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Can SBA Forgive a COVID-19 EIDL?

No, but Congress can because they did it before.

  • Small Business Owners with COVID-19 EIDLs want their loans Forgiven
  • Facts about the Forgiveness of SBA EIDL loans
  • Congress is Focusing on Fraud, Not Forgiveness
  • Action Plan: What You Can Do
  • You Received a COVID-19 EIDL and You Can’t Pay It Back
  • Resources & References

Business Owners want their COVID-19 EIDLs Forgiven

The question most often asked by Small Business Owners who took an SBA COVID-19 EIDL during the pandemic is this: Why doesn’t SBA simply FORGIVE the COVID-19 EIDL?

The answer is simple: the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) does not have the regulatory authority to forgive Federal debt.  Only one institution can do that, the United States Congress.

In our internet travels we often see frustrated and angry Small Business Owners who want to have their COVID-19 EIDLs forgiven.  In search of answers, these folks often turn to infamous “click-bait” sharks who provide false and inaccurate information, mostly to get people’s hopes up that SBA will forgive these loans.  

We have seen occasionally where an online discussion will include a comment from someone saying something like, “SBA forgave Hurricane Katrina EIDLS!”  Sadly, comments like this add fuel to the false hopes fire because this is actually TRUE.  But we need to look further into how SBA was able to forgive the Hurricane Katrina EIDLS because that natural disaster impacted the future of SBA’s EIDL program in positive and negative ways.

We don’t say that the COVID-19 EIDLs should not be forgiven. 

What we have discussed time and again is the fact that the program does not currently offer forgiveness for these loans. We agree that many small business owners took on this debt “under duress.” Unfortunately, this program exists for exactly the reason that it was used by those small business owners: to assist with lost revenue as a result of a disaster. In this case, the disaster was the COVID-19 pandemic.

We set out in March 2020 to communicate factually correct information for small business owners about federal programs. Having gone through the mortgage meltdown of 2008 through 2010, Trevor knew the amount of misinformation put out by bad players on the Internet would be legendary and would confuse small business owners.

Like everyone else, we did not know where this pandemic was headed, and what the results would be on the economy of the United States, or on the livelihoods of millions of small business owners. But we knew one thing for certain, as Trevor learned during the mortgage meltdown: people would turn to the Internet, they would turn to communities online, they would seek out through desperation accurate information to help them manage the crisis.

We adhere to our original commitment to this day: provide factually accurate information that business owners can rely on for understanding the program, and in their decision-making processes to continue to maintain and grow their businesses.

We believe this commitment proves that we certainly do not trivialize any aspect of the small business owners’ struggle during and after the pandemic. But we will not relent from our consistent messaging that, at the moment, the COVID-19 EIDL loans are NOT FORGIVABLE.  We maintain this position, especially considering the volumes of misinformation here on YouTube and elsewhere on the Internet perpetrated by people who truly want to take advantage of the small business owners’ desperation. 

These unsavory players consistently provide inaccurate and often false information about forgiveness, trampling on the desperation and hopes of small business owners that the loan will be forgiven. These people provide this inaccurate information for one purpose: their own self-interested need to build an audience and earn money off the backs of unhappy small business owners.

If you look at the number of subscribers we have and compare those to many of the other channels, you will see our numbers are substantially smaller. We get that. We understand that not everybody wants to embrace the factually accurate messaging that we present. And we’re OK with that. Just as we were during the COVID pandemic when we provided similarly accurate information to help small business owners navigate the nightmare process of the COVID-19 EIDL program. We gave away accurate truthful and free information day in and day out. We did it here on YouTube, we did it on our blog, and we did it with free consultation phone calls. 

Circling back to the concept of forgiveness, we reiterate our consistent messaging that, if a small business owner truly wants to receive forgiveness for their COVID-19 E IDL, then they should implement aggressive letter writing, phone calls, social media, and texting campaign to their political representatives.

Only the United States Congress has the authority to make some or all these loans forgivable.

