, such as interacting with a complicated program such as the SBA’s COVID-19 loan program can make the search for expert knowledge more challenging.  But we’ve too often heard from people—as recently as yesterday, in fact—how they wish they’d found us sooner.

The small business owners we spoke to yesterday are not “shortcut” people by any stretch of the imagination. They had a question during the pandemic about how to properly use the funds their business received from the COVID-19 EIDL program. They sought out expert advice and received a referral to an expert.  But that professional ultimately gave them bad advice, so bad in fact, their business might be in legal jeopardy should the US Government investigate the use of the funds and then discover the improper utilization.

Based on our conversation, we know these business owners were so desperate to get an answer to their question, that they failed to go to the next step of taking their crowdsourced referral to investigate further the background of the expert. They did not read online reviews of that expert’s professional services or acumen.  They did not research the expert’s professional credentials or professional biography.  They simply accepted the crowdsourced recommendation, contacted the expert, and followed his bad advice.

Too often the desperation to resolve a problem quickly can lead to taking shortcuts.

When it comes to your COVID-19 EIDL, there are no shortcuts. The program is complicated and there are substantial real consequences to making bad choices and bad decisions. Whether you need to make a simple change to your business or if you’re facing challenges in repaying the loan, take the time to thoroughly research and locate the expertise you need to make the best decisions possible.

If you don’t invest the time to thoroughly research, if you take a “shortcut” and accept the crowdsourced knowledge as the ultimate expertise, you may discover the car falling on top of you as you try to change the tire with the badly sourced fake expert advice.  

And it’s going to hurt. A lot.