Payment Protection Program Scams

PPP Scams

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has been one of the most important pieces of legislation signed into effect since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The unsecured loans through the Small Business Association (SBA) have enabled our favorite retail shops, restaurants and small businesses to stay afloat, even as the coronavirus devastates sectors of the economy.

Not surprisingly, scammers have been using the PPP for their own purposes, mainly to con struggling business owners out of money. In these scams, they’ll pose as SBA representatives or legitimate lenders to ask for personal information from the borrower. They may also send bogus emails appearing to be from the SBA to lead the victim into downloading malware.

Scammers are getting smarter all the time, but so are we! Here’s how to avoid PPP scams:

Know how PPP loans are processed

Ready to apply for a PPP loan?  Fill it out the SBA PPP loan application, and submit it to an SBA-approved lender. You’ll also need to provide some documents, such as tax returns for 2019, verifiable payroll expense documents, your most recent mortgage or rent statement, etc.

If you’re applying for a Second Draw PPP Loan, you will also need documentation that shows how you have used, or plan to use, your original PPP funds.

After you’ve submitted your application, just sit back and wait for approval.

How can I protect my business from PPP fraud?

Do:

  • Be wary of any individuals demanding immediate payment or asking that you make immediate contact to be eligible for a PPP loan. These are likely scammers.
  • Only use a lender that is accredited by the SBA. You can find all SBA-approved lenders here.
  • Look for the .gov at the end of each email or website allegedly from the SBA or another government entity.
  • Report any suspected scams to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Don’t let those crooks walk free!

 Don’t:

  • Pay for a program that promises to process or expedite a PPP loan request if the organization behind the program is not accredited by the SBA.
  • Share any personal information with an unverified caller or email contact. If it’s personal info, make sure to keep it that way!
  • Click on links or download files from an unfamiliar email address.

Stay safe!

Freedom has made the Paycheck Protection Program available to its current members.  Applicants must have established a business or personal membership with Freedom on or before December 27, 2020.  Visit freedomfcu.org/business/ppp/ for more details. 

Your Turn: Are you a small business owner who has applied for a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program? Tell us about it on Facebook, LinkedIn,Twitter, or Instagram @FreedomFedCU.

 

Student Loan Changes During COVID-19

Student Loan Relief

With unemployment levels rising and many employers cutting work hours, lots of college grads are now struggling to meet their student loan payments. Thankfully, the federal government has passed legislation to ease this burden. Unfortunately, though, many borrowers are confused about the terms and conditions of these changes.

Here’s all you need to know about the changes to student loan debt during the coronavirus pandemic.

All federal student loan payments are automatically suspended for six months

As part of The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act) signed into law on March 27 all federal student loan payments are suspended, interest-free, through Sept. 30, 2020. If borrowers continue making payments, the full amount will be applied to the principal of the loan. The suspension applies to all federal student loans owned by the Department of Education as well as some Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) and some Perkins loans. Students do not have to take any action or pay any fees for the suspension to take effect.

Additionally, during the suspension period, the CARES Act does not allow student loan servicers to report to the credit bureaus borrower nonpayments as missed payments. Therefore, the suspension should not have a negative effect on borrowers’ credit scores.

If you’re not sure whether your student loan is federally owned, you can look it up on the Federal Student Aid (FSA) website. Be sure to have your FSA ID handy so you can sign in and look up your loans. You can also call your loan servicer directly to clear up any confusion.

Here is the contact information for federal student loan servicers:

Suspended payments count toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness and loan rehabilitation. 

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is a federal program allowing borrowers to have their student loans forgiven, tax-free, with the stipulation that they work in the public sector and make 120 qualifying monthly payments. A disruption of these 120 payments can disqualify a borrower from the program.

According to the CARES Act, suspended payments will be treated as regular payments toward PSLF. This ensures that borrowers who have been working toward these programs will not lose the progress they’ve made toward loan forgiveness.

The same rule applies to individuals participating in student loan rehabilitation, during which borrowers with defaulted student loans must make nine out of 10 consecutive monthly payments to pull their loans out of default. The U.S. Department of Education will consider the six-month suspension on payments as if regular payments were made toward rehabilitation.

Some states and private lenders are offering student loan aid for struggling borrowers.

If your student loan is not federally owned and you are struggling to meet your payments, there may still be options available, such as loan deferment or forbearance. If you are in need of such assistance, contact your lender directly to discuss your options.

Consider an income-driven repayment plan.