We recently researched the SBA’s natural disaster loan program for small business owners in Louisiana in the aftermath of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. We discovered that Congressional legislation passed in 2007 and 2014, allowed $391M of Hurricane Katrina disaster loans to be written off and forgiven.

Facts about the Forgiveness of SBA EIDL loans

Congress controls the purse strings of the United States Government.  Congress directs the government how much money they can spend (see the recent debt-ceiling debacle), and how they can spend it. Congress enacts legislation to provide money for the government to spend, such as the CARES Act in 2020 which provided for COVID-19-related spending, including the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program.

Who created the EIDL and who created the SBA? CONGRESS did!

The SBA EIDL was created in 1953 along with the creation of the Small Business Administration. The EIDL was created to assist Small Businesses to recover from a natural disaster. 

Hurricane Katrina Changed the EIDL Program.

SBA’s mandate from Congress to provide loans for natural disaster areas had a statutory limit of $5M per “jurisdiction.” 

The catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina and the damage caused in Louisiana prompted the representatives, Senators, and Congresspeople, to request that Congress lift the SBA’s statutory disaster loan limit of $5M per jurisdiction. These representatives argued that the devastation was so vast that much more disaster funding was needed.

In 2005, in response to Hurricane Katrina, The Republican-controlled Congress and White House agreed to lift the cap. That was the good news.  The bad news was the removal of the cap came with a requirement: SBA disaster loans could not be forgiven.  

This requirement changed the entire EIDL program to remove forgiveness on future EIDLs, not only Hurricane Katrina loans.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., among others, argued that this ban on loan forgiveness, without subsequent congressional action, was discriminatory.

“We have never imposed this restriction that is in this bill on any community in this country,” Levin said. “We have lent money to Rexburg, Idaho; we have lent money to Johnstown, Pa., we have lent money to Clifton, Az., we have lent money to Albion Borough, Pa; we have lent money to Vassar, Mich., in my home state.  But now we are telling the victims of the worst disaster we have had in this country that the Stafford Act provisions, which, under certain circumstances, could permit the forgiveness of a loan, will not be available to them.”

No matter the entreaties of the Louisiana representatives, the Republicans in Congress held firm to the prohibition on SBA disaster loan forgiveness.

Ultimately, the Louisiana representatives were partly-successful in their request: Congressional legislation passed in 2007 and 2014 allowed $391M of disaster loans to be written off and forgiven.

But that wasn’t the total amount of loans.

It is important to note that not all SBA disaster loans were forgiven.  Total loans for Gulf Coast hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma amounted to $6.3B.  With only $391M forgiven, a large dollar volume of disaster loans remains due and payable to this day.

In 2021, New Orleans District “D” Councilmember Jared C. Brossett sent a letter to President Joseph R. Biden requesting further relief for disaster loans in the form of forgiveness.

For the SBA’s COVID-19 EIDL program to be forgiven, Congressional legislation will need to be proposed and passed.  

Congress is Focused on Fraud, Not Forgiveness

The Small Business Administration, like other Federal Agencies, features a special Office of Inspector General whose duties include auditing the agency to protect taxpayer money, including where criminal and fraudulent activity has impacted an Agency or program.

The SBA’s OIG has made substantial media pronouncements about the dollar value of fraud perpetrated on the SBA’s various COVID-19 programs, including the EIDL. *See SBA OIG report attached in our Fraud vs. Forgiveness download by completing the form below.

Sadly, when compared to the total dollar amount provided to Small Businesses, it is our opinion that OIG’s focus on what will probably be a small percentage of fraud relative to the total funding is a lot of noise about an important, but secondary issue. 

The primary issue facing Small Business Owners is recovery from the pandemic.  
Small Business Owners, focusing on recovery, may be struggling with making payments towards a debt obligation they never wanted in the first place, but had literally no choice but to receive to survive the pandemic.

