Industry Trends

PPP Tweaks and Email Misery

Caleb Newquist Editor-at-Large, Gusto 
remote work

March 4, 2021

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PPP tweaks

A while back, we talked about the confusion—or perhaps generous reading—that some people had with the definition of small business with regard to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). This likely squeezed out a lot of the intended recipients of PPP because they didn’t have the right banking relationships, didn’t have a relationship with a bank at all, or because it was easy for banks to deprioritize these businesses in favor of those with the resources to easily pull the applications together.

There have been recent changes to the program, however, that might finally help:

PPP applicants with fewer than 20 employees will be able to apply exclusively from 9 a.m. ET on Wednesday [February 24] until 5 p.m. ET on March 9 […] The exclusive window will “give lenders and community partners more time to work with these Main Street businesses that anchor our neighborhoods and help families build wealth, while also ensuring larger PPP-eligible businesses will still have plenty of time over three weeks to apply for and receive support before the program expires.”

In addition to the 20-and-under-only window, the formula for calculating the loan amount for these businesses is changing so these smallest businesses can actually qualify for an sum that will make a meaningful difference:

[O]fficials said they had heard from applicants who were approved for loans of just $1 because the rules require them to calculate the loan amount using the net profit listed on their tax returns. These applicants will now be able to calculate their loan amount using gross income.

Imagine being a down-on-your-luck business owner; there’s a pandemic raging, you can’t make any money, and you want to keep your employees on the payroll. A government program is announced with much fanfare: “We are here to help small businesses during this unprecedented time!” they boast. You’re relieved. You scramble to pull all the necessary materials together, approach the lender, and you get approved for…. $1. Talk about a surreal moment. A government program with hundreