Forced to Take the COVID-19 EIDL


We received an inquiry from a Small Business Owner with a COVID-19 EIDL. Her (unedited) inquiry reads as follows: 

“I was forced when I feel under duress during Covid to accept a loan from the SBA that I did not want to be forced into simply because the workers I had were independent contractors versus employees. The nature of my business is most of the instructors will not be employees. They are independent contractors so we are in a bind. If I did not accept the loan, my business would have immediately collapsed, and I would have lost all of my students and the instructors as well. Do you offer assistance with this to avoid bankruptcy.”

We’re passionate in our commitment to supporting Small Business. That’s why we give away a lot of free expert information and advice. It’s why we offer a one-hour paid consultation call where you can speak directly with Trevor, pick his brain, gain some clarity, and, sometimes, he’ll call the SBA with you on the line to help with challenging situations or questions.

The business owner quoted above never followed up with us to book the one-hour paid consultation call. It’s a shame because we would have done two things to help. 

First, we would’ve explained the process of remediation on the repayment of the COVID-19 EIDL, with a focus on avoiding default and bankruptcy. Second, as we’ve seen in many of our calls, we would have provided some relief and in fact, other business owners have often said at the end of the call, “I feel so much calmer now.

Trevor was a Mortgage Banker for 30 years. He learned a long time ago how to explain complicated financial procedural concepts to Clients, and how to remove emotion from the process. But let’s address something in the quoted message above about being “forced into” accepting the SBA’s COVID-19 EIDL.

First and foremost, no one forced anyone to take those funds. The application process was 100% voluntary based on need. If you needed the support immediately or thought you might need it soon, the funds were there for you to request.

Next, it appears the business was not eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan(s) due to the nature of the employment relationship between the business and its workforce. 

The business owner states that the instructors for the business are not employees, they are independent contractors. She states that “…the nature of my business is most of the instructors will not be employees.

Let’s review and discuss these concepts and challenges.

The SBA’s PPP loan became available through approved Lenders as a result of legislation included by Congress in the COVID CARES Act. The PPP provided a low-interest rate of 1%. If the PPP loan was issued prior to June 5, 2020, it would have a two-year repayment term. After June 5, 2020, the repayment term is five years.

The program provided for 100% Forgiveness of the loan, essentially making this a “grant” of sorts. The purpose of the program was to keep people paid as employees, not needing to request Unemployment benefits. 

For example, if your business was required to close to the public or to staff due to state-mandated pandemic lockdowns, the Congress of the United States wanted your business to continue to pay your employees their salaries as if the business was open.

The loan solved two problems. 

First, avoiding the government process of Unemployment benefits both in terms of cost to the government and access to receive those benefits by the unemployed workers. In other words, the employee would still get their regular paycheck, and not have to go through the worry and wait for an approval of the unemployment benefits.

Second, the business could maintain its staffing so that, once lockdowns were lifted, the business wouldn’t have to go out to find new employees and replace departed employees.

While we worked to help our clients obtain approvals for the SBA’s COVID-19 EIDL program as paid consultants/preparers, we provided a courtesy service to many of those clients to process their PPP loan applications. We were not permitted by law to charge a fee for assisting. We processed several dozen PPP loans.

One issue that kept coming up during our review of the eligibility of a client’s PPP application was this misunderstanding of employee versus independent contractor. When we asked the question, “How many F/T employees does the business employ?” we would get an answer, for example, “9 employees, not including me (the business owner).” 

When we reviewed the business tax returns, under the line for “Salaries/Wages” we’d often see that line item blank. That means no W2 employees. That means the “9 employees” are not actually employees; they’re independent contractors. 

And, sure enough, on the line of the tax return for “Contract labor” there would be a dollar amount entered.

We’d have to call the business owner to explain the difference of employment classification and the reason why the business was not eligible for the PPP loan. We explained how the independent contractors working for the business would need to apply for their own, individual PPP loans because they were essentially small businesses.

Many of the business owners pushed back on our assertions of the ineligibility for the PPP loan. “But they work for me” was a common response. Okay, well, by itself, that’s a violation of IRS and Department of Labor employee classification rules. Let’s set that aside for now. 

In that particular moment, we attempted to request PPP loan assistance, and it didn’t matter what the business owner thought about their relationship to the people who worked for the business. They were not employees, thus, no PPP loan.

The proceeds of the SBA’s COVID-19 EIDL could be used to pay employees. The program’s purpose is to provide the business with money to make up for revenue lost due to a disaster to be used to pay ordinary operating expenses.

This raises the question, “Can you use the COVID-19 EIDL funds to pay independent contractors working for the business?”  

If the funds were used to pay those contractors while the business was on lockdown, without the contractors actually doing any work, then the answer is most likely, “No, you cannot use the funds to pay independent contractors.”  

