Laramie shops

Help local business all around the state by shopping at shopwyoming.com.

The Biden-Harris Administration made five major changes to the current Paycheck Protection relief Program (PPP) and is offering a two-week exclusive application window to small businesses with fewer than 20 employees.

The changes were made to provide aide to a wider pool of business owners who may still be struggling with revenue in the wake of the pandemic. The changes include an exclusive application period (ending March 9) meant to prioritize small businesses with minimal staff.

In addition, revisions to the loan calculation formula eliminated exclusionary restrictions that previously prevented owners with prior non-fraud-felony convictions and/or delinquent federal student loans from qualifying. It also created an opportunity for non-citizen, legal resident business owners to apply via an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.

“There are a lot of Wyoming Businesses that still need support to survive the revenue drought and economic pressures brought on by the ongoing pandemic,” said Victor Robbins, market president of Wyoming for First Interstate Bank.

Robbins compared the PPP changes made last year and said in an email that the latest changes will effectively reach Wyoming’s smallest businesses. He also said this time around, both clients and bankers are more familiar with the program.

“[It] allows us to build an easier application process and deliver [to] our clients’ needs,” Robbins said.

Regional Director and Business Advisor for Wyoming Small Business Administration (SBA) James “Jim” Drever works closely with business owners in Albany and Carbon County and strongly encouraged small business owners to consult with their lenders to discuss the changes and eligibility.

“PPP is a terrific program and with the changes made, it is now more favorable to independent contractors/sole proprietorships,” Drever said. He added the forgiveness aspects through the program are more favorable and easier to manage.

Like Robbins, Drever feels businesses are better prepared this year. He said he has seen a multitude of people looking to start, buy and grow businesses in Albany, despite the economic impact from the pandemic. Drever does not discount the struggles some small businesses are encountering but said it’s encouraging not seeing as many this time around.

“Last Spring, our work was almost entirely trying to help many businesses figure out how they were going to survive,” Drever said, adding, “Compared to where we were last spring, it feels like much has improved.”

It appears local businesses are on the up-and-up, Vice President Mike Peck with First Interstate bank on E. Ivinson Ave. said in a phone interview that approximately 40% of applicants from the first round of PPP reapplied for a second round.

Peck and his lenders have stressed to clients the importance of looking into eligibility, stating there is plenty of money available. He said if an establishment has experienced a minimum of 25% in gross revenue between two comparable quarters, likely they will qualify.

“We want to make sure businesses are taken care of through these tough times,” Peck said.

Peck also praised the relief program, stating, “There are businesses, majority of which are less than 50 people that are still here because of the PPP.”

RESOURCES

Adaptability is crucial when strategizing ways to survive during an economic downfall. Drever said he and SBA often advise clients on how to pivot in various ways to strengthen a business’s marketability and revenue streams. Strategies include creating new markets or products/services or developing web platforms for selling products online.

“While businesses face similar challenges, each is unique and (our help) depends on the individual business and what they need to be successful,” Drever said.

SBA in the past few weeks has launched shopwyomimg.com, which provides an online space for businesses to list their products for free.

“Customers can shop on the site, have one’s ‘shopping cart’ with one checkout even though what they chose might be from all over the state,” Peck said.

Other fiscal resources available to owners who might not qualify for PPP include the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, which offers low interest (flat rate of 3.75%), 30-year loans for up to $150,000.

Additionally, small businesses can explore the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance and the City of Laramie COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Grant/Loan Program, which provides 50 $1,000 grants; or seek consult from Supplemental Advisors who negotiate on behalf of an establishment with creditors to avoid bankruptcy.

To access the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance application visit, https://laramie.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/PDF-Fillable-Application.pdf. All applications are reviewed in the order they were received; all grant/loans will be awarded until funds run out.

Small businesses with 20 or less employees are encouraged to apply for PPP by March 9, however, all second round PPP relief applications are due by the end of March.

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