U.S. Small Business Administration.
Interim final rule.
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). This interim final rule supplements previously published interim final rules by providing guidance on additional eligibility requirements for certain telephone cooperatives, and requests public comment.
Effective date: This rule is effective June 8, 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 July 13, 2020.
You may submit comments, identified by number SBA-2020-0034 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 Start Printed Page 35551information (CBI) as defined in the User Notice at www.regulations.gov, please send an email to email@example.com. 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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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, May 20, 2020, and May 22, 2020; SBA and Treasury posted an additional interim final rule on May 22, 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 for certain telephone cooperatives, and requests public comment.
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), which provided additional funding and authority for the PPP.
Among the categories of entities that are eligible PPP borrowers are business concerns and certain nonprofit organizations described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (the Code). This interim final rule addresses the eligibility of mutual or cooperative telephone companies that are described in section 501(c)(12) of the Internal Revenue Code (telephone cooperatives) as PPP borrowers. Existing SBA regulations define “business concern” as “a business entity organized for profit,” subject to certain limitations. 13 CFR 121.105(a)(1). Generally, telephone cooperatives are organizations that are owned and controlled by members who receive telecommunications services from the cooperative. Telephone cooperatives periodically return any excess of net operating revenues over their cost of operations—such as through “capital credits”—to their member-owners. In addition, telephone cooperatives meeting the description of section 501(c)(12) of the Code may be exempt from federal income taxation under section 501(a) of the Code. To qualify for the exemption, a telephone cooperative must receive at least 85 percent of its income each year from its members. The 85 percent member income test is computed annually. A telephone cooperative may be exempt in one year, lose exemption in another year if it does not derive at least 85 percent of its income from members, and become exempt in a third year. Because of their potential tax exemption under section 501(c)(12) of the Code, telephone cooperatives have faced uncertainty about their eligibility to receive PPP loans.
The Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary, understands that telephone cooperatives are unusual in that they may be exempt from taxation or organized under state nonprofit statutes in certain jurisdictions, while they operate as businesses. For example, telephone cooperatives provide telecommunications services and distribute capital credits to their member-owners.
On May 14, 2020, SBA posted an interim final rule providing that certain electric cooperatives, which may also be exempt from taxation or organized under state nonprofit statutes, but which return any excess of net operating revenues over their cost of operations to their member-owners, will be considered to be “a business entity organized for profit” under 13 CFR 121.105(a)(1) for purposes of the PPP and therefore eligible to receive PPP loans, provided they meet other eligibility criteria. See 85 FR 29847. Because telephone cooperatives also operate as businesses, as described below, and to provide certainty to potential PPP applicants, this interim final rule provides that, for purposes of the PPP, a telephone cooperative that is exempt from federal income taxation under section 501(c)(12) of the Code also will be considered to be “a business entity organized for profit” under 13 CFR 121.105(a)(1). As a result, such telephone cooperatives are eligible PPP borrowers, as long as other eligibility requirements are met.
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, Start Printed Page 35552comments 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 July 13, 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
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, 85 FR 27287, 85 FR 29845, 85 FR 29842, 85 FR 29847, 85 FR 30835, 85 FR 31357, 85 FR 33004, and 85 FR 33010), collectively, the PPP Interim Final Rules.
1. Eligibility of Certain Telephone Cooperatives
Are telephone cooperatives that are exempt from federal income taxation under section 501(c)(12) of the Internal Revenue Code eligible for a PPP loan?
Yes. Telephone cooperatives provide telecommunications services and return any excess of net operating revenues over their cost of operations to their member-owners, such as through capital credits. Accordingly, for purposes of the PPP, the Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary, has determined that a telephone cooperative that is exempt from federal income taxation under section 501(c)(12) of the Internal Revenue Code will be considered to be “a business entity organized for profit” for purposes of 13 CFR 121.105(a)(1). As a result, such entities are eligible PPP borrowers, as long as other eligibility requirements are met. To be eligible, a telephone cooperative must satisfy the employee-based size standard established in the CARES Act, SBA's employee-based size standard corresponding to its primary industry, if higher, or both tests in SBA's “alternative size standard.” 
The Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary, has determined that this treatment is appropriate to effectuate the purposes of the CARES Act to provide assistance to eligible PPP borrowers, including business concerns, affected by the COVID-19 emergency.
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.
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.
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 Start Printed Page 35553things 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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[FR Doc. 2020-12623 Filed 6-8-20; 2:00 pm]
BILLING CODE 8026-03-P