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Stimulus Bills

Stimulus FAQs – Business Owners & Self-Employed

April 5, 2020

Jamie Trull Stimulus FAQs

What programs are you eligible for under the new Stimulus? How do you apply? See below for a list of FAQs specifically tailored to small business owners and the self-employed.

For a glossary of terms related to the Stimulus Bill – see HERE.

Last updated May 28, 2020

Relief Options FAQs

Q: I own a small business with employees. I am closed or partially closed right now due to COVID-19. What federal relief options are available to me? What can I do for my employees?

Answer: For employers wanting to continue paying employees, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is recommended. PPP is an SBA loan that can be applied for through a participating bank (check with your bank first to see if they are participating). This loan is FORGIVABLE if spent on the appropriate expenditures. If not forgiven, this loan is to be repaid at a rate of 1% over 2 years. This loan is for 2.5x the amount of typical monthly payroll, and must be spent on qualifying expenditures over the 8 week forgiveness period in order to be forgiven. The primary purpose of this loan is to pay payroll and keep employees employed. To qualify for forgiveness, you cannot reduce normal headcount and you can’t reduce wages significantly during the 8 week period. Employees who were furloughed due to the virus must be re-hired. See the application for the PPP here. It needs to be submitted through a participating bank.

Already received PPP and wondering how to track it to maximize forgiveness, and how to fill out the Treasury forgiveness application? Grab a FREE tracker here!

Further, you would also be eligible for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) from the SBA. This is a good option if you need more money to pay operating costs. This loan is applied for directly from the SBA HERE and allows for the ability to request an up to $10k advance grant ($1k per employee or $1k for self if solo). This grant is not refundable even if you don’t qualify for the loan. However, if you DO qualify for the loan, the rate is 3.75% for for profit businesses and has a 30 year term (the loan itself is not forgivable). This loan is a great option to get actual cash to use for working capital, and does not come with the same restrictions on usage and timing as the PPP loan. NOTE: This program is currently closed to new entrants as of May 28, 2020 (except for agriculture businesses). It is unclear whether it will reopen or not.

For information on considerations around accepting the EIDL loan and what you can spend EIDL money on, please see this video.

For those businesses who are in a cash flow crunch and can’t wait for funding (current processing time is unknown for both of these loans), you may consider furloughing your employees and letting them file for unemployment. Unemployment benefits are significantly expanded due to the CARES Act, and many workers may be eligible for close to their full pay (extra $600 benefit last through the end of July). Furloughed employees can then be hired back when you need them. For some, this may be the best option. If you obtain PPP funding, you’ll need to rehire and pay at your old levels.

Additionally, your employees may qualify for paid leave via the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This Act greatly expanded FMLA and added provisions for other paid sick leave. This is eligible to both employees affected by Coronavirus (either sick or under quarantine and can’t work), or who cannot report to work because they have to care for a child out of school. This is claimed by the employee and the employer is responsible for paying the sick leave. Employers are reimbursed 100% of the money paid for eligible sick leave by the federal government through payroll tax credits. See more on my blog here.

For those who don’t get these loans and continue to pay employees, you may also qualify for relief under the Employee Retention Credit. Essentially this is a tax credit you can take against your payroll taxes paid to help reimburse you for keeping on staff even when your business has been significantly decreased. If you don’t qualify for that credit, there is also an option to defer payroll taxes to a later date. See more on my blog here.

Q: I am self-employed or an independent contractor and my income has been greatly reduced due to Coronavirus. What are my options?

Answer: You have quite a few. First, you can apply for unemployment now due to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) as part of the CARES Act. Benefits have been significantly expanded. See the glossary of terms for more info. You can apply for either partial or full benefits, so even if you are still working some but your hours and income have been substantially impacted, you may still qualify for benefits. Depending on the benefits you receive (which will vary by state), if it isn’t significantly less than your previous salary, this may be the most straightforward option. Unemployment does not need to be paid back. Depending on the state, unemployment can now go up to 39 weeks under the CARES Act, and can be retroactive back to the date you were unable to work.