As previously mentioned, those independent contractors would have to apply for their own, individual PPP loans.

On the other hand, if the independent contractors were performing actual work services for the business at the time of the lockdown…and after…then, yes, the business could use the funds to pay those contractors as long as it matched previous operational standards of work and payment. 

Meaning, if your independent contractor provided, let’s say, 38 hours of billable work hours to your business before the pandemic, and continued to provide similar services during the pandemic, then, yes, you could pay those contractors as an “ordinary operating expense.”

As we’ve discussed so far, many small business owners had challenges with this misclassification of their working staff.  And those challenges became a horror-movie-level monster when these businesses were confronted with their need for the PPP loans, and the use of the EIDL funds.

We don’t know where the concept of misclassification of employees came about. 

However, we know it’s been happening for quite some time. And we don’t know how it came to be that so many small businesses jumped on the “independent contractor” bandwagon. 

What we do know is that too many small businesses treat their actual employees like independent contractors. From the employer side, the business saves on contributions to payroll taxes, disability insurance, unemployment insurance, and more. 

The business avoids uncomfortable situations revolving around the issues of employee benefits. And most of the time, the business treats the independent contractor like an employee with work rules, scheduling requirements, and more. 

The true definition of an independent contractor is that a person sets their own work schedules and standards. The small business can only provide basic guidance on the task to be achieved by the contractor. The independent contractor determines if, when, and how they will accomplish the result requested by the business.

Don’t believe us? You can read the classification rules on the IRS website for more information. 

But these misclassification issues are legendary around the United States. Employees are paid as independent contractors but are required to work under employment rules and standards.

For their part, we’ve seen how the “employee” who’s really an independent contractor thinks they’re doing great because they get more money in their paycheck. They’re not aware of two important features of their “misclassified” employment status.

First, they’re not employees. Their employer literally cannot tell them what to do, when to do it, and so much more. Secondly, the misclassified employee is responsible for their own payroll taxes, including paying a “self-employment” tax on their annual tax return. Those additional taxes they pay actually make their overall annual take-home pay LESS than if they were properly paid as a W2 employee.

Let’s return to the email from the business owner who was “forced” to take the EIDL.

While we never spoke with her because she didn’t book the paid consultation call, we’ll hazard the guess that she’s guilty of the misclassification of her staff like so many other business owners.  We’re confident because of her annoyance at being blocked from the PPP loan due to the employment classification of “independent contractors.” 

We make this fair assessment because of our previous experience during the pandemic of speaking to thousands of small business owners, and how so many of them misclassified their employees.

Somewhere along the way, this small business owner decided to pay her employees as independent contractors, probably as a result of a conversation with her tax professional or bookkeeper so that she could lower her payroll expenses and improve bottom-line cash flow.  We’ve seen this too often.

That strategic decision she made is the reason she was “forced into” the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan, not for any other reason, but a bad decision she made to operate her business.

But is it a bad thing to have received the COVID-19 EIDL? We don’t think so.

The program for the COVID-19 pandemic was a modified version of the SBA’s traditional natural disaster loan; a program created in 1953 to help small businesses recover from a natural disaster. The loan program helps to repair physical damage from the disaster and recoup lost revenue as a result of the disaster. 

The loans are low cost with terms as long as 30 years. That makes these loans very attractive from an affordability perspective. 

We know from our experience of speaking to so many business owners during the pandemic, that many business owners had never taken on any debt for their businesses. Borrowing money to manage their business was a new, and often, unwelcomed concept for them. 

We argue that had business owners, like the person in this example cited above, made better quality, strategic decisions for their business, they would have fared better in so many ways, not only by having access to the PPP loan.

We also encountered so many businesses with tax returns that zapped all their revenue with mountains of expenses, all with a view towards lowering net income and ultimately paying a lower income tax bill. 

However, that lower net income could harm the business when trying to obtain financing because lenders often determine the maximum loan amount based on the net income.

We digress.  Again, was it a “bad thing” to have taken a COVID-19 EIDL? In our humble, professional opinion, NO, not at all.

The program has some basic features that make this financing package very attractive indeed.

First, is the low-interest rate. As a for-profit business during the pandemic, the interest rate is 3.75%. For non-profits, the rate is 2.75%. Even at the time of the pandemic, those rates were far below market rates for business financing. Even more so today with the recent increases in interest rates.

Next, the loan is a fixed-rate loan. The rate…and the payment…never change!  This is unusual in commercial financing because many business loans feature a variable rate feature.

The SBA’s COVID-19 EIDL is a 30-year loan.  With the combination of low-interest rates and extremely long-term (most commercial loans are substantially lesser terms of repayment period), the money is, as one of our colleagues and financial services professionals recently said, “free money!”

But wait, there’s more.