If you have an FFEL that is ineligible for suspension, you can lower your monthly payments by enrolling in an income-based repayment plan, which adjusts your monthly student loan payment amount according to your discretionary income. Other lenders offer similar plans, often referred to as income-driven repayment plans. If your salary was cut as a result of COVID-19, or you are currently unemployed, these plans can provide relief by making your monthly payments more manageable.

Employers can contribute toward employees’ student loan debt for temporary tax relief

The federal government offered temporary tax relief for employers contributing up to $5,350 toward their employees’ student loan payments. This benefit is in effect until Jan. 1, 2021 and it can be used for any kind of student debt, whether federal or private.

If you don’t qualify for the student loan payment suspension, you can try speaking with the human resources department at your workplace to find out how they can help you with your student loan debt at this time.

Seeking New Student Loans During the Pandemic

Students and families should start with savings, grants, scholarships, and federal student loans to pay for college. Students and families should evaluate all anticipated monthly loan payments, and how much the student expects to earn in the future, before considering a private student loan.

Freedom is now partnering with Sallie Mae to enable Freedom members access to student loan options that fit their specific educational needs.

Learn More about Freedom’s Student Loan Program.

Your Turn: Have you taken advantage of student loan debt relief offered during the coronavirus pandemic? Tell us about it on Facebook.

Paycheck Protection Program

Paycheck Protection Program

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is an important part of the historic Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act designed to help small businesses continue meeting payroll and other expenses during these trying times.

Here’s all you need to know about the Paycheck Protection Program.

What does the PPP offer small businesses?

The provision creates a new category of unsecured loans guaranteed by the Small Business Association (SBA). The loans do not require a personal guarantee and are available to many businesses that were previously not eligible for an SBA loan. The loans may be entirely or partially forgiven.

Which kinds of businesses are eligible for a loan? 

Traditional SBA loans are only eligible for business entities designed to turn a profit. The company’s place of business must be located in the United States, and be primarily operated in the United States.

The Paycheck Protection Program has expanded to include all nonprofit organizations, veterans organizations and Tribal business concerns.

Does the business need to be a specific size to be eligible for the PPP? 

To be eligible for a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program, a business must have no more than 500 employees, including full-time, part-time and temporary workers. This rule accounts for the business applying for a loan, as well as any affiliated businesses or entities, including for profit and nonprofit, as well as domestic and foreign businesses.

What is the maximum loan amount a business can apply for under the Paycheck Protection Program?

The maximum loan amount available under the PPP is generally the lesser of $10 million, or 2.5 times the average monthly payroll costs incurred during the one-year period before the date of the loan. Payroll costs include all salaries, wages, commissions and cash tips; parental, family, medical or sick leave; severance pay; payments required for the provisions of group health care benefits, including insurance premiums; payment of any retirement benefit; and payment of state or local tax assessed on the compensation of employees.

How may the loans be used? 

The loans from the Paycheck Protection Program can be used from Feb. 15, 2020, to June 30, 2020 for any of the following expenses:

  • Payroll costs
  • Costs related to the continuation of group health care benefits during periods of paid sick, medical or family leave
  • Insurance premiums
  • Employee salaries, commissions or similar compensations
  • Payments of interest (but not principal) on any mortgage obligation
  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Interest on any other debt obligations that were incurred before Feb. 15, 2020

Will all loans that are part of the Paycheck Protection Program be forgiven? 

A PPP loan is eligible for forgiveness in an amount equal to the sum of the following costs incurred during the 8-week period beginning on the date of origination of the loan: payroll costs; any payment of interest on any mortgage obligation that was incurred before Feb. 15, 2020; any payment on any rent obligation under a lease agreement in effect before Feb. 15, 2020; and payment for electricity, gas, water, transportation, telephone or internet service, which began before Feb. 15, 2020.

The loan forgiveness amount will be prorated down if the average monthly number of full-time employees during this 8-week period is less than the average monthly number of full-time equivalent employees. The forgiveness amount will also be reduced if there is a 25% (or greater) reduction in salary for any employee during this 8-week period.

Can a small business take out a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program and still be eligible for other relief under the CARES Act?

Taking a loan under the PPP can make an employer ineligible for some other relief under the CARES Act.  For example, the employer will not be eligible for payroll tax relief if they apply for a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program.

Freedom has made the Paycheck Protection Program available to its current Business Banking members.  Business membership must have been established on or before February 15, 2020.  Visit freedomfcu.org/business/emergency-relief-assistance/ for more details. 

Your Turn: Are you a small business owner who has applied for a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program? Tell us about it on Facebook, LinkedIn,Twitter, or Instagram.