You can also apply for an EIDL loan here and attempt to get an advance of up to $10k that you do NOT have to pay back (even if you don’t qualify for the loan). Note that this is a loan application however, so if you do qualify you’ll have to determine whether you want to loan. If you aren’t sure, it may not be a bad thing to take funds “just in case” as the loan rate is low and you can repay it at any time if you don’t end up needing it with no prepayment penalties (just accrued interest for the time period you held it). For more information on the EIDL loan, see the glossary of termsNOTE: This program is currently closed to new entrants as of May 28, 2020 (except for agriculture businesses). It is unclear whether it will reopen or not.

For information on considerations around accepting the EIDL loan and what you can spend it on, please see this video.

Finally, as a self-employed individual with no employees, you can apply for a PPP loan. This loan is FORGIVABLE if spent on qualifying expenses (see below). While this loan is generally a payroll loan, self-employed individuals who don’t pay themselves via payroll can also apply. Note that you will need to have good records to apply for these loans, and further records in order to be forgiven for them. This loan likely makes more sense if you have a decent profit in your business and aren’t able to replace it well enough with unemployment benefits. You would have to come off of unemployment during the 8 week forgiveness period. See below for further details on calculating your loan amount as a sole proprietor.

Already received PPP and wondering how to track it to maximize forgiveness, and how to fill out the Treasury forgiveness application? Grab a FREE tracker here!

Q: I have a new business. What am I eligible for?

Answer: To be eligible for a PPP loan, you must be in business by February 15, 2020. For an EIDL loan, you must be in business by January 30, 2020. You may also be eligible for unemployment benefits if you have an earnings history.

PPP Loan FAQs

Already received PPP and wondering how to track it to maximize forgiveness, and how to fill out the Treasury forgiveness application? Grab a FREE tracker here!

Is PPP right for me?

Q: I have no employees. Should I take unemployment or PPP?

Answer: I suggest that if you are unemployed for eligible reasons, you apply for unemployment and try to claim back to when you “stopped working” (or slowed substantially due to Coronavirus), whether you take PPP or not. PPP covers the 8 weeks after you get it, but unemployment can cover you back to when you stopped working in most cases.

For lower-wage earners or sole proprietors without significant net profit in 2019 (or who had a loss), unemployment may be a better option for you due to the fact that you would receive at least half the average benefits in the state plus the extra $600 weekly. That means that your benefits in total will likely be in the range of $750-1,100 a week depending on your state. Compare this with the amount you could get from PPP, which would be your 2019 net profit (Schedule C, line 31 of your tax return). Take this amount, divide by 12. That is your monthly average salary. Multiply by 2.5 and that is your loan amount. You’ll be forgiven for 2 months worth of payroll, and have .5 left to pay other qualified things (business rent, utilities, etc). If you don’t have much of these other things, this extra .5 won’t be forgiven. Compare each calculation and determine which makes the most sense for you. In general, higher earners will be better with PPP, lower earners may be better with unemployment.

That said, if you are still bringing in some revenue in your business, this COULD cause you to earn too much and disqualify yourself from UI benefits. In this case, PPP may be better. In general, if in any week you make more than your weekly benefit amount (before the $600), you won’t qualify for any benefits that week.

Q: I have employees. Should I take PPP to pay them?

Answer: To get PPP fully forgiven, you need to pay out at least 75% of the loan as payroll, and you also need to bring full-time-equivalent headcount back to pre-COVID levels. If your employees are already working (even if reduced hours), taking PPP to pay them makes a ton of sense as you can essentially get government money to pay them. If your employees AREN’T working and have started to draw unemployment and you don’t plan to be fully operational in the next 4-8 weeks, it may not make as much sense. Ultimately, to get PPP forgiven you need to pay people whether they are working or not. In some cases, the money you would pay non-working employees via PPP would be LESS than what they would get on unemployment (this is especially true for lower-wage earners). Remember also, that while PPP will cover MOST costs of payroll…it doesn’t cover all of it. The employer portion of payroll taxes cannot be paid with PPP money. There is an option to defer these payments if you want, but you’ll still be responsible for the 7.65% employer portion of payroll taxes eventually. Meaning, there is a cost to you to keep employees employed even with PPP. This cost makes less sense for employees not working at all.