There’s no prepayment penalty. If a business owner truly despises the idea of carrying debt on the books, they can create an aggressive repayment plan to pay off the 30-year loan earlier with no penalty. Again, unusual! 

Many commercial lenders charge a penalty for paying off their loans early, and those penalties can be hefty.

Because the loan is a debt for the business, in most all cases, the interest is going to be tax deductible against business income. That lowers the overall income tax bill every year. NOTE: confirm with your tax professional if this is true for your business

Therefore, if do the math: 

  • Low-interest rate
  • Long-term repayment period
  • Tax deductible interest

It probably does work out to be, quite literally, FREE money

We encourage you to consider this before you rail against the fact that your business was “forced into” taking on this burden of debt.  In fact, we don’t think it’s a burden at all for other reasons besides the litany of amazingness we’ve outlined so far.

If your business faces challenges making the monthly payments due to economic conditions, you can request a hardship accommodation to lower the monthly payment by as much as 90% (to a minimum of $25.00) for a six-month period! This is an incredible benefit of the program. 

We don’t know of commercial lenders offering anything even close to this feature of the SBA EIDL. And, yes, you can request an extension of the six-month period.  

Once cashflow is back on its feet, if you experience difficulties again in the future, at any time during the 30-year term of the loan, you can request another hardship accommodation!

There is one other “intangible” benefit that so many people avoid thinking about or talking about.  

During the pandemic, whether your business was on lockdown restrictions, or experiencing pain due the depleted economy, where folks may not have been buying your goods or services, or you couldn’t access important components in the supply chain to create your product or service, you probably experienced a severe downturn in revenue. 

We know this isn’t true for everyone, but it is true for many small businesses. So much so that, since it was the only true business-saving benefit at the time, the SBA’s COVID-19 EIDL may very well have saved your business!  

If no other feature of this program has value to you, certainly this single intangible benefit must. We encourage you to take the time to do the math on what you lost compared to how the funds saved your business.

At the time of this writing, we’re encountering hundreds of small business owners having difficulty with the SBA’s COVID-19 EIDL. From challenges in their own business to find revenue, to challenges of making payments on the loan, and other considerations as well. 

We see a lot of complaints about this program. And we also see a lot of folks trying to gain information on how to avoid repaying the loan. As a result, in place of embracing the good things about the program, we see business owners, such as the person who inspired this blog, complaining about how they were “forced into” taking the loan, or complaining about how student loans are being forgiven but not these loans, and on and on.

Focus on the positive, as they say. Use those features as a basis to feel more encouraged about how the program helped you, use those features to help you cease complaining, and instead, find positive ways to focus on the problems at hand that are causing you distress in your business.

Once you do, you might find that your business improves because you’re paying attention to the core issues causing problems and striving to find solutions to those problems. This leads to thriving in your business instead of simply “surviving.”

If you want expert guidance on your COVID-19 EIDL, our Post-Closing Blueprint is the solution you need!  We cover every aspect of this program from your responsibilities to restrictions on your business to problem-solving advice, even a chapter dedicated to “How to Speak to the SBA!

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.

US Treasury State Small Business Credit Initiative

The federal government is making available $10 Billion and all small businesses in the country are eligible for the money.

This is not the paycheck protection program or the economic injury disaster loan program. Both of those Covid-relief efforts have expired. This is also not a loan program from the Small Business Administration. It’s from the treasury department.

The program is called the state small business credit initiative, or SSBCI, and it works like this:

  • Your State submitted an application to the US Treasury proposing how to use the funds
  • US Treasury reviews and approves and funds directly to your State

So how does your business get access to these funds? You can go to the Council of Development Finance Agencies’ state resources map. The funds, once received by the states, will then be distributed to existing and authorized organizations that finance and support local small businesses. 

These are community development investment funds (CDFIs), minority deposit institutions (MDIs), community banks, economic development groups and other non-profits that work with small businesses in their areas.

The funds will be used for loans, grants and equity investments. They can also be used to collateralize new debt with existing banks or insure their repayments. The whole idea is to get money in the hands of small businesses that wouldn’t otherwise be able to get financing through traditional lenders because of their financial history – or lack thereof.

Certain funds are targeted specifically to minority-owned businesses or businesses located in low- to moderate-income areas. But just about any business can apply for these funds, even non-profits.

Find out the organizations that are receiving SSBCI money from your state and reach out to them.

They need to get to know you and your business. The application process will take a bit of time so you want to gather your documentation – bank statements, tax returns, financial records – and begin down that road. You should be applying for funds from multiple places.

These organizations aren’t going to come knocking on your door. But they do have money to spend. Your objective is to get them to spend it on you.

US TREASURY small business credit initiative ebook cover page with lighthouse

Need more Working Capital?

SSBCI Treasury Guide

Through this program, the Federal government is making available $10 Billion directly to States for all small businesses in the country. In our Step-by-Step guide, we explain the program and outline how to access the funds including examples of eligibility and use of funds. If you want instructions on how to submit a financing request, check out our Business Financing Application Fundamentals BEACON GUIDES.

