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Business Loan Program Temporary Changes; Paycheck Protection Program-Treatment of Entities With Foreign Affiliates

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AGENCY:

U.S. Small Business Administration.

ACTION:

Interim final rule.

SUMMARY:

On April 2, 2020, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) posted an interim final rule announcing the implementation of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The CARES Act temporarily adds a new program, titled the “Paycheck Protection Program,” to the SBA's 7(a) Loan Program. The CARES Act also provides for forgiveness of up to the full principal amount of qualifying loans guaranteed under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The PPP is intended to provide economic relief to small businesses nationwide adversely impacted by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). SBA posted additional interim final rules on April 3, 2020, April 14, 2020, April 24, 2020, April 28, 2020, April 30, 2020, May 5, 2020, May 8, 2020, May 13, 2020, and May 14, 2020, and the Department of the Treasury posted an additional interim final rule on April 28, 2020. This interim final rule supplements the previously posted interim final rules by providing guidance on additional eligibility requirements related to entities with foreign affiliates, and requests public comment.

DATES:

Effective date: This rule is effective May 21, 2020.

Applicability date: This interim final rule applies to applications submitted under the Paycheck Protection Program through June 30, 2020, or until funds made available for this purpose are exhausted.

Comment date: Comments must be received on or before June 22, 2020.

ADDRESSES:

You may submit comments, identified by number SBA-2020-0030 through the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. SBA will post all comments on www.regulations.gov. If you wish to submit confidential business information (CBI) as defined in the User Notice at www.regulations.gov, please send an email to ppp-ifr@sba.gov. Highlight the information that you consider to be CBI and explain why you believe SBA should hold this information as confidential. SBA will review the information and make the final determination whether it will publish the information.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

A Call Center Representative at 833-572-0502, or the local SBA Field Office; the list of offices can be found at https://www.sba.gov/​tools/​local-assistance/​districtoffices.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Background Information

On March 13, 2020, President Trump declared the ongoing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic of sufficient severity and magnitude to warrant an emergency declaration for all States, territories, and the District of Columbia. With the COVID-19 emergency, many small businesses nationwide are experiencing economic hardship as a direct result of the Federal, State, tribal, and local public health measures that are being taken to minimize the public's exposure to the virus. These measures, some of which are government-mandated, are being implemented nationwide and include the closures of restaurants, bars, and gyms. In addition, based on the advice of public health officials, other measures, such as keeping a safe distance from others or even stay-at-home orders, are being implemented, resulting in a dramatic decrease in economic activity as the public avoids malls, retail stores, and other businesses.

On March 27, 2020, the President signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act) (Pub. L. 116-136) to provide emergency assistance and health care response for individuals, families, and businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The Small Business Administration (SBA) received funding and authority through the CARES Act to modify existing loan programs and establish a new loan program to assist small businesses nationwide adversely impacted by the COVID-19 emergency. Section 1102 of the CARES Act temporarily permits SBA to guarantee 100 percent of 7(a) loans under a new program titled the “Paycheck Protection Program.” Section 1106 of the CARES Act provides for forgiveness of up to the full principal amount of qualifying loans guaranteed under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). On April 24, 2020, the President signed the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (Pub. L. 116-139), Start Printed Page 30836which provided additional funding and authority for the PPP.

Under the CARES Act, an entity is eligible for a PPP loan if it is (1) a small business concern, or (2) a business concern, nonprofit organization described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, veterans organization described in section 501(c)(19) of the Internal Revenue Code, or Tribal business concern described in section 31(b)(2)(C) of the Small Business Act that employs not more than the greater of 500 employees, or, if applicable, SBA's employee-based size standard for the industry in which the entity operates. Under existing SBA regulations, an entity is generally considered together with its affiliates for purposes of determining the entity's eligibility for SBA loans. See 13 CFR 121.301. SBA issued an interim final rule on affiliation (posted April 4, 2020) stating that PPP applicants are subject to the affiliation rules set forth in 13 CFR 121.301. See 85 FR 20817 (April 15, 2020). Those rules deem entities to be affiliates based on factors including stock ownership, overlapping management, and identity of interest. Of relevance here, SBA's affiliation rules provide that in determining an entity's number of employees, employees of the entity “and all of its domestic and foreign affiliates” are included. As a result, in most cases, a borrower is considered together with its U.S. and foreign affiliates for purposes of determining eligibility for the PPP. Based on that methodology, the borrower application form (SBA Form 2483), which all applicants must complete and submit, includes a certification that the applicant “employs no more than the greater of 500 or employees or, if applicable, the size standard in number of employees established by the SBA in 13 CFR 121.201 for the Applicant's industry.” To provide further clarification of this methodology, SBA issued guidance on May 5, 2020 (FAQ 44) stating that an applicant must count all of its employees and the employees of its U.S. and foreign affiliates, absent a waiver of or an exception to the affiliation rules.

Some market participants have indicated that there may be uncertainty regarding whether PPP applicants must include employees of foreign affiliates in their employee counts, because SBA has previously issued guidance stating that an entity is eligible for a PPP loan if it has 500 or fewer employees whose principal place of residence is in the United States. See 85 FR 20811, 20812 (April 15, 2020). As described above, the generally applicable 500-employee size standard is subject to the application of SBA's affiliation rules, as well as numerous other eligibility requirements. See, e.g., 13 CFR 120.110 (listing 18 types of ineligible businesses); SBA Form 2483 (including mandatory applicant representations regarding defaults on previous government loans or guarantees, Federal suspension or debarment, and criminal backgrounds). The reference in SBA guidance to employees whose principal place of residence is in the United States is relevant to a PPP applicant's calculation of payroll for purposes of determining the PPP loan amount and to the calculation of loan forgiveness. The fact that an applicant might be eligible for a PPP loan if it has 500 or fewer U.S. employees does not mean that the applicant is not also subject to the other requirements applicable to the PPP. Instead, an applicant is eligible for a PPP loan only if it meets all applicable eligibility criteria. If an applicant, together with its domestic and foreign affiliates, does not meet the 500-employee or other applicable PPP size standard, it is not eligible for a PPP loan.

II. Comments and Immediate Effective Date

The intent of the Act is that SBA provide relief to America's small businesses expeditiously. This intent, along with the dramatic decrease in economic activity nationwide, provides good cause for SBA to dispense with the 30-day delayed effective date provided in the Administrative Procedure Act. Specifically, it is critical to meet lenders' and borrowers' need for clarity concerning program requirements as rapidly as possible because the last day eligible borrowers can apply for and receive a loan is June 30, 2020.

This interim final rule supplements previous regulations and guidance on an important, discrete issue. The immediate effective date of this interim final rule will benefit lenders so that they can swiftly close and disburse loans to small businesses. This interim final rule is effective without advance notice and public comment because section 1114 of the Act authorizes SBA to issue regulations to implement Title I of the Act without regard to notice requirements. This rule is being issued to allow for immediate implementation of this program. Although this interim final rule is effective immediately, comments are solicited from interested members of the public on all aspects of the interim final rule, including section III below. These comments must be submitted on or before June 22, 2020. SBA will consider these comments and the need for making any revisions as a result of these comments.

III. Paycheck Protection Program Additional Eligibility Criteria

Overview

The CARES Act was enacted to provide immediate assistance to individuals, families, and organizations affected by the COVID-19 emergency. Among the provisions contained in the CARES Act are provisions authorizing SBA to temporarily guarantee loans under the PPP. Loans under the PPP will be 100 percent guaranteed by SBA, and the full principal amount of the loans and any accrued interest may qualify for loan forgiveness. Additional information about the PPP is available in interim final rules published by SBA and the Department of the Treasury in the Federal Register (85 FR 20811, 85 FR 20817, 85 FR 21747, 85 FR 23450, 85 FR 23917, 85 FR 26321, 85 FR 26324, and 85 FR 27287) and posted on May 8, 2020, May 13, 2020, and May 14, 2020 (85 FR 29845, 85 FR 29842, and 85 FR 29847) (collectively, the PPP Interim Final Rules).

1. Treatment of Foreign Affiliates

Are employees of foreign affiliates included for purposes of determining whether a PPP borrower has more than 500 employees?

Yes. The CARES Act specifies that an entity is eligible for a PPP loan only if it is (1) a small business concern, or (2) a business concern, nonprofit organization described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, veterans organization described in section 501(c)(19) of the Internal Revenue Code, or Tribal business concern described in section 31(b)(2)(C) of the Small Business Act that employs not more than the greater of 500 employees, or, if applicable, SBA's employee-based size standard for the industry in which the entity operates. SBA's affiliation regulations provide that to determine a concern's size, employees of the concern “and all of its domestic and foreign affiliates” are included. 13 CFR 121.301(f). Therefore, to calculate the number of employees of an entity for purposes of determining eligibility for the PPP, an entity must include all employees of its domestic and foreign affiliates, except in those limited circumstances where the affiliation rules expressly do not apply to the entity.[1] Any entity that, together Start Printed Page 30837with its domestic and foreign affiliates, does not meet the 500-employee or other applicable PPP size standard is therefore ineligible for a PPP loan.

However, as an exercise of enforcement discretion due to reasonable borrower confusion based on SBA guidance (which was later resolved through a clarifying FAQ on May 5, 2020), SBA will not find any borrower that applied for a PPP loan prior to May 5, 2020 to be ineligible based on the borrower's exclusion of non-U.S employees from the borrower's calculation of its employee headcount if the borrower (together with its affiliates) [2] had no more than 500 employees whose principal place of residence is in the United States. Such borrowers shall not be deemed to have made an inaccurate certification of eligibility solely on that basis. Under no circumstances may PPP funds be used to support non-U.S. workers or operations.

2. Additional Information

SBA may provide further guidance, if needed, through SBA notices that will be posted on SBA's website at www.sba.gov. Questions on the Paycheck Protection Program may be directed to the Lender Relations Specialist in the local SBA Field Office. The local SBA Field Office may be found at https://www.sba.gov/​tools/​local-assistance/​districtoffices.

Compliance With Executive Orders 12866, 12988, 13132, 13563, and 13771, the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. Ch. 35), and the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601-612)

Executive Orders 12866, 13563, and 13771

This interim final rule is economically significant for the purposes of Executive Orders 12866 and 13563, and is considered a major rule under the Congressional Review Act. SBA, however, is proceeding under the emergency provision at Executive Order 12866 Section 6(a)(3)(D) based on the need to move expeditiously to mitigate the current economic conditions arising from the COVID-19 emergency. This rule's designation under Executive Order 13771 will be informed by public comment.

Executive Order 12988

SBA has drafted this rule, to the extent practicable, in accordance with the standards set forth in section 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of Executive Order 12988, to minimize litigation, eliminate ambiguity, and reduce burden. The rule has no preemptive or retroactive effect.

Executive Order 13132

SBA has determined that this rule will not have substantial direct effects on the States, on the relationship between the National Government and the States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various layers of government. Therefore, SBA has determined that this rule has no federalism implications warranting preparation of a federalism assessment.

Paperwork Reduction Act, 44 U.S.C. Chapter 35

SBA has determined that this rule will not impose new or modify existing recordkeeping or reporting requirements under the Paperwork Reduction Act.

Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA)

The Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) generally requires that when an agency issues a proposed rule, or a final rule pursuant to section 553(b) of the APA or another law, the agency must prepare a regulatory flexibility analysis that meets the requirements of the RFA and publish such analysis in the Federal Register. 5 U.S.C. 603, 604. Specifically, the RFA normally requires agencies to describe the impact of a rulemaking on small entities by providing a regulatory impact analysis. Such analysis must address the consideration of regulatory options that would lessen the economic effect of the rule on small entities. The RFA defines a “small entity” as (1) a proprietary firm meeting the size standards of the Small Business Administration (SBA); (2) a nonprofit organization that is not dominant in its field; or (3) a small government jurisdiction with a population of less than 50,000. 5 U.S.C. 601(3)-(6). Except for such small government jurisdictions, neither State nor local governments are “small entities.” Similarly, for purposes of the RFA, individual persons are not small entities. The requirement to conduct a regulatory impact analysis does not apply if the head of the agency “certifies that the rule will not, if promulgated, have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.” 5 U.S.C. 605(b). The agency must, however, publish the certification in the Federal Register at the time of publication of the rule, “along with a statement providing the factual basis for such certification.” If the agency head has not waived the requirements for a regulatory flexibility analysis in accordance with the RFA's waiver provision, and no other RFA exception applies, the agency must prepare the regulatory flexibility analysis and publish it in the Federal Register at the time of promulgation or, if the rule is promulgated in response to an emergency that makes timely compliance impracticable, within 180 days of publication of the final rule. 5 U.S.C. 604(a), 608(b). Rules that are exempt from notice and comment are also exempt from the RFA requirements, including conducting a regulatory flexibility analysis, when among other things the agency for good cause finds that notice and public procedure are impracticable, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest. SBA Office of Advocacy Guide: How to Comply with the Regulatory Flexibility Act, Ch.1. p.9. Accordingly, SBA is not required to conduct a regulatory flexibility analysis.

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Jovita Carranza,

Administrator.

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Footnotes

1.  Section 7(a)(36)(D)(iv) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 636(a)(36)(D)(iv), as added by the CARES Act, waives SBA's affiliation rules for (1) any business concern with not more than 500 employees that, as of the date on which the loan is disbursed, is assigned a North American Industry Classification System code beginning with 72; (2) any business concern operating as a franchise that is assigned a franchise identifier code by the Administration; and (3) any business concern that receives financial assistance from a company licensed under section 301 of the Small Business Investment Act of 1958 (15 U.S.C. 681). SBA also applies affiliation exceptions to certain categories of entities. 13 CFR 121.103(b).

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2.  For purposes of this safe harbor, a borrower must include its affiliates to the extent required under the interim final rule on affiliates, 85 FR 20817 (April 15, 2020). SBA's affiliation exceptions in 13 CFR 121.103(b) apply to the PPP.

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[FR Doc. 2020-10967 Filed 5-19-20; 11:15 am]

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