As a business owner, you may also be able to apply for unemployment while you are closed.

Q: If I don’t take PPP, what are my other options?

Answer: Unemployment as discussed above. Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) can be an option as well if you need money more broadly for operating costs and not necessarily payroll (though the loan portion of this needs to be paid back – however, the interest rate is low and the time frame is 30 years).

If you have some employees working but your gross receipts have dropped more than 50% from the same quarter last year, you the Employee Retention Tax Credit could be an option. This tax credit allows you to get back up to 50% of wages paid to employees in the form of a payroll tax credit.

Q: Can I receive both EIDL and PPP?

Answer: Yes, you can apply for both. However, if you receive both loans they may not be used for the “same purpose”. Not a lot of guidance exists with regards to what constitutes the same purpose. Importantly, proceeds from any advance up to$10,000 on the EIDL loan will be deducted from the loan forgiveness amount on the PPP loan (i.e. you can’t get the same free money twice).

Q: Can I get PPP money and just use it as a 1% repayable loan and not worry about forgiveness?

Answer: Yes you can…but be cautious here. You still have to certify when you get the money that it will be used for allowable reasons (payroll, rent, mortgage interest, utilities, and other business interest obligations). If you spend it on other things, you could be accused of fraudulent usage of funds. That said, if you don’t care about the loan being forgiven, you also don’t need to use it over the 8 week period. So for example, you could in theory “hold on” to the cash and spend it to pay payroll once you do rehire. Obviously cash is fungible and the tracking of actual dollars is not really reasonable or possible (though some banks do want you to set up a separate bank account for these funds to try and track actual dollars spent). Just make sure you can support that you used those funds for the purposes as noted above (i.e. don’t go out and buy a bunch of new equipment with it) and you’ll probably be fine.

PPP Application

Q: What is the current status? Are banks still taking applications?

Answer: As of May 28th, $100 Billion in PPP funds is still available for borrowers.

Q: What if I can’t find a bank to take my application?

Answer: If your bank is not taking applications, you may want to look at using another type of bank (perhaps a fintech like Paypal, Lendio, Quickbooks, Kabbage etc).

Q: I don’t have employees and don’t pay myself on payroll, am I still eligible for PPP?

Answer: If you are not a Corporation and have a profitable business – yes, you. can apply to get money to pay yourself! Scroll to the section called Sole Proprietors/LLCs, Independent Contractors PPP Guidance below to learn more.

Q: Can I include my owner pay in the calculation of the PPP loan?

Answer: Yes. The calculation is different depending on the type of entity you are:

Entity TypeCalculation of Owner Payroll
S Corp/C CorpWages paid via W-2 to an owner can be included. You CANNOT include wages paid via draw (as no self-employment taxes were paid on those wages).
Sole Proprietor/LLC – no EmployeesCalculate your “payroll” for yourself as your net profit (line 31 of Schedule C of your tax return, or net income on your P&L). Then you take this number, divide by 12, and multiply by 2.5 to get your loan amount. However, the max annual net profit is $100k – so for a solopreneur your max loan is $20,833 (calculated as $100k/12 x 2.5)
Sole Proprietor/LLC – with EmployeesSame as above. Add employee payroll into the total as well to get your overall loan amount.

Q: Is there anything that is expressly excluded from the definition of payroll costs?

