MURRAY — Officials with one local bank say they are seeing the benefits of the second round of federal payroll protection loans to assist small business owners struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic and are trying to circulate the word.

Tim Stark, who is vice president of marketing at The Murray Bank, said that since the second round of the mall Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program began in January, bank personnel have noticed a significant increase in traffic.

“In the last round, we totaled close to 300 applications. This time, we’re already up to 450,” Stark said. 

‘That’s only in like three weeks,” said the bank’s Vice President of Compliance Eleshia Brandon. “The last time, it over  a period of about eight weeks or so. It was quite a long period of time. This time, we’ve already far exceeded that number in only a few weeks. We expected to be busy, but not this busy.

“I’m also part of an emerging leaders bankers group and everyone in my group that I talk to is experiencing the same level of intensity.”

Brandon said the most eye-opening part of the second round, so far, is the number of people who do not believe they qualify for help from this program. 

“And we fear that a lot of people who don’t think they’re going to qualify probably do, so that’s one thing we really want to get out there,” Stark said. 

“And so far, we’ve produced about $13 million for these people,” Brandon said, emphasizing that one of the groups benefitting most from this is farmers. “We’ve done a little bit of pro-active work in calling our customers, but there are a lot of farmers, particularly, that don’t have a need to borrow money, so they don’t have a loan officer to call them and say, ‘Hey! Do you know you may qualify for this?’

“The people we’re talking to are also getting approved and the majority of those who do come in and talk to us, we’re getting them approved in only a couple of days or so. The thing with farmers is they usually get left out of these kinds of things.”

This also applies to small business owners who either work for themselves without any employees or who have a very small number of employees. 

“So if you have a mowing business or wash cars or are a beautician, those folks qualify,” she said, adding that there is even more incentive to apply during the second round because of a very important change. “This time, the rules are allowing (business owners/farmers) to use gross income (when they submit their amount of money lost from the pandemic) instead of net income. That’s opened a huge window that was not in the first round of funding.

“Gross income is the amount you make without taxes having been taken out and the net is what you actually bring home. This time, it doesn’t matter what your bottom line turns out to be. This covers payroll but it also covers business owners’ compensation.”

Stark said a requirement for the PPP loan is to show a net loss from 2019 to 2020 during one quarter.

“And a lot of our local CPAs can pull that up really quickly. They can say, ‘Oh yeah, in 2019, you made $10,000 and, in 2020, during that same quarter, you made $8,000, so you are eligible for the PPP,” Stark said, adding that this also applies to business owners who sought PPP relief during the first round, starting in April 2020. “And I think our local CPAs are working as hard as we are to make sure their customers are taken care of as well. They know how important this is.”

Brandon said TMB has been dealing with both their customers and non-customers during the second PPP round. 

The SBA says on its website that “all businesses that were in operation on Feb. 15, 2020 – including sole proprietorships, self–employed individuals, and independent contractors – with 300 or fewer employees, have not received a grant under section 24 of the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act, have used or will use the full amount of their first PPP loan and can demonstrate a 25% reduction in gross receipts from any of the four quarters of 2020 compared to the same quarter in 2019 can apply for a second PPP loan.”

The SBA said PPA loans carry these conditions:

• Fixed interest rate of 1.00%

• Can elect a 8 or 24 week covered period after origination until March 31, 2021

• Payment deferral:

• No payments until the SBA pays the lender for the forgiven portion 

• No payments for the first 10 months after the covered period if the borrower fails to apply for forgiveness by the end of that time period

• 5-year term repayment loans made on or after June 5, 2020

• Loan forgiveness of up to 100% of the principal amount.

Application is available by going online at www.sba.gov or through a lender, such as a bank. Stark said, though, that not every bank is involved with handling PPP cases.