How to Manage Distractions for Your SBA EIDL APPROVAL

Saturday afternoon, Trevor purchased a half gallon of 2% milk for his morning coffee. He then discovered the milk was bad. When he checked the date, he saw the container was already 8 days past its “sell-by” date when he purchased it, thus making today 10 days past due.

He returned to the market, grabbed another 2% half gallon only to discover that the date was also past due. Finally, he found one that’s good for another 8 days.

When Trevor went to the counter to tell the owner, he said, “I knew it. I should always stock the milk myself.  No matter how many times I tell them, they just don’t pay attention.

He was referring to the two young men, probably teenagers, who work part-time for him. We remembered they were there the Saturday when Trevor went to the counter to pay for the first, bad, half gallon of milk. They sat off to the side and neither one had the sense to get up, come to the counter and ring Trevor out. The owner was busy at the ice cream window scooping out some of his excellent local creamery ice cream.  Trevor had to wait to pay for him to finish with his ice cream customer.

When he told Trevor about the lads not ‘paying attention’ to their work, we were reminded of the teenager we hired to split firewood on our property. We told the owner, “When they’re working here, you have to take their phones away.” Trevor went on to describe his observations of the wood-splitter at our house: “His Mom drove him up to our driveway with the wood splitter on a trailer attached to her car.  Then, later, I saw him split two pieces of wood, then take his phone out of his pocket, spend five minutes messaging, then split two pieces of wood, then the phone would come out of the pocket, and so on.

Before you think we’re just old curmudgeons who disregard a teenagers’ work ethic, let’s describe some of the same behaviors we’ve discovered in our clients.

Thanks to COVID-19, our little financing practice morphed into assisting small business owners with the Federal Government’s disaster assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) known as Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). Working on an SBA loan application is, in the best of times, a daunting and complicated process. 

The paperwork is complicated and lengthy, and the bureaucracy is fraught with all kinds of systemic incompetence.  All of these features have been exponentially made worse by the overwhelming need for this program due to the pandemic.

Our clients run the gamut from “gig-worker” self-employed sole proprietors to owners of businesses that generate multi-millions in annual revenue; age ranges from 20-somethings to folks my age (60) and older.

Trevor was a mortgage loan officer for 30 years. He learned early on that the key to getting any loan application approved was paying attention to details, especially those that may appear to be inconsequential. He worked mostly on government mortgage loans in his career; which presented a solid preparation for working on these SBA government loans now. And the most important lesson, about those otherwise minor details, comes to bear every single day.

Most of our clients have applied for the SBA loan and have been declined. So our job is to review their documents and their applications and “fix” whatever was wrong that caused the declination in the first place. You may think these folks were all declined because they simply didn’t qualify; but that’s not how this program works, almost every applicant is eligible and qualified due to the fact the loan program is only about compensating the business for revenue lost due to the disaster—COVID-19.

We’ve discovered a terrifying aspect of our modern life: it seems everyone, of all ages, every generation, is distracted. Their distractions are causing real difficulty, personally and professionally. In almost every client file we work on, we see mistakes that range from their SBA application process to the mistakes made with their fundamental business documents or information.

Those mistakes, many of them fairly simple and functional, are causing these businesses to be delayed in getting an approved for vital this funding that, quite literally, will keep their business alive during the pandemic and beyond. When we discuss these errors with the clients, the responses too often point to that one disturbing word, again and again: distractions.

“I was in a hurry when I did the original application,” as an explanation why there are wild inaccuracies in their application when compared to their financial or other business documents.

Or, from the business owner who’s original business partner, absent from the business for ten years or more, recently walked into the bank and withdrew nearly $100,000 of the business’ money for himself because his name still appears on the business name and the bank account, even though our client doesn’t consider the man to be a partner at all.  Our client never took the time to visit his attorney and change the paperwork, or remove the partner’s name from the bank account. Why? Distracted with his other job, another business, his family, and, you name it.

That same local market owner had his problems with the SBA process too, notably, his inability to locate an important email from the SBA about his loan that we had submitted for him. We called him every few days to ask if he had received an email from SBA with his loan approval (all our other clients were receiving emails and I couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t). “No, nothing yet,” he’d say, to which we responded, “Did you check your SPAM folder?”

But he’s busy running a little country marketplace (with, apparently, useless employees who can’t even stack milk cartons with correct expiration dates), so it wasn’t until we got him on the phone late one afternoon when we knew the store would be quiet and we forced him to stop what he was doing and scroll through every single email, including SPAM.  And, there it was!  The SBA email from two months before, now long expired, with his loan approval.

