This story was updated on 4/1/20 to reflect new information on the Paycheck Protection Program.

The Paycheck Protection Program, one of the largest sections of the CARES Act, sets aside $350 billion in government-backed loans from private banks to help small businesses survive through the coronavirus outbreak. In some cases, these loans can be converted to grants, which means that if you meet certain requirements, you won’t need to pay the loan back.

Here are the most important things small businesses need to know about the Paycheck Protection Program.

How does the Paycheck Protection Program work?

The Paycheck Protection Program’s $350 billion in small business loans will be issued by private banks. Currently, the Small Business Administration (SBA) guarantees loans that are given out by a network of more than 800 lenders across the U.S. The Paycheck Protection Program creates a type of emergency loan that can be forgiven when used to maintain payroll through June. The basic purpose of the Paycheck Protection Program is to incentivize small businesses to not lay off workers and/or to rehire laid-off workers that lost jobs due to COVID-19 disruptions.

What businesses are eligible for these loans?

The Paycheck Protection Program offers loans for the following types of businesses experiencing revenue disruption as a result of COVID-19:

  • Small businesses with fewer than 500 employees.
  • Select types of businesses with fewer than 1,500 employees.
  • 501(c)(3) non-profits with fewer than 500 workers.
  • Some 501(c)(19) veteran organizations.
  • Self-employed workers, sole proprietors, and freelance or gig economy workers.

Businesses, even without a personal guarantee or collateral, can apply one of these loans as long as they were operational on February 15, 2020, and had paid employees at that time (even if the owner is the only employee). On a final note, the SBA’s 500-employee threshold includes all types of employees: full-time, part-time, and any other status.

What are the terms of these loans?

Loans under the Paycheck Protection Act can be 2.5 times the borrower’s average monthly payroll costs, and they cannot exceed $10 million. The interest rate for Paycheck Protection loans are set at .5%, and loans mature after two years. No personal guarantee or collateral is required. The lenders are expected to defer fees, principal and interest for no less than six months and no more than one year. The SBA notes that all loans will have the same terms regardless of lender or borrower. Loan payments will be deferred for six months

Lenders will also ask you for a good faith certification that:

  • The loan is needed to support ongoing operations;
  • The loan will be used to retain workers, maintain payroll, and pay for mortgage, lease, and utility payments;
  • The borrower does not have a pending application for a similar loan; and
  • The borrower did not get a similar loan between Feb. 15, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2020.

Small businesses that take out these loans can get some or all of their loans forgiven.