The SBA’s OIG reporting to Congress is creating, in our opinion, an unreasonable focus on the fraud that occurred. This focus is a distraction from the attention and assistance the Small Business Owners really need: helping them continue pandemic recovery and providing better repayment options.

There are also calls from Legislators for the SBA to enforce repayment of the COVID-19 EIDLs. 

Due to recent complaints from several United States Senators who wrote letters to the SBA Administration that SBA should enforce collection on defaulted COVID-19 EIDLs and PPP loans, there does not currently seem to be a taste in Washington D.C. to allow for forgiveness legislation to proceed.

*See letter to SBA from Senator Joni Ernst attached in our Free Download when you complete the form to the left.

You Received a COVID-19 EIDL Loan and You Can’t Pay It Back: What To DO?

We’re so very sorry when we hear about so many small businesses continuing to suffer due to the economic ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic.  We often hear from business owners who received an SBA COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and now find they cannot repay the loan.  

Sometimes the challenges are simply a matter of cash flow: the business can keep itself afloat, but making the EIDL monthly payment is an additional burden on the income of the business.  Other times we’ve learned the business is hanging on by a thread—still open and operating but doomed to fail soon.  We also hear the terrible stories of businesses that have failed and closed altogether.

We are passionate about Small Business. We’re committed to supporting Small Businesses, so we’re extra level miserable when we hear of the troubles so many folks are facing to keep their businesses alive.

The pressing issue is the repayment of the COVID-19 EIDL: What to DO?

Generally speaking, the Small Business Administration holds a lien against the small business for any EIDL loan greater than $25,000.00.  Should the business fail and default on the repayment of the loan, the business assets become the property of the SBA to dispose of as needed for the purpose of recouping the remaining balance of the loan.

For loans greater than $200,000.00, the business owner(s) have personally guaranteed repayment. Thus, in the event of the loan defaulting due to inability to repay, and after disposing of the business assets to cover money owed, should there remain a balance of money owed, the SBA has the right to obtain a “deficiency judgment” against the business owner(s). That judgment can cause liens to be placed against personal assets, or, in the extreme, seizure of personal assets, garnishment of wages, and withholding of federal benefits, tax refunds, even Social Security benefits payments.

This is serious business. We urge all small businesses with a COVID-19 EIDL to purchase our comprehensive expert guidebook “Post-Closing Blueprint” to understand their responsibilities and to follow our recommended strategies should the loan repayment become difficult to manage. We’re hoping folks will rely on our guide as the primary reference source BEFORE they interact with the SBA to try to resolve the defaulted loan situation.

Based on our recent interactions with SBA as advocates for our clients, we know that SBA is wrangling internally with issues about defaulting COVID-19 EIDL loans. Their procedures are evolving frequently. SBA is developing a response to the ongoing problem of borrowers’ inability to repay their loans.

When all is said and done, even without collateral and without a personal guarantee, a defaulted federal debt is a serious problem.

One word of caution: a lot of the “urban mythology” out there would have folks believing “the SBA is never coming after me and my little business” leading them to simply ignore the debt obligation.   We believe this is a tragically horrible strategy.  The federal government has a long memory, and you don’t want to be on the receiving end of their collection efforts, ever.

Especially as several US Senators are urgently pressing the SBA to aggressively enforce collection on these debts, even those loans for less than $100,000! 

And again, we reiterate to all small business owners in the United States who took a COVID-19 E IDL to save their business: contact your political representatives. Put the pressure on Washington DC to get these loans forgiven.

  • Nine years after Katrina, federal government has forgiven $391 million worth of federal disaster loans.
  •  SBA OIG Report on Hurricane Disaster Loans for Gulf Coast hurricanes. 
  • NEW ORLEANS – District “D” Councilmember Jared C. Brossett Letter to President Biden
  • The Stafford Act: The Stafford Act Public Assistance program provides disaster assistance to States, tribes, local governments, and certain private nonprofit organizations.  FEMA Download
  • Blog written by TREVOR CURRAN. No AI was used in this publication.

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