Like the milk episode, this caused more work for us. His distractions of simply running his business kept him both from hiring competent employees (who were distracted in their own ways), training those employees, and taking the time necessary to attend to a vital funding that would dramatically have eased his economic suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.

Trevor realized that he noticed this trend in the late years of his mortgage career, too. Folks who were requesting that Trevor’s bank lend them hundreds of thousands of dollars, were so distracted in their daily lives (they always had the excuse of being busy…and thus distracted.), they couldn’t find the time (or bandwidth) to pay attention enough to basic documents or questions needing to be answered to get their loans approved. This to buy their dream house.

Like the young men at the local market who are too distracted to pay attention to “sell-by” dates on the milk cartons, so many of us are distracted to the point of distress. You’re literally ruining your lives, either personally or professionally, or both, with your failure to recognize and control your distractions. These distractions are not solely the fault of our smartphones. Or even social media.  There are all kinds of static-inducing disruptions to our days.

Trevor, as a student of economics and history, he puts these distractions down to a single phenomenon, one that is (finally) getting more attention in the media. That phenomenon is directly related to money.  More specifically, earning money and the cost of living. We’ve watched this distressing trend grow from the early 1990’s, through the boom times and recession times, and especially after the global recession that resulted in 2010 from the mortgage meltdown.

People have been struggling to “catch up” with costs, and earn a decent basic living for decades; but that struggle received a new infusion of chaotic confusion after the global recession. The rich definitely got richer, none of the bankers or financing titans went to jail or paid any kind of price for causing this worldwide calamity, but the average working person today has paid, and continues to pay, the price for that more than decade old recession.

COVID-19 only exposed the brutal reality of this financial duress in the most blunt terms possible.

But, those of us who have struggled and continue to struggle, we fail to recognize this calamity. Instead, like bugs scattering when you lift a stone up, we simply go about our days, go about our business, go about “living” in a way that seems to us to be satisfactory.

Wake up.  Your distractions are killing you. You need to save your own life and you need to slow yourself down and you need to focus.

Take your pick of the things that are killing you, or will kill you, or your children: Climate change. COVID-19. Politics. Driving fast combined with distracted driving. And on and on.

We have three suggestions, or “rules” on actions you can take to reduce, and hopefully, eliminate, distractions from your life.

Rules to not be distracted:

  1. Take Care
  2. One At A Time
  3. There’s Plenty of Time

Take Care

We use this rule with our financing practice. Think of the old carpenter’s adage: “Measure twice, cut once.” That’s essentially what “Take Care” means. Whatever activity you’re undertaking, whether you’re stocking the milk cartons, preparing financial documents for your business or to buy a home, making decisions that could affect your or your children’s well-being, take the appropriate care with that process. Look at the solutions, the consequences, the pro’s and the con’s; look at the mechanism, about what it will take to accomplish whatever it is you’re doing or deciding on. Then, put all that good brain-power you just expended to work.

One At A Time

We refuse to waste time arguing, or reading about, whether or not multi-tasking is a good or bad thing. We prefer to think from the positive perspective: doing ONE thing, allocating time and energy to that one thing, and accomplishing that ONE thing, is a worthy enterprise. It works. Time and time and time again: when you’re focused on ONE thing, from spending time speaking to an elderly parent, or preparing your documents for your tax returns, or whatever task or mission you need to accomplish, large or small, when you do only the ONE thing at one time, not multiple things at the same time, your results are so much more gratifying and accurate.

This also saves time from having to go back and redo something again.

There’s Plenty of Time

We’re convinced that somehow we all have come to believe that time is running away before our very eyes and that if we don’t hurry up, we’ll miss out on something.

There’s this trend, apparently, among the younger folk, to take time for getting the most out of their young lives now. That’s why they don’t want to be trapped in jobs that are mind-sucking-soulless-energy-sapping endeavors to earn money and nothing more. A good meal with friends; rock-climbing; doing nothing for its own sake. These activities sound more like retirement, but in reverse because the people doing them are all young. It’s as if they believe they’ll run out of time.

We posit this concept: when you’re young is actually the BEST time to invest in yourself for your future, whether that’s education or earning, or any combination of the two.  Further, spend your time wisely. The time’s not running out; but YOUR time to create something good for yourself in your life is running out, because economics will catch up to you with bills you’ll have to pay, families you’ll have to clothe, house and feed, and energy that wanes as your years progress.

Embrace your life by all means; live for your moment. But do it in a way that is well-considered. Take into account that, short as all our lives are relative to the Universe at large, there’s actually plenty of time.

Distracted while writing this: We confess that, as we wrote this, we were distracted a few times. Maybe that’s part of the writing process, taking time to think, although some of the best writers in the world say you should lock yourself in a room alone with no distractions and do nothing but write. Hemingway started every one of his days that way: with no distractions and focused on his writing and we all know how that turned out for him.

