Tuesday, December 22, 2020

COVID relief bill will let businesses seek second PPP loan

 Some American small businesses will be able to seek a second government-backed loan to help them get through the coronavirus pandemic.

The $900 billion stimulus bill that’s headed to President Trump’s desk includes about $284 billion in additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, which offered small employers forgivable loans meant to keep their staff on the payroll.

The Small Business Administration has already distributed 5.2 million PPP loans worth more than $525 billion. Businesses that are still struggling may be able to get another round of help — but they’ll have to meet stricter criteria than in the spring.

For one, only companies with 300 or fewer employees will be eligible for second loans, down from a limit of 500 in the program’s first iteration, according to text of the stimulus legislation Congress passed Monday.

Additional loans will be capped at $2 million instead of the previous limit of $10 million. And applicants seeking a second loan will have to show that their sales in at least one quarter of this year dropped by 25 percent or more from the prior year’s levels.

Additionally, the new law bars publicly traded companies from seeking PPP funds, a provision that was added after outrage about hundreds of such firms snagging millions of dollars in loans. Some big names such as Shake Shack and Lindblad Expeditions have returned the money.

The bill also simplifies the process for forgiving loans of less than $150,000. Those small borrowers will just have to sign a one-page form attesting that the money was used for its intended purpose.

That’s a win for banks, which had expressed concerns that the initial forgiveness process was too burdensome for small companies receiving little loans.

The stimulus package also gives the SBA $50 million to conduct audits and take up other efforts to tackle fraud in the massive program, according to the New York Times. The agency and the Treasury Department have already pledged to audit all loans larger than $2 million, but that will encompass less than 1 percent of the loans and only about 20 percent of all the money that’s been given out.

From New York Post, 12-22-20

Monday, December 14, 2020

Pfizer’s COVID-19 Vaccine First to be Granted Emergency Use Authorization by the Food and Drug Administration

 On December 11, 2020, the FDA authorized the emergency use of the first COVID-19 vaccine, manufactured by Pfizer. Although details are rapidly evolving, we want to share what we know now to help you answer questions from your employer groups.

Initial supplies of the vaccine will be limited. Most states will distribute it in phases, with high-risk populations like healthcare workers and nursing home residents addressed first. As the vaccine becomes more readily available, each state will communicate when and where it is being offered. 

Once it is available to the general public, CareFirst members will pay nothing for any authorized COVID-19 vaccine. 

Initially, the federal government will purchase and distribute all COVID-19 vaccinations. During this period, employer-sponsored plans will only be responsible for the administration costs rather than the entire cost of the vaccines.

Administration costs are based on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services rates and are estimated to be about $17 for the first dose and $28 for the second, for a total cost of approximately $45. As additional vaccines are authorized and become available, different rates may be determined.