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Rule

Business Loan Program Temporary Changes; Paycheck Protection Program-Requirements-Loan Forgiveness

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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

U.S. Small Business Administration; Department of the Treasury.

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, May 14, 2020, May 18, 2020, and May 20, 2020, and the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) posted an additional interim final rule on April 27, 2020. This interim final rule supplements the previously posted interim final rules in order to help PPP borrowers prepare and submit loan forgiveness applications as provided for in the CARES Act, help PPP lenders who will be making the loan forgiveness decisions, inform borrowers and lenders of SBA's process for reviewing PPP loan applications and loan forgiveness applications, and requests public comment.

DATES:

Effective date: May 28, 2020.

Applicability date: This interim final rule applies to loan forgiveness applications submitted under the Paycheck Protection Program.

Comment date: Comments must be received on or before July 1, 2020.

ADDRESSES:

You may submit comments, identified by number SBA-2020-0032 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.

Start Further Info

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.

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

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, and requires SBA to issue guidance and regulations implementing section 1106 within 30 days after the date of enactment of the CARES Act. On April 2, 2020, SBA posted its first PPP interim final rule (85 FR 20811) (the First Interim Final Rule) covering in part loan forgiveness. On April 8, 2020 and April 26, 2020, SBA also posted Frequently Asked Questions relating to loan forgiveness.[1] On April 14, 2020, SBA posted an interim final rule covering in part loan forgiveness for individuals with self-employment income. On April 24, 2020, the President signed the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (Pub. L. 116-139), which provided additional funding and authority for the Paycheck Protection Program.

As described below, this interim final rule provides borrowers and lenders guidance on requirements governing the forgiveness of PPP loans.

Four provisions of this interim final rule are an exercise of rulemaking authority by Treasury either jointly with SBA or by Treasury alone: (1) The de minimis exemption provided with respect to certain offers of rehire, (2) the additional reference period option provided for seasonal employers, (3) the de minimis exemption from the full-time equivalent employee reduction penalty when an employee is, for example, fired for cause, and (4) the de minimis exemption from the full-time equivalent employee reduction penalty when the borrower eliminates reductions by June 30, 2020. Otherwise, all provisions in this rule are an exercise of rulemaking authority by SBA alone.

II. Comments and Immediate Effective Date

The intent of the CARES Act is that SBA provide relief to America's small businesses expeditiously. This intent, along with the dramatic decrease in Start Printed Page 33005economic 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 loan forgiveness requirements as rapidly as possible because borrowers can seek loan forgiveness as early as eight-weeks following the date of disbursement of their PPP loans. Because the first PPP loans were disbursed after April 3, providing borrowers with certainty on loan forgiveness requirements and other program requirements will enhance their ability to carry out the purposes of the CARES Act in keeping their workers employed and paid, while at the same time taking necessary steps to maximize eligible loan forgiveness amounts. An immediate effective date also is necessary for PPP lenders who generally will make the loan forgiveness determinations as provided in the CARES Act. Specifically, an immediate effective date is necessary for lenders so that they will have both a degree of certainty and sufficient time to develop their systems and policies and procedures in order to timely review and process loan forgiveness applications, which borrowers are permitted to begin submitting at the end of their covered period.

This interim final rule supplements previous regulations and guidance on the discrete issues related to loan forgiveness. This interim final rule is effective without advance notice and public comment because section 1114 of the CARES Act authorizes SBA to issue regulations to implement Title I of the CARES Act without regard to notice requirements. In addition, SBA has determined that there is good cause for dispensing with advance public notice and comment on the ground that it would be contrary to the public interest. Specifically, SBA has determined that advance notice and public comment would delay the ability of PPP borrowers to understand with certainty which payroll costs and nonpayroll costs that are incurred or paid during the covered period are eligible for forgiveness. By providing a high degree of certainty to PPP borrowers through this interim final rule, PPP borrowers will be able to take immediate steps to maximize their loan forgiveness amounts, for example, by either rehiring employees or not laying off employees during the covered period. This rule is being issued to allow for immediate implementation of the forgiveness component of this program. Although this interim final rule is effective immediately, comments are solicited from interested members of the public on all aspects of this interim final rule, including section III below. These comments must be submitted on or before July 1, 2020. SBA will consider these comments and the need for making any revisions as a result of these comments.