We don’t believe we allow ourselves to be distracted in the ways that we see so many other people churning through their lives.  And, we can honestly say this: we have accomplished some fairly incredible things in our lives by following these three aforementioned rules. Focusing and refusing to be distracted.

We hope our little discourse didn’t distract you too much.

Break It Down

Business Financing Documents Checklist

Stop worrying about what's required when pursuing a business loan for your small business. This list will indicate what a lender, bank, SBA, etc. will want to know about you and your small business if you're looking for a business loan. These are prudent documents that help tell your small business story. Without them, it's difficult for lenders to assess you as a risk when it comes to lending your small business money. This is NOT SPECIFIC to the SBA EIDL loan.

Advice from Trevor the Loan Officer: Obey The Speed Limit!

Working on EIDL Reconsideration files for more than a year, we’ve learned the many reasons that loans have been declined and why many Small Business owners are continuing to have tremendous difficulty with the SBA EIDL process. Simply, it’s mistakes folks make when completing their EIDL original applications.

Trevor, a 30 year veteran loan officer learned long ago to take his time when completing a loan application. He also learned long ago to triple check information, cross-verify documents and account numbers, and generally, obey the speed limit.

As a result, his loan applications have a higher rate of approval, including the many EIDL applications he’s submitted since last year.

The following two examples support our theory that Small Business owners are rushing and making mistakes.   Completing your application (or any other documents you submit to SBA) isn’t going to get you the money faster than the time you take to slow down to complete the EIDL application so that it’s accurate the first time. On average, Trevor spends approximately two hours to complete an application for each one of our clients.

Here are the actual mistakes…one of dozens and dozens:

“I put an incorrect phone number on my application because I sped through it.”
“In my rush…I put the bank account number (in place) of the EIN.”

Please slow down, pay attention and review and double-check the information you are providing to the SBA. They will not contact you to verify, they simply decline.

For information about Natural Disaster EIDL vs. the COVID-19 EIDL, please visit this page for information about that distinctly different process.

How to Apply for an EIDL Loan

An updated sample of the EIDL application with Trevor's commentary on what changes the SBA has implemented when underwriting your EIDL loan.

Blue Button Strategies

Here’s our recommended strategies while you are waiting for the infamous “BLUE BUTTON” to become functional on the SBA portal for your EIDL Increase request:

Manage your anxiety. Schedule TWICE daily check-ins, once in the morning, the second in the evening.  The money’s not going anywhere, it’s not running out, and you’re not going to miss a “place in line” with millions of other EIDL applicants if you don’t submit your request within a few hours.  You can wait the day. Doing so will reduce your stress.  When you feel yourself getting stressed about not checking the BLUE BUTTON every three minutes, do the following mundane, boring, functional stuff instead:

PREPARE.  We’ve seen SBA coming back recently and requesting additional documents for the EIDL Increase requests.  YES, it’s true, we’ve seen some requests were automatically approved.  That’s the BEST CASE, obviously. Don’t assume the “BEST CASE” scenario; assume the worst case and PREPARE for the SBA request.  Here’s a list of documents we’ve seen SBA requesting to approve the EIDL Increase.  One important note: don’t assume SBA already has your documents from the list below. If they ask for it, submit it again, in an updated form (current date for your signature instead of a date from two months ago, for example).

LIST:

  • 2018 and 2019 COMPLETE Federal tax returns
  • Driver’s License: COLOR legible PDF scan front and back. If the image is blurry, do it again until it is CRYSTAL CLEAR
  • VOIDED check for the destination bank account to deposit your funds. BE SURE this is the SAME account you entered on your original EIDL application. BE SURE you don’t reverse the ROUTING number for the ACCOUNT number. Yes, we’ve seen people do that!
  • SBA Form 2202. THIS is IMPORTANT.  Have a form that is current because SBA wants to confirm if you have incurred any other debt in the name of the business entity since you applied, including existing EIDL and PPP loans or other types of financing. Remember: ONLY business debt in the name of an business entity; personal debt does not go on this form. EIDL and PPP go on the form no matter whether you are an entity or a Sole Proprietor.
  • Business Plan and Revenue Projections for 2021.  See our BLOG post about how to prepare.

Here’s what we’ve experienced at Aurora Consulting in our two plus years of assisting Small Business Owners to obtain financing, including the EIDL COVID-19 loans and PPP loans:

  1. Small Business Owners don’t want to be bothered with the basic building blocks that are boring
  2. They don’t want to take the boring time to write boring business plans
  3. They don’t want to take on the mundane task of doing some basic fifth grade math to calculate income and expenses
  4. They don’t want to bore themselves to tears by spending time organizing basic documents into a neat and orderly and presentable fashion

Maybe YOU are NOT in this bucket. GOOD.

Much of what we do at Aurora Consulting is to shepherd our clients through these basic and boring tasks.  Here’s the problem: BORING leads to financing success.