Answer: Yes. The Act expressly excludes the following:
i. Any compensation of an employee whose principal place of residence is
outside of the United States;
ii. The compensation of an individual employee in excess of an annual salary of $100,000, prorated as necessary (you can include UP TO $100k);
iii. Federal employment taxes imposed or withheld between February 15,
2020 and June 30, 2020, including the employee’s and employer’s share
of FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) and Railroad Retirement
Act taxes, and income taxes required to be withheld from employees; and
iv. Qualified sick and family leave wages for which a credit is allowed under
the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Q: For the PPP loan, how can a self-employed person prove out payroll costs for themself to get the loan forgiven?

Answer: The total amount of owner compensation forgiveness you can get it 8/52 of your 2019 net profit. Why? Because the forgiveness period is 8 weeks. You can’t pay yourself the entire loan over that 8 weeks and get it forgiven, because the loan is for 2.5 months payroll. To do so would essentially cause you to make MORE over those 2 months than usual (creating a “windfall”). So basically you can pay yourself the 2 months’ worth of pay, and then the rest of the loan can be paid for BUSINESS utilities, rent, or other business interest obligations. If you don’t have enough of these to pay over the 8 week period, any portion you spend on those eligible expenses UNDER that amount will need to be paid back (i.e. just don’t spend that part of the money and you can give it right back to avoid much interest. Or keep it, spend it on other stuff, and then it becomes a loan at 1% interest payable over 2 years).

It doesn’t appear that you’ll have to prove what you “paid yourself”. They likely are going to allow the forgiveness of 2 months’ payroll-based off of 2019 and will need to see proof for only the other eligible expenses you spent money on to forgive the rest. Additionally, this means you WON’T be penalized if you are still making income from your business and actually are paying yourself MORE during this time frame when you add PPP with your actual sales. You likely shouldn’t need to give proof of actually writing checks to yourself, however, some banks may interpret this differently, so keep records just in case.

Q: As an employer, can I include costs paid to independent contractors in my calculation for PPP? Can I pay them with PPP funds and be forgiven?

Answer: There initially was confusion here, but the Treasury recently clarified in their Interim Final Rule that payments to independent contractors cannot be included in the calculation for the PPP loan. Only employees paid via payroll can be included. Similarly, funds from PPP should be used to pay employees.

Independent contractors can apply for their own PPP loan however in order to replace their own pay due to loss of work.

PPP Forgiveness

Already received PPP and wondering how to track it to maximize forgiveness, and how to fill out the Treasury forgiveness application? Grab a FREE tracker here!

Q: Can I pre-pay payroll? How about back-pay? Is it based on the payroll you PAID during the period or the pay-period it relates to?

Answer: Treasury has confirmed as of the new Forgiveness Application that came out on May 15, 2020 that costs must be EITHER incurred OR paid during the period. It stands to reason therefore that rent and utilities can be pre-paid, and payroll that is paid during the period but relates to a prior period should be able to be paid with PPP funds.

Q: What can the PPP loan be used for?

Answer: In order to be forgiven, the PPP must be used for the following over the 8 week period beginning when you receive the funds:
i. payroll costs, including benefits (which CAN include owner pay, even if not paid via payroll);
ii. costs related to the continuation of group health care benefits during
periods of paid sick, medical, or family leave, and insurance premiums;
iii. mortgage interest payments (but not mortgage prepayments or principal
payments);
iv. rent payments;
v. utility payments; or
vi. interest payments on any other debt obligations that were incurred before February 15, 2020

At least 75 percent of the PPP loan proceeds must be used for payroll
costs. For purposes of loan forgiveness, however, the borrower will have to document the proceeds used for payroll and other costs in order to determine the amount of forgiveness.

Q: What constitutes payroll costs?

Answer: Payroll costs consist of compensation to employees (whose principal place of residence is the United States) in the form of GROSS salary, wages, commissions, or similar compensation; cash tips or the equivalent (all up to $100k annual wages per employee); leave payments; 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 the compensation of employees.

NOT INCLUDED is Employer portion of payroll taxes…meaning you still have to pay the 7.65% payroll taxes…that does not come out of PPP funds. You can, however, opt to defer these taxes and pay them in 2 lump sums at the end of 2021 and 2022.