III. Paycheck Protection Program Requirements for Loan Forgiveness

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 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Loans under the PPP will be 100 percent guaranteed by SBA, and the full principal amount of the loans may qualify for loan forgiveness. Additional information about the PPP is available in interim final rules published by SBA and 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, 85 FR 27287, 85 FR 29842, 85 FR 29845, 85 FR 29847, 85 FR 30835) as well as an SBA interim final rule posted on May 20, 2020.

1. General

Section 1106(b) of the CARES Act provides that, subject to several important limitations, borrowers shall be eligible for forgiveness of their PPP loan in an amount equal to the sum of the following costs incurred and payments made during the covered period (as described in section III.3. below):

(1) Payroll costs; [2]

(2) Interest payments on any business mortgage obligation on real or personal property that was incurred before February 15, 2020 (but not any prepayment or payment of principal);

(3) Payments on business rent obligations on real or personal property under a lease agreement in force before February 15, 2020; and

(4) Business utility payments for the distribution of electricity, gas, water, transportation, telephone, or internet access for which service began before February 15, 2020.

This interim final rule uses the term “nonpayroll costs” to refer to the payments described in (2), (3), and (4). As set forth in the First Interim Final Rule (85 FR 20811), eligible nonpayroll costs cannot exceed 25 percent of the loan forgiveness amount.

2. Loan Forgiveness Process

What is the general process to obtain loan forgiveness?

To receive loan forgiveness, a borrower must complete and submit the Loan Forgiveness Application (SBA Form 3508 or lender equivalent) to its lender (or the lender servicing its loan). As a general matter, the lender will review the application and make a decision regarding loan forgiveness. The lender has 60 days from receipt of a complete application to issue a decision to SBA. If the lender determines that the borrower is entitled to forgiveness of some or all of the amount applied for under the statute and applicable regulations, the lender must request payment from SBA at the time the lender issues its decision to SBA. SBA will, subject to any SBA review of the loan or loan application, remit the appropriate forgiveness amount to the lender, plus any interest accrued through the date of payment, not later than 90 days after the lender issues its decision to SBA. If applicable, SBA will deduct EIDL Advance Amounts from the forgiveness amount remitted to the Lender as required by section 1110(e)(6) of the CARES Act. If SBA determines in the course of its review that the borrower was ineligible for the PPP loan based on the provisions of the CARES Act, SBA rules or guidance available at the time of the borrower's loan application, or the terms of the borrower's PPP loan application (for example, because the borrower lacked an adequate basis for the certifications that it made in its PPP loan application), the loan will not be eligible for loan forgiveness. The lender is responsible for notifying the borrower of the forgiveness amount. If only a portion of the loan is forgiven, or if the forgiveness request is denied, any remaining balance due on the loan must be repaid by the borrower on or before the two-year maturity of the loan. If the amount remitted by SBA to the lender exceeds the remaining principal balance of the PPP loan (because the borrower made Start Printed Page 33006scheduled payments on the loan after the initial deferment period), the lender must remit the excess amount, including accrued interest, to the borrower.

The general loan forgiveness process described above applies only to loan forgiveness applications that are not reviewed by SBA prior to the lender's decision on the forgiveness application. In a separate interim final rule on SBA Loan Review Procedures and Related Borrower and Lender Responsibilities, SBA will describe its procedures for reviewing PPP loan applications and loan forgiveness applications.

3. Payroll Costs Eligible for Loan Forgiveness

a. When must payroll costs be incurred and/or paid to be eligible for forgiveness?

In general, payroll costs paid or incurred during the eight consecutive week (56 days) covered period are eligible for forgiveness. Borrowers may seek forgiveness for payroll costs for the eight weeks beginning on either:

i. The date of disbursement of the borrower's PPP loan proceeds from the Lender (i.e., the start of the covered period); or

ii. the first day of the first payroll cycle in the covered period (the “alternative payroll covered period”).

Payroll costs are considered paid on the day that paychecks are distributed or the borrower originates an ACH credit transaction. Payroll costs incurred during the borrower's last pay period of the covered period or the alternative payroll covered period are eligible for forgiveness if paid on or before the next regular payroll date; otherwise, payroll costs must be paid during the covered period (or alternative payroll covered period) to be eligible for forgiveness. Payroll costs are generally incurred on the day the employee's pay is earned (i.e., on the day the employee worked). For employees who are not performing work but are still on the borrower's payroll, payroll costs are incurred based on the schedule established by the borrower (typically, each day that the employee would have performed work).