Eliminate your stress about the BLUE BUTTON by BORING yourself.  It’s much simpler than you think.

Planning and Projections for Your EIDL Loan

The request for a business plan can pop up at any time. We saw this before and during COVID. 
SBA was asking many EIDL applicants for Business Plans and Revenue Projections. Frankly, this is something you should have AT ALL TIMES if you consider yourself a Small Business Owner, even if you’re a “gig economy” Schedule-C Sole Proprietor. You can’t truly measure your success without a plan.

When Trevor was a 100% commissioned Loan Officer at a Mortgage Banking company, he had a 22 page Business Plan with Revenue Projections, and he was an EMPLOYEE.

We put together a list of questions for our clients so we can prepare the necessary information for their SBA EIDL applications.

We’ve developed questions to assist in preparing a 2021 Business Plan Summary and Revenue Projection:
SBA recently is asking many EIDL applicants for Business Plans and Revenue Projections. Frankly, this is something you should have AT ALL TIMES if you consider yourself a Small Business Owner, even if you’re a “gig economy” Schedule-C Sole Proprietor. You can’t truly measure your success without a plan.

When Trevor was a 100% commissioned Loan Officer at a Mortgage Banking company, he had a 22 page Business Plan with Revenue Projections, and he was an EMPLOYEE.

We put together a list of questions for our clients so we can prepare the necessary information for their SBA EIDL applications.

We are happy to share it with you here. Wishing you all SUCCESS in everything you DO!

We’ve developed questions to assist in preparing a 2021 Business Plan Summary and Revenue Projection:

QUESTIONS

  • What actions did you take in MARCH 2020 to adjust or “pivot” your business to survive the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • How did those actions help: have you maintained a steady flow of business, did your business decline?
  • Are you continuing those actions into 2021?
  • Have you originated new business concepts to continue your business productivity into 2021?
  • If yes, what are these new concepts?
  • How will the EIDL program assist you to maintain the continuity of your business?
  • How will the EIDL program assist you to support the “pivot” concepts you’ve created?
  • IF you never created any “pivot” concepts, would the EIDL program assist you/encourage you to do that? How?

REVENUE

  • What is the percentage decline in 2020 to your Gross Revenue from 2019?
  • What is the percentage decline in 2020 to your NET INCOME from 2019?
  • If your net income is lower, is that due to the pandemic? If so, how?
  • Without EIDL assistance, what do you anticipate to be your Gross Revenue in 2021 for EACH QUARTER?
  • With EIDL assistance, what do you project to be your Gross Revenue in 2021 for EACH QUARTER?
  • Will you incur new, different expenses in 2021 than you’ve had in 2019?
  • If so, what specific expenses and how much in dollars?

If you want more information about untangling how a business plan works, especially for financing purposes, click below for our business plan outline guide.

If any of our videos or blogs have been helpful, useful and productive, please leave us a positive review on our GOOGLE PAGE. It helps other business owners seeking vital SBA information for their business, not to mention, it’s a kind exchange of information.

Ambiguity and Uncertainty

Ambiguity and uncertainty are not words that Small Business owners embrace in their daily vocabulary. Even fishing professionals, sailing the chilly vastness of the North Atlantic in search of Cod, Haddock and Mackerel, don’t use those words. They set out on their fishing forays with a sense that they will find fish using their experience and knowledge, helped along by some modern technology.

Call the SBA with a question that requires a definitive answer, though, and you get an uncertain or ambiguous answer. Call multiple SBA representatives with the same question and get multiple answers.

Small Business owners have come to rely on the SBA during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide a vital financial lifeline to keep their businesses alive as they struggle with the various challenges of the pandemic disaster. When a Small Business owner asks questions, whether they’re general questions about the EIDL process, or specific questions about the Small Business’ EIDL application, they expect specific and hopefully detailed answers.

Question to the SBA: “Now that the loan will be declined for Reconsideration because the IRS hasn’t processed the tax return, how long does the applicant have to file another Reconsideration?”

I don’t even remember what the answer was because it was so vague and ambiguous.

“Good morning SBA, what is the current turnaround time, on average, for EIDL Reconsiderations?” or
“Hello SBA, if I file a Reconsideration request today, how soon can I expect that my file will be assigned to a Loan Officer at the Reconsideration team?”

The Small Business owner cannot get reasonable or certain answers to these questions.

Trevor worked in retail electronics in the 1980’s in customer service. When a customer brought a VCR or stereo system in for repair, he could provide the customer with a reasonable expectation for turnaround time for their repair. Even if they had to order parts for the device to repair it, they could know within a reasonable range of time, when those parts were due to arrive and when the technician could be expected to complete the repair.

