By Mike Kruzman /

Changes have been made to the Payroll Protection Program and Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin held an online question-and-answer event to help address concerns.

The Holly Democrat held the event on Facebook Live, Monday, with Small Business Administration Great Lakes Regional Administrator Robert Scott. Congress recently enacted the bi-partisan PPP Flexibility Act, which was co-sponsored by Slotkin and makes it generally easier for recipients of the loan to either be forgiven or pay it back, if required. Previously, 75% of funds received needed to be spent on payroll. The Flexibility Act dropped that to 60%, allowing businesses to spend a greater portion on rent, mortgage, or utilities if needed. It also extends the time that businesses have to use the funds from 8 weeks to 24. Slotkin said this was important because the 8 week limit was especially tough for Michigan businesses that got a loan, but weren’t able to open. Loan terms have also been extended from 2 years to 5 years. The Flexibility Act also prohibits the current mutual exclusivity of PPP loans and payroll tax deferments, so that businesses can take advantage of both.

One resident works as a consultant and was concerned about spending the money, but not enough to qualify for forgiveness. Scott had advice for them and others who were concerned about not hitting the 60% payroll threshold. He said, for example, if you can only put 40% to payroll, you will still get that 40% forgiven, and will only have to pay back the 20% difference.

Scott reminded business owners to account for payroll expenses like 401k plans and insurance benefits. As one resident asked, giving employees a bonus is an acceptable method for potentially getting to 60%.

Another resident asked about employees quitting after the loan was received. The Flexibility Act includes a “safe harbor” pathway for employers who try, but are unable to rehire 100% of their employees. Employers must be able to prove they tried to, so Scott suggests documenting everything.

With regards for applying for forgiveness, Scott said most lenders are not ready to handle that yet. He said business owners should start getting their documents together and can check with their lender, but that there is no “mad rush.” For small businesses that haven’t applied for a PPP loan, there is still $135-billion available. Scott said he doubts they’re going to exhaust it by the June 30th deadline, but if a business owner is interested, “don’t wait, go this week.”