What is the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)?

July 06, 2020 : H&R Block

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on April 23, 2020. 

The Paycheck Protection Program is in high demand. The PPP received additional funding under the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act on April 24, 2020. Check with a lender or the Small Business Administration for availability. The last day to submit an application for and receive a PPP loan has been extended to August 8, 2020, although lenders may stop accepting applications before that date. 

Congress amended the PPP rules under the PPP Flexibility Act (PPPFA) on June 5, 2020, to ease some criteria. Congress also extended the application period under the PPP Extension Act. These changes have been noted as applicable.

In light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, lives have changed in many ways. Not only are millions of people affected by the virus, but it’s also taking a major toll on commerce. The American economy has been severely impacted by nation-wide closure, especially hitting small businesses and their owners and employees.

Because of this significant toll on businesses, in late March of 2020, the U.S. government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, otherwise known as the CARES Act, to help individuals and small business owners who are struggling financially due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

A significant program that is a part of the CARES Act is the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, which provides loans for small businesses granted by the Small Business Administration (SBA). This is one of the CARES Acts’ marquee programs, as the U.S. government allocated a large portion of the funding to this program.

This type of loan is just what small businesses need when profits take an unexpected turn. The loan is intended to help cover small business costs, including payroll costs and interest payments on current debt. The loan term maximum is five years for loans made on or after June 5, 2020 (before the PPPFA, it was two years), and payments are deferred until six months after a loan forgiveness determination.

Who qualifies for the Paycheck Protection Loan?

Small businesses qualify for a Paycheck Protection Loan if one of the following conditions is met:

PPP loan

  • The business has 500 or fewer employees;
  • The business meets the definition of a small business concern under the Small Business Act; or
  • As of March 27, 2020, the business’ tangible net worth is not more than $15 million and its average net income after federal income taxes for the previous two fiscal years is not more than $5 million.

They can borrow up to 2.5 times their average monthly payroll, up to $10 million.

The loan was created so small business owners can get the loans they need to cover 24 weeks of payroll, along with some utility and rent costs through December 31.

If a business keeps employees on payroll or rehires them by December 31 after they’ve been laid off, these loans could be fully forgiven. At least 60% of the loan must be used to cover payroll costs in order for the entirety of it to be forgiven.


  • The PPP Flexibility Act extended the loan coverage period (from eight to 24 weeks and until December 31) and lowered the loan payroll threshold percentage (from 75% to 60%). Check the SBA’s PPP site for updates.
  • Guidance from the IRS in April clarified that, while the forgiven loan amount is not considered income, the expenses that the loan covers will not count as a deduction on the business’ tax return. State tax treatment may vary with regards to these expenses so check with your tax professional for your state’s rules.

Can self-employed people qualify for the PPP Loan?

While the SBA enacted parameters for the size of the company of applicants, other people wonder if the PPP loan is for self-employed persons? The answer is yes.

In addition, it applies to many traditional business entities, like sole proprietors, partnerships, corporations, corporations, S corporations, or non-profit organization.

Any business applying for the loan must have been in business prior to February 15, 2020.

What are benefits of the PPP loan?

Here are some benefits of getting a PPP loan:

  • Unlike many traditional business loans, PPP loans are 100% guaranteed, even without collateral or a personal guarantee. This means that the business owner doesn’t need to assume the debt obligation if they default on the loan.
  • The interest rate for PPP loans is fixed at 1% with a five-year maturity date. Most Small Business Administration loans have an interest rate of between 2.25% and 8%, on top of the prime.
  • All payments are deferred for six months, after the loan forgiveness determination, but interest will continue to accrue throughout the deferment period.
  • The balance of PPP loans may be forgivable, meaning the entirety (or a portion of the loan) is forgiven or deferred for a period of time by the lender when certain conditions are met.

What can this loan be used for?

The Payroll Protection Program can be used for:

  • Employee salaries, up to $100,000 per employee
  • Certain employee health benefits (such as insurance premiums or paid sick leave)
  • A business’ real estate expenses, like mortgage interest, rent, and utilities
  • Interest on other business debts

(Note: Small business employers must not lay off any employees, or they must rehire employees they’ve already laid off by December 31, 2020. Some exceptions apply under the PPPFA. And the 500-employee rule applies per physical location for food service industry businesses.)

The Paycheck Protection Program application process

Are you curious as to how the Paycheck Protection Program application works? Beginning April 3, and ending August 8, 2020, business owners can download and complete the PPP application at SBA.gov to see the information that will be requested when they apply with a lender. This date may change as funding is depleted.

Loan applications can be submitted with banks and approved financial lenders. In the second round of funding for PPP loans, $60 million is set aside for smaller lenders.

Again, we’d like to mention that you should work with your lender to submit an application for the PPP loan. The funds will get allocated quickly, so it’s best to get your application filled out, signed, and ready to go so you can submit it ASAP. If you previously submitted an application but were denied due to lack of funding, you may need to resubmit your application.

Need help with small business taxes?

Uncertainty seems to be the norm during these challenging times. However, your business tax and accounting needs shouldn’t be a point of stress. If you need tax and accounting solutions for your small business, we’re here to help. Learn more about H&R Block small business services.

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