PPP loans have relaunched in 2021—with an exclusive application window for small businesses.

Closeup of a Paycheck Protection Program loan application

At a glance:

  • The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has reopened for applications in 2021.
  • Businesses with fewer than 20 employees have an exclusive early window to apply.
  • PPP loans are forgivable—qualifying businesses don’t have to pay back the money.
  • The small-business-only period ends on March 9th, and the SBA will stop accepting all new applications on March 31st.

Have fewer than 20 employees? If so, now may be an ideal opportunity to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.

The US Small Business Administration (SBA) launched the PPP in 2020 to provide financial assistance to businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike loans through standard SBA programs, PPP loans are forgivable, meaning borrowers who meet certain criteria don’t have to pay back the money. Unfortunately, numerous applicants were turned down last year, and many small businesses lost the chance to access funding before the program closed.

Last week, the SBA reopened the program. And this time, the PPP has an initial application period exclusive to businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 20 employees. In other words, the smallest organizations now have the first shot at receiving loans.

It’s kind of like senior shopping hours at a supermarket, except the seniors are mom-and-pop businesses and they’re shopping for loans, not bananas.

In all seriousness, this move may provide much-needed relief to millions of small businesses throughout the US. According to a fact sheet (PDF) from the SBA, “98 percent of small businesses have fewer than 20 employees” but received “only 45 percent of PPP funding” last year.

The small-business-only window could improve equity as well. It’s one of several changes the SBA is making “to eliminate barriers that disproportionately harm minority-owned, women-owned, Main Street, and other underserved small businesses.”

This exclusive application period ends next Wednesday, March 9th, 2021, at 5pm ET. After that point, the PPP will accept applications from all eligible businesses until March 31st. (So, if you don’t get your application in before next Wednesday, you can still apply until the end of the month—you just might not have the same odds of receiving a loan.)

For more information, check out the following articles:

For free tips, tricks, and tools to grow your business, visit Ruby’s Small Business Resource Hub.