The Administrator of the Small Business Administration (Administrator), in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury (Secretary), recognizes that the eight-week covered period will not always align with a borrower's payroll cycle. For administrative convenience of the borrower, a borrower with a bi-weekly (or more frequent) payroll cycle may elect to use an alternative payroll covered period that begins on the first day of the first payroll cycle in the covered period and continues for the following eight weeks. If payroll costs are incurred during this eight-week alternative payroll covered period, but paid after the end of the alternative payroll covered period, such payroll costs will be eligible for forgiveness if they are paid no later than the first regular payroll date thereafter.

The Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary, determined that this alternative computational method for payroll costs is justified by considerations of administrative feasibility for borrowers, as it will reduce burdens on borrowers and their payroll agents while achieving the paycheck protection purposes manifest throughout the CARES Act, including section 1102. Because this alternative computational method is limited to payroll cycles that are bi-weekly or more frequent, this computational method will yield a calculation that the Administrator does not expect to materially differ from the actual covered period, while avoiding unnecessary administrative burdens and enhancing auditability.

Example: A borrower has a bi-weekly payroll schedule (every other week). The borrower's eight-week covered period begins on June 1 and ends on July 26. The first day of the borrower's first payroll cycle that starts in the covered period is June 7. The borrower may elect an alternative payroll covered period for payroll cost purposes that starts on June 7 and ends 55 days later (for a total of 56 days) on August 1. Payroll costs paid during this alternative payroll covered period are eligible for forgiveness. In addition, payroll costs incurred during this alternative payroll covered period are eligible for forgiveness as long as they are paid on or before the first regular payroll date occurring after August 1. Payroll costs that were both paid and incurred during the covered period (or alternative payroll covered period) may only be counted once.

b. Are salary, wages, or commission payments to furloughed employees; bonuses; or hazard pay during the covered period eligible for loan forgiveness?

Yes. The CARES Act defines the term “payroll costs” broadly to include compensation in the form of salary, wages, commissions, or similar compensation. If a borrower pays furloughed employees their salary, wages, or commissions during the covered period, those payments are eligible for forgiveness as long as they do not exceed an annual salary of $100,000, as prorated for the covered period. The Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary, has determined that this interpretation is consistent with the text of the statute and advances the paycheck protection purposes of the statute by enabling borrowers to continue paying their employees even if those employees are not able to perform their day-to-day duties, whether due to lack of economic demand or public health considerations. This intent is reflected throughout the statute, including in section 1106(d)(4) of the Act, which provides that additional wages paid to tipped employees are eligible for forgiveness. The Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary, has also determined that, if an employee's total compensation does not exceed $100,000 on an annualized basis, the employee's hazard pay and bonuses are eligible for loan forgiveness because they constitute a supplement to salary or wages, and are thus a similar form of compensation.

c. Are there caps on the amount of loan forgiveness available for owner-employees and self-employed individuals' own payroll compensation?

Yes, the amount of loan forgiveness requested for owner-employees and self-employed individuals' payroll compensation can be no more than the lesser of 8/52 of 2019 compensation (i.e., approximately 15.38 percent of 2019 compensation) or $15,385 per individual in total across all businesses. See 85 FR 21747, 21750.

In particular, owner-employees are capped by the amount of their 2019 employee cash compensation and employer retirement and health care contributions made on their behalf. Schedule C filers are capped by the amount of their owner compensation replacement, calculated based on 2019 net profit.[3] General partners are capped by the amount of their 2019 net earnings from self-employment (reduced by claimed section 179 expense deduction, unreimbursed partnership expenses, and depletion from oil and gas properties) multiplied by 0.9235. No additional forgiveness is provided for retirement or health insurance contributions for self-employed individuals, including Schedule C filers and general partners, as such expenses are paid out of their net self-employment income.

Start Printed Page 33007

4. Nonpayroll Costs Eligible for Loan Forgiveness

a. When must nonpayroll costs be incurred and/or paid to be eligible for forgiveness?

A nonpayroll cost is eligible for forgiveness if it was:

i. Paid during the covered period; or

ii. incurred during the covered period and paid on or before the next regular billing date, even if the billing date is after the covered period.