They knew the repair intake process, the repair tech servicing queue, the quality control check process, and even when the product was on the truck for delivery back to the store for customer pickup. And this was with electronics repairs where anything could happen with the electronic device once it was on the repair bench and the tech tried to solve the repair problem.

Customers had a reasonable expectation to receive unambiguous information about the repair process.

“Hi there SBA! Can you please give me a status on my EIDL Reconsideration file?”
The Answer most often: “In process.”

What does that mean? Where in the process is the file? Has a Loan Officer reviewed the tax returns, read the transcripts from the IRS, etc.???

As a Mortgage Banker, Trevor knew every step of the way where the Applicant’s file was in the loan process: appraisal on order, appraisal received, verifications received, submitted to Underwriting, quality control review, clear for closing, and etcetera and etcetera.

While writing this blog, one of our clients for Reconsideration sent me a text message,
“This is like the old Heinze ketchup commercial, ‘Anticipation, it’s making me wait.’ Guessing no news is good news?”

When a Small Business owner begins their business day, they do so with a clear understanding of how their business operates, what they have to do to achieve their business goals, and their certainty in their methods for success. When they run up against the constant lack of clarity and certainty with their urgent EIDL financing requests at the SBA, their COVID crisis anxiety increases exponentially.

This is unacceptable.

The Small Business Administration, in its mission to advocate for Small Business, needs to do a spectacularly better job of providing clarity and specificity and to remove ambiguity and uncertainty from the process.

Tracking Receipts for Your EIDL Funding

The question posed by an anxious Small Business Owner: “Do we have to turn in receipts for everything we spend on the advanced GRANT? If I get it, I’m scared to make sure I document everything properly that I need to. How are you spending yours? I’m unsure where I can use it and what’s off limits.

Even though the “Advance” technically doesn’t have to be repaid, it’s still considered part of the EIDL program by SBA.

Therefore, in common sense terms you should keep records and receipts. In general business terms: Why would you NOT keep records and receipts? These are tax deductible items after all since they’re expenses against your business income. AND…tracking income and expenses is an essential monitoring tool to grow a business.

How can you know if you’re earning and growing if you’re not tracking income and expenses?
These are the reasons why it makes perfect business sense to track receipts and to keep good records.

Our opinion: There’s been so much confusion around these programs, mostly due to SBA’s terrible messaging and lack of clarity on these very questions. It’s disgraceful that we all have to hunt around the internet to collect “anecdotal” evidence from other Small Business Ownres to educate ourselves about the important fine points of these programs.

There should be a simple to read guide on the SBA website that anticipates and answers these questions.

We’ve had clients telling me since last April how they’re “terrified” of using their EIDL monies incorrectly. That’s an absolute shame.

In the early days we were more forgiving of SBA’s failures because, well, it was COVID and EVERYONE EVERYWHERE was overwhelmed. But a year into this thing you’d think SBA would have gotten its act together, especially in the light of their allocating SBA staff to contacting EIDL Borrowers for “Resolution Letters” and “Hazard Insurance” (good luck getting a definition of what that’s supposed to be!).

How about, instead of wasting tax dollars on staff salaries for that nonsense SBA allocated those folks to processing the loans? Or that they invested tax payers’ money on creating online materials that’s accessible to every Borrower and interested prospective Borrower with clear, detailed information on the EIDL and PPP programs?

Short answer: The terms of the EIDL Agreement are clear: receipts and records can be requested by SBA in the future.

Seriously, if we ran our respective businesses this way, we’d be OUT of business.

YOU Tell the Bank the Amount of Your PPP Loan

Disqualified? Thank you Politicians!

The Second Round PPP loan and the Targeted EIDL Advance both require businesses to prove their revenue reduced in 2020 from 2019 levels. But many businesses created a smart, creative “Pandemic Pivot” and their revenues are either the same as 2019 or maybe higher. Thus, they are disqualified!

We’re going to see a lot of folks have this problem. Frankly, we’re mad angry at the entire “25% and 30% reduction in revenue” required under the Second PPP and this targeted advance. It was a political compromise for the morons in government who didn’t want to step up and provide proper assistance to American Small Business Owners.

Why should you, or any other Small Business Owner be disqualified from a much-needed program simply because you were smart enough and creative enough to “pivot?”

That doesn’t take away the fact that COVID is ONGOING and the harm to your business—with or without a pivot—is ongoing.

It’s so ridiculous. And, yes, we’ve dedicated this to today’s “Trevor Rant Thursday!”

PPP Application: Who Underwrites The Loan Amount? THE BUSINESS OWNER DOES —> NOT THE BANK!

FYI: the banks, the loan officers, they are NOT supposed to re-underwrite your PPP loan application! They are simply supposed to verify you have submitted all pertinent documentation. Period. This is a common misconception!

The PPP program is a “self-certification” program, including calculating the math to arrive at the loan amount on the application.

Banks make us nuts in oh so many ways.