Q: Is forgiveness all or nothing?

Answer: No….thankfully. You can qualify for partial forgiveness. See the next question for why you should be prepared not to have your loan fully forgiven.

Q: How much do I have to spend on payroll for it to be fully forgiven?

Answer: This one is very confusing – bear with me. On the one hand, it says you can’t cut average payroll amounts by more than 25% of previous amounts (meaning employees have to make close to what they were making before). But at the same time, as above, at least 75% of the PPP loan proceeds need to be used for payroll costs. So if you DO decrease your payroll by 25%, you would hit the first criteria….but likely not the second for full forgiveness. Here is an example using actual numbers:

Let’s say average payroll is $10k for a month, so you get a loan for $25k (2.5 x 10k).

You pay everyone 75% of their former wages, thereby meeting the first test ($7,500 a month x 2 months = $15,000). HOWEVER, that means you have $10k left. You spend that $10k on rent and utilities, as allowable costs. BUT that means you spent more than 25% on non-payroll costs….which isn’t allowed. 25% of the $25,000 means the max forgiveness for non-payroll costs is $6,250. SO that additional $3,750 you spent on rent and utilities would NOT be forgivable.

Clear as mud, right? I’m seriously questioning the math skills of the Treasury at this point (scary thought). Moral of the story: Prepare for some of this NOT to be forgiven, even when putting in best efforts.

Q: What if I DON’T spend at least 75% of my PPP on payroll?

Answer: This will reduce the amount of non-payroll costs that can be forgiven as well. Per the Treasury Interim Final Rule – “Not more than 25 percent of the loan FORGIVENESS amount may be attributable to nonpayroll costs.”What this appears to mean is that the amount of non-payroll costs you can get forgiven is a direct function of the amount of payroll costs you payout.

Here’s an example for you: You get a $100k total PPP loan, which means to get full forgiveness, you’d have to spend AT LEAST 75% on payroll costs. (Meaning you could spend 75k on payroll and have 25k you could spend on rent, utilities, etc).Some of your staff doesn’t come back. You end up only paying out $50k in payroll costs over the 8 weeks.

In this example, you no longer have a full $25k to spend on rent and utilities that will be forgiven. Instead, here is how you would determine your forgivable amount available for non-payroll costs: Take your total payroll costs that will be forgivable (the $50k let’s say), divide by 75% ($66,666 which represents the total max that can be forgiven of your loan). Take this amount and multiply by 25% to get the max you can spend on non-payroll costs that will be forgiven ($16,666 in this example).

Q: Can I increase my employees’ pay to meet the thresholds? How about my own owner pay?

Answer: You can increase the pay of your employees, but not yourself (owners are limited to 8 weeks of pay based on 2019 levels). Though remember, you still need to get your headcount back up to pre-COVID levels.

Q: If I am a sole proprietor and don’t pay myself via payroll…do I have to PROVE what I pay myself?

Answer: Based on the Treasury’s most recent guidance for calculating loans for sole props…it is looking like you won’t have to actually provide anything to prove forgiveness (i.e. checks written to yourself, etc). That was silliness anyway. It is looking like they will forgive 2 months’ worth of payroll for you (based off your 2019 Schedule C net profit). That leaves you an extra .5 of a month left to spend on other qualifying expenses. But remember, if you work from home, you can’t use it for that rent or utilities. So you may. not have enough expenses to get the rest of your loan forgiven. Keep that in mind. More on this below in the Sole Proprietors/LLCs, Independent Contractors – Guidance FAQ’s section below.

Q: How is headcount calculated? Can I replace employees or does it have to be the same ones?

Answer: Your baseline headcount is calculated as “full-time equivalents” during a chosen reference period (the Treasury application gives a few choices for the reference period). Full time is considered 40 hours for the purpose of this calculation. This means that if you have a part-time employee who works 20 hours a week, they would be equivalent to about .5 of a full-time employee. You can also use an alternate method of calculating FTEs by assigning every employee that works under 40 hours 0.5 FTE for each pay period they work. They will compare your average monthly FTE headcount from your chosen reference period and compare that to your headcount during your 8 week forgiveness period. IF it is less, your forgiveness could be reduced. That said, as long as you restore the same number of FTE’s you had on payroll on Feb 15th by June 30th 2020, you should be able to qualify for safe harbor and not be penalized if your average has declined.

You can absolutely replace employees, it does NOT have to be the same people. In fact, you could replace 2 part-time employees with 1 full-time employee and still have the same FTE count. In theory. -you could hire your spouse or kids to be employees…though I’m expecting they may look into those types of situations more…so tread lightly.

Q: Do I have to pay people even if they aren’t working? Can I delay the 8 week period and use it when I’m expecting to need my employees back to work?

Answer: The 8 week period starts as soon as you get the loan. You cannot DELAY it. You can save the money for later…but you won’t be forgiven for it. To get forgiven for the loan, you would need to pay your employees at least 75% of normal base salary or hourly wages…even if they aren’t working at all.

Q: Can I get PPP AND unemployment?

Answer: You would need to claim the amount that you are getting paid by PPP equally over the 8 weeks on your unemployment certification. In many cases, this will lessen or completely disqualify you for unemployment benefits during that week. See a video on getting PPP and unemployment benefits here.

Already received PPP and wondering how to track it to maximize forgiveness, and how to fill out the Treasury forgiveness application? Grab a FREE tracker here!

EIDL FAQs

Q: I got an EIDL advance ($1k per employee), what is this, and do I need to pay it back?

Answer: That money is a GRANT and you do NOT need to pay it back.

Q: How do I know if I qualify for the EIDL loan?

Answer: You will either be notified that you were denied the loan, or you will get an email invite to log in to the SBA portal which will have the maximum loan offer you can qualify for. You can reduce this if you’d like to take less. If you don’t want the loan, simply don’t accept it in the portal.

Q: If I get a loan, what are the terms?

Answer: For-profits have a 3.75% interest rate, non-profits have a rate of 2.75%. The loan term is up to 30 years. You can defer payments for 1 year but interest WILL accrue during that time period. You can pay it off early at Pay.Gov with no prepayment penalties.

Q: How is the loan I’m eligible for calculated?

Answer: Typically (pre-COVID-19) these loans were calculated as 6 months worth of operating costs. Right now, it seems like they are still making offers based on your Gross Profit (Revenue less expenses) and creditworthiness. The exact formula they are using seems to vary.

Q: What can I use my EIDL grant or loan money for?

Answer: Grants can be used by small businesses for a number of purposes. These include providing paid sick leave, payroll, meeting production costs, paying rentand anything else to help with the continuity of the business. In general, necessary business operating costs. This loan should NOT be used for business expansion. Note that there is NOT a time limit on when you need to use these funds (like there is with PPP). For more details on what you can use EIDL funds for, watch this video.

Q: Will I have to prove what I used my EIDL money on?

Answer: Unlike PPP, there is not a backend “forgiveness” process that you need to go through to get the grant forgiven. The advance grant is automatically forgiven. The loan itself is NOT forgiven. You need to use the funds for allowable purposes, not doing so could be considered fraudulent use of funds. Even though there is no formal forgiveness process, you still want to keep good records of what you do with the funds in case your loan is audited. It’s unclear at this point whether that will be common or not.

Q: Can I take the advance grant and NOT accept a loan if offered?

Answer: Yes. No requirement to take the loan. However recently for those who applied and have NOT received their advance, in many cases the grant is now only coming once you have accepted the loan.

Q: I got my EIDL advance or loan offer and ALSO have received (or am planning to receive) the PPP loan. Can I take both?

Answer: Yes, but the CARES Act states you can’t use them for the “same purpose”. If you are planning to use PPP for payroll and rent, let’s say, I would use EIDL to pay other operating costs. Unfortunately, there is not enough clarity yet as to what constitutes the “same purpose”, but remember that EIDL funds do Not need to be used during a specific time frame. All that said, if you receive an EIDL ADVANCE and a PPP LOAN, you will be required to SUBTRACT the advance from the amount of PPP that can be forgiven (i.e. you can’t get the same free money twice). If this is your situation and you want to avoid the amount turning into a loan, I recommend that you NOT spend your EIDL advance if you receive PPP as well, and paying it back after your 8 weeks.

Q: I got the EIDL Advance but also am filing for unemployment. Do I have to claim this on my unemployment?

Answer: No clear guidelines here either, but assuming you DON’T use this money to pay yourself and instead use it in your business to pay operating costs – my assumption is that this would NOT impact unemployment. Check your state’s FAQs, however, or call your unemployment office to be sure.

Q: Do they pull credit for the EIDL loan and advance?

Answer: Yes.

Unemployment FAQs

Q: I have lost a portion of my income, can I still apply for Unemployment even with some income coming in?

Answer: You may be eligible for partial unemployment. Check your state’s unemployment website.

Q: What is PUA? FPUC? PEUC?

Answer: PUA, FPUC, and PEUC are all provisions of the CARES Act passed on March 27th, 2020 to expand unemployment due to the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA): Extends benefits to self-employed, freelancers, and independent contractors as well as those without sufficient earnings history.

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC): Provides a federal benefit of $600 a week. This applies to everyone who receives benefits (whether under regular UI or PUA). The extra $600 is en force through the end of July 2020.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC): Extends benefits for an extra 13 weeks after regular unemployment compensation benefits are exhausted, up to a maximum of 39 weeks. (Regular state benefits vary from 12 weeks to 30 weeks).

Q: How do I apply for PUA?

Answer: The program is administered by you state. The process for applying differs by state. Check your state’s unemployment website for details. Almost all state’s have a section dedicated to Covid-related unemployment/PUA. Many state’s also have useful FAQs on their unemployment website to help answer your questions. In many cases, you must first apply for normal UI and get denied before you can apply for PUA…but check with your specific state’s website for details.


Q: How much will I receive if I qualify for PUA?

Answer: Based on the CARES Act, if you are fully unemployed (no income) you will receive a MINIMUM of half the state’s weekly average benefit PLUS the extra $600 FPUC. State average weekly benefits vary wildly. You may qualify for more based on your past earnings, however, many states are awarding the minimum until they are able to update applications for actual earnings…which may take a while.


Q: How do I get the extra $600 FPUC?

Answer: It will be automatic. In some cases it will be part of the same deposit, in other cases, it will be a separate deposit. Not all states are yet deploying the extra $600, but they will (and it will be back-dated in most cases back to the week of March 29th and forward – after the CARES Act passed).


Q: Are unemployment benefits taxable?

Answer: Yes. They are taxable as income for income tax purposes. However, they are exempt from payroll taxes. Most states will allow you to withhold a portion of your benefits for taxes. I recommend doing this to ensure you don’t have a significant tax bill at the end of the year.


Q: I applied for UI on my state’s website and was denied for benefits or received a quote of $0 for benefits. Does that mean I won’t receive anything?

Answer: No. In many cases, this is the first step to applying for PUA. Watch for details from your state on whether there is a second application to be completed specifically for PUA (it may not yet be available).

Q: My sales have declined significantly, but I still have some revenue coming in. Will I be eligible for PUA?

Answer: Maybe. States have different processes, but most require you to claim any income you receive when you certify your benefits (usually weekly or bi-weekly). If you make too much in a particular week, it may make you ineligible for benefits for that week. In some states, your UI benefits are reduced dollar-for-dollar by the other income you receive, and if you make more than your weekly benefits (before the extra $600), you may not qualify for any benefits that week (including the extra $600). So it is wise to know what your limits are and make sure the extra few hundred dollars in income you earn doesn’t cause you to lose all benefits for the week.

Q: I’m a business owner. What counts as “income” that I have to claim against my UI benefits weekly?

Answer: This one is unclear and appears to vary by state. Some states say “Gross earnings,” which generally means revenue minus your direct cost of goods sold (likely most applicable in a product business). In some cases, you may be able to also adjust for other operating costs like rent, utilities, and similar overhead costs. Check your state’s FAQ for details. For sole proprietors/ICs who are not on payroll, it does NOT go by the amount you actually pay yourself. You can’t simply “keep the money in your business” and not claim it for UI. If you make too much in one week it simply means you aren’t eligible for that week, but it does not invalidate future or prior weeks.


Q: My business shut down or significantly declined a while ago. Can I request a back-pay for Unemployment?

Answer: Yes! In most states, you can claim back to when you were out of work, all the way back to when the disaster “occurred”. This might be all the way back to late Jan/early Feb for some businesses. You should claim back to when you stopped working or your work was significantly impacted due to Covid.


Q: If I get the PPP loan, can I claim PUA?

Answer: For the weeks leading up to getting your PPP loan money, you can claim unemployment benefits under PUA. For this reason, I recommend even those who get PPP to put in a back-claim for PUA. You would usually have to stop receiving benefits when your 8 week forgiveness period starts, as it is presumed you will use PPP to pay yourself. You could also claim this PPP income on your PUA application. There is still some gray area (i.e. what if you don’t use PPP to pay yourself, what if you pay the whole thing back, etc), but in general, the purpose of PPP is to get people OFF of unemployment. Therefore I would exercise caution in trying to collect either partial or full unemployment and receiving PPP funds. Right now there is nothing that says you can’t go back on PUA AFTER your 8-week forgiveness period, however.

For more information on claiming PPP and PUA together, see this video.


Q: Does EIDL (the loan or advance) impact PUA?

Answer: Unless you use the money to pay yourself, it is not likely that EIDL would impact PUA.

Q: I am mainly self-employed, but held a W-2 job within the past 18 months. Will that cause me to not qualify for PUA?

Answer: Possibly, as you may be eligible for regular UI. Right now many states require you to determine eligibility through regular UI first and be denied before applying for PUA. In some cases, prior W-2 jobs will show up. in the system and may make you eligible for benefits through regular UI (though they may not be as much as you would get through PUA, if your W-2 income was less than your self-employment income). This seems to be a loophole that is causing some self-employed people not to be able to apply for PUA. However, whether you qualify under regular UI or PUA, you will still receive the extra $600 FPUC.

Q: What documents do I need to apply for PUA?

Answer: This will vary by state, but some type of proof of wages will be required. Many states are asking for tax return information. Some states will take 2018 information and allow you to provide 2019 later. Some states may require 2019 when you apply. If you are waiting on your state to allow PUA applicants, this could be a good time to get your 2019 taxes doe and ready.

Q: If my business had a net loss last year, can I still qualify for PUA?

Answer: Yes, likely so. You can apply even if your business was. not profitable. If approved, you would receive half the weekly average unemployment benefits for your state, plus the extra $600 a week.

Q: My state is starting to open back up. Does that mean I won’t be eligible for PUA anymore?

Answer: Not necessarily. If it doesn’t make business sense for you to open back up in the current environment, you are not required to do so. You should be able to continue to claim PUA.

Overall – when in doubt – check your state’s unemployment website for updates. Many of them have been updating regularly with FAQs and tutorials that walk you through the application process. You can also call your state’s unemployment office (get your espresso ready beforehand…it could be a while). Or use this group for resources to see what others have experienced.


More questions?? I have answers! Make sure to join my Facebook Group Financial Literacy for Women Business Owners (currently also open to men, if they are brave enough!) to participate in the discussion and find more answers to your questions.

For more information on Jamie Trull and Balance CFO, see my website here.

I'm Jamie — Profit Strategist and Financial Literacy Coach.

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