Example: A borrower's covered period begins on June 1 and ends on July 26. The borrower pays its May and June electricity bill during the covered period and pays its July electricity bill on August 10, which is the next regular billing date. The borrower may seek loan forgiveness for its May and June electricity bills, because they were paid during the covered period. In addition, the borrower may seek loan forgiveness for the portion of its July electricity bill through July 26 (the end of the covered period), because it was incurred during the covered period and paid on the next regular billing date.

The Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary, has determined that this interpretation provides an appropriate degree of borrower flexibility while remaining consistent with the text of section 1106(b). The Administrator believes that this simplified approach to calculation of forgivable nonpayroll costs is also supported by considerations of administrative convenience for borrowers, and the Administrator notes that the 25 percent cap on nonpayroll costs will avoid excessive inclusion of nonpayroll costs.

b. Are advance payments of interest on mortgage obligations eligible for loan forgiveness?

No. Advance payments of interest on a covered mortgage obligation are not eligible for loan forgiveness because the CARES Act's loan forgiveness provisions regarding mortgage obligations specifically exclude “prepayments.” Principal on mortgage obligations is not eligible for forgiveness under any circumstances.

5. Reductions to Loan Forgiveness Amount

Section 1106 of the CARES Act specifically requires certain reductions in a borrower's loan forgiveness amount based on reductions in full-time equivalent employees or in employee salary and wages during the covered period, subject to an important statutory exemption for borrowers who have rehired employees and restored salary and wage levels by June 30, 2020 (with limitations). In addition, SBA and Treasury are adopting a regulatory exemption to the reduction rules for borrowers who have offered to rehire employees or restore employee hours, even if the employees have not accepted. The instructions to the loan forgiveness application and the guidance below explains how the statutory forgiveness reduction formulas work.

a. Will a borrower's loan forgiveness amount be reduced if the borrower laid-off or reduced the hours of an employee, then offered to rehire the same employee for the same salary and same number of hours, or restore the reduction in hours, but the employee declined the offer?

No. Employees whom the borrower offered to rehire are generally exempt from the CARES Act's loan forgiveness reduction calculation. This exemption is also available if a borrower previously reduced the hours of an employee and offered to restore the employee's hours at the same salary or wages. Specifically, in calculating the loan forgiveness amount, a borrower may exclude any reduction in full-time equivalent employee headcount that is attributable to an individual employee if:

i. The borrower made a good faith, written offer to rehire such employee (or, if applicable, restore the reduced hours of such employee) during the covered period or the alternative payroll covered period;

ii. the offer was for the same salary or wages and same number of hours as earned by such employee in the last pay period prior to the separation or reduction in hours;

iii. the offer was rejected by such employee;

iv. the borrower has maintained records documenting the offer and its rejection; and

v. the borrower informed the applicable state unemployment insurance office of such employee's rejected offer of reemployment within 30 days of the employee's rejection of the offer.[4]

The Administrator and the Secretary determined that this exemption is an appropriate exercise of their joint rulemaking authority to grant de minimis exemptions under section 1106(d)(6).[5] Section 1106(d)(2) of the CARES Act reduces the amount of the PPP loan that may be forgiven if the borrower reduces full-time equivalent employees during the covered period as compared to a base period selected by the borrower. Section 1106(d)(5) of the CARES Act waives this reduction in the forgiveness amount if the borrower eliminates the reduction in full-time equivalent employees occurring during a different statutory reference period [6] by not later than June 30, 2020. The Administrator and the Secretary believe that the additional exemption set forth above is consistent with the purposes of the CARES Act and provides borrowers appropriate flexibility in the current economic climate. The Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary, have determined that the exemption is de minimis for two reasons. First, it is reasonable to anticipate that most laid-off employees will accept the offer of reemployment in light of current labor market conditions. Second, to the extent this exemption allows employers to cure FTE reductions attributable to terminations that occurred before February 15, 2020 (the start of the statutory FTE reduction safe harbor period), it is reasonable to anticipate those reductions will represent a relatively small portion of aggregate employees given the historically strong labor market conditions before the COVID-19 emergency.

b. What effect does a reduction in a borrower's number of full-time equivalent (FTE) employees have on the loan forgiveness amount?

In general, a reduction in FTE employees during the covered period or the alternative payroll covered period reduces the loan forgiveness amount by the same percentage as the percentage reduction in FTE employees. The borrower must first select a reference period: (i) February 15, 2019 through June 30, 2019; (ii) January 1, 2020 through February 29, 2020; or (iii) in the case of a seasonal employer, either of the two preceding methods or a consecutive 12-week period between May 1, 2019 and September 15, 2019.7 Start Printed Page 33008If the average number of FTE employees during the covered period or the alternative payroll covered period is less than during the reference period, the total eligible expenses available for forgiveness is reduced proportionally by the percentage reduction in FTE employees. For example, if a borrower had 10.0 FTE employees during the reference period and this declined to 8.0 FTE employees during the covered period, the percentage of FTE employees declined by 20 percent and thus only 80 percent of otherwise eligible expenses are available for forgiveness.

This formula implements section 1106(d)(2) of the CARES Act, which expressly requires that the loan forgiveness amount be reduced by the amount resulting from multiplying the amount that the borrower would otherwise receive by the quotient of the average FTE employees in the covered period divided by the average FTE employees in the relevant reference period.

c. What does “full-time equivalent employee” mean?

Full-time equivalent employee means an employee who works 40 hours or more, on average, each week. The hours of employees who work less than 40 hours are calculated as proportions of a single full-time equivalent employee and aggregated, as explained further below in subsection d.

The CARES Act does not define the term “full-time equivalent employee,” and the Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary, has determined that full-time equivalent is best understood to mean 40 hours or more of work each week. The Administrator considered using a 30 hour standard, but determined that 40 hours or more of work each week better reflects what constitutes full-time employment for the vast majority of American workers.

d. How should a borrower calculate its number of full-time equivalent (FTE) employees?

Borrowers seeking forgiveness must document their average number of FTE employees during the covered period (or the alternative payroll covered period) and their selected reference period. For purposes of this calculation, borrowers must divide the average number of hours paid for each employee per week by 40, capping this quotient at 1.0. For example, an employee who was paid 48 hours per week during the covered period would be considered to be an FTE employee of 1.0.

For employees who were paid for less than 40 hours per week, borrowers may choose to calculate the full-time equivalency in one of two ways. First, the borrower may calculate the average number of hours a part-time employee was paid per week during the covered period. For example, if an employee was paid for 30 hours per week on average during the covered period, the employee could be considered to be an FTE employee of 0.75. Similarly, if an employee was paid for ten hours per week on average during the covered period, the employee could be considered to be an FTE employee of 0.25. Second, for administrative convenience, borrowers may elect to use a full-time equivalency of 0.5 for each part-time employee. The Administrator recognizes that not all borrowers maintain hours-worked data, and has decided to afford such borrowers this flexibility in calculating the full-time equivalency of their part-time employees.

Borrowers may select only one of these two methods, and must apply that method consistently to all of their part-time employees for the covered period or the alternative payroll covered period and the selected reference period. In either case, the borrower shall provide the aggregate total of FTE employees for both the selected reference period and the covered period or the alternative payroll covered period, by adding together all of the employee-level FTE employee calculations. The borrower must then divide the average FTE employees during the covered period or the alternative payroll covered period by the average FTE employees during the selected reference period, resulting in the reduction quotient.

The Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary, determined that because the Act does not define the term FTE employee, this approach to measurement of FTE is a reasonable and appropriate exercise of the Administrator's rulemaking authority, as it balances the need for a reasonable measurement of FTE employee headcount with the need to limit borrower compliance burdens and ensure administrative feasibility.

e. What effect does a borrower's reduction in employees' salary or wages have on the loan forgiveness amount?

Under section 1106(d)(3) of the CARES Act, a reduction in an employee's salary or wages in excess of 25 percent will generally result in a reduction in the loan forgiveness amount, unless an exception applies. Specifically, for each new employee in 2020 and each existing employee who was not paid more than the annualized equivalent of $100,000 in any pay period in 2019, the borrower must reduce the total forgiveness amount by the total dollar amount of the salary or wage reductions that are in excess of 25 percent of base salary or wages between January 1, 2020 and March 31, 2020 (the reference period), subject to exceptions for borrowers who restore reduced wages or salaries (see g. below). This reduction calculation is performed on a per employee basis, not in the aggregate.

Example: A borrower reduced a full-time employee's weekly salary from $1,000 per week during the reference period to $700 per week during the covered period. The employee continued to work on a full-time basis during the covered period with an FTE of 1.0. In this case, the first $250 (25 percent of $1,000) is exempted from the reduction. Borrowers seeking forgiveness would list $400 as the salary/hourly wage reduction for that employee (the extra $50 weekly reduction multiplied by eight weeks).

The provision implements section 1106(d)(3) of the CARES Act, which provides that “the amount of loan forgiveness shall be reduced by the amount of any reduction in total salary or wages of any employee [who did not receive, during any single pay period during 2019, wages or salary at an annualized rate of pay in an amount more than $100,000] during the covered period that is in excess of 25 percent of the total salary or wages of the employee during the most recent full quarter during which the employee was employed before the covered period.”

f. How should borrowers seeking loan forgiveness account for the reduction based on a reduction in the number of employees (Section 1106(d)(2)) relative to the reduction relating to salary and wages (Section 1106(d)(3))?

To ensure that borrowers are not doubly penalized, the salary/wage reduction applies only to the portion of the decline in employee salary and wages that is not attributable to the FTE reduction.

The Act does not address the intersection between the FTE employee reduction provision in section 1106(d)(2) and the salary/wage reduction provision in section 1106(d)(3). To help ensure uniformity across all borrowers in applying the FTE reduction provision and the salary/wage reduction provision, the Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary, has determined that the salary/wage reduction applies only to the portion of the decline in employee salary and wages that is not attributable to the FTE reduction. This approach will help Start Printed Page 33009ensure that borrowers are not doubly penalized for reductions.

Example: An hourly wage employee had been working 40 hours per week during the borrower selected reference period (FTE employee of 1.0) and the borrower reduced the employee's hours to 20 hours per week during the covered period (FTE employee of 0.5). There was no change to the employee's hourly wage during the covered period. Because the hourly wage did not change, the reduction in the employee's total wages is entirely attributable to the FTE employee reduction and the borrower is not required to conduct a salary/wage reduction calculation for that employee.

The Administrator considered applying the salary/wage reduction provision in addition to the FTE reduction in situations similar to the example above because section 1106(d)(3) refers to reductions in “total salary or wages” in excess of 25 percent. However, the Administrator determined that, based on the structure of section 1106(d)(2) and section 1106(d)(3), Congress intended to distinguish between an FTE reduction on the one hand and a reduction in hourly wages or salary on the other hand. This interpretation harmonizes the two loan forgiveness reduction provisions in a logical manner consistent with the statute.

g. If a borrower restores reductions made to employee salaries and wages or FTE employees by not later than June 30, 2020, can the borrower avoid a reduction in its loan forgiveness amount?

Yes. Section 1106(d)(5) of the CARES Act provides that if certain employee salaries and wages were reduced between February 15, 2020 and April 26, 2020 (the safe harbor period) but the borrower eliminates those reductions by June 30, 2020 or earlier, the borrower is exempt from any reduction in loan forgiveness amount that would otherwise be required due to reductions in salaries and wages under section 1106(d)(3) of the CARES Act. Similarly, if a borrower eliminates any reductions in FTE employees occurring during the safe harbor period by June 30, 2020 or earlier, the borrower is exempt from any reduction in loan forgiveness amount that would otherwise be required due to reductions in FTE employees.[8]

This provision implements section 1106(d)(5) of the CARES Act, which gives borrowers an opportunity to cure reductions in FTEs, salary/wage reductions in excess of 25 percent, or both, using the applicable methodology set forth in section 1106(d)(5). The Act provides that the reduction in FTEs or the reduction in salary/hourly wages must be eliminated “not later than June 30, 2020.” This does not change or affect the requirement that at least 75 percent of the loan forgiveness amount must be attributable to payroll costs.

h. Will a borrower's loan forgiveness amount be reduced if an employee is fired for cause, voluntarily resigns, or voluntarily requests a schedule reduction?

No. When an employee of the borrower is fired for cause, voluntarily resigns, or voluntarily requests a reduced schedule during the covered period or the alternative payroll covered period (FTE reduction event), the borrower may count such employee at the same full-time equivalency level before the FTE reduction event when calculating the section 1106(d)(2) FTE employee reduction penalty. The Administrator and the Secretary have decided to exempt such employees from the calculation of the FTE reduction penalty.

Section 1106 is silent concerning how to account for employees who are fired for cause, voluntarily resign, or voluntarily request a reduced schedule. The Administrator and the Secretary have determined that such an exemption is de minimis, because a limited number of borrowers will face an FTE reduction event during the covered period or the alternative payroll covered period. Further, borrowers should not be penalized for changes in employee headcount that are the result of employee actions and requests. Borrowers that avail themselves of this de minimis exemption shall maintain records demonstrating that each such employee was fired for cause, voluntarily resigned, or voluntarily requested a schedule reduction. The borrower shall provide such documentation upon request.

6. Documentation Requirements

What must borrowers submit for forgiveness of their PPP loans?

The loan forgiveness application form details the documentation requirements; specifically, documentation each borrower must submit with its Loan Forgiveness Application (SBA Form 3508 or a lender equivalent), documentation each borrower is required to maintain and make available upon request, and documentation each borrower may voluntarily submit with its loan forgiveness application. Section 1106(e) of the Act requires borrowers to submit to their lenders an application, which includes certain documentation, and section 1106(f) provides that the borrower shall not receive forgiveness without submitting the required documentation. For purposes of administrative convenience for both lenders and borrowers, the Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary, has determined that requiring borrowers to submit certain documentation, maintain certain documentation, and choose whether to submit additional documentation will reduce initial reporting burdens on borrowers and reduce initial recordkeeping burdens on lenders.

7. 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.Start Printed Page 33010

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 impose a new reporting requirement on borrowers who request forgiveness of their PPP loan. SBA has developed Form 3508, Paycheck Protection Program—Loan Forgiveness Application, for use in collecting the information required to determine whether a borrower is eligible for loan forgiveness. SBA obtained approval of Form 3508 from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as a modification to the existing PPP collection of information (OMB Control Number (3245-0407). This collection of information was approved under emergency procedures to facilitate immediate implementation of the PPP and expires on October 31, 2020.

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.

Start Signature

Jovita Carranza,

Administrator Small Business Administration.

Michael Faulkender,

Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy, Department of the Treasury.

End Signature End Supplemental Information

Footnotes

2.  Payroll costs consist of compensation to employees (whose principal place of residence is the United States) in the form of salary, wages, commissions, or similar compensation; cash tips or the equivalent (based on employer records of past tips or, in the absence of such records, a reasonable, good-faith employer estimate of such tips); payment for vacation, parental, family, medical, or sick leave; allowance for separation or dismissal; payment for the provision of employee benefits consisting of group health care coverage, including insurance premiums, and retirement; payment of state and local taxes assessed on compensation of employees; and for an independent contractor or sole proprietor, wages, commissions, income, or net earnings from self-employment, or similar compensation. See 15 U.S.C. 636(a)(36)(A)(viii); 85 FR 20811, 20813.

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3.  See 85 CFR 21747, 21749 (April 20, 2020).

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4.  Further information regarding how borrowers will report information concerning rejected rehire offers to state unemployment insurance offices will be provided on SBA's website.

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5.  Section 1106(d)(6) is the sole joint rulemaking authority exercised in this interim final rule. All other provisions of this interim final rule are an exercise of rulemaking authority by SBA, except as expressly noted otherwise.

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6.  Section 1106(d)(5) specifies that this reference period is between February 15, 2020 and 30 days after the date of enactment of the CARES Act or April 26, 2020 (the safe harbor period).

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7.  This decision to permit seasonal employers to use, as a reference period, any consecutive 12-week period between May 1, 2019 and September 15, 2019 is an exercise of the Secretary's rulemaking authority under section 1109 of the CARES Act. This reference period is consistent with the interim final rule on seasonal employers issued by Treasury. See 85 FR 23917 (April 30, 2020).

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8.  In light of the flexibility the Act provides to borrowers with respect to their selection of the reference time period for any potential reduction in loan forgiveness, and the statutory authority for SBA and the Department of the Treasury to grant de minimis exemptions from this requirement, if the borrower meets the requirements for the FTE reduction safe harbor, it will not be subject to any loan forgiveness reduction based on a reduction in FTE employees.

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[FR Doc. 2020-11536 Filed 5-28-20; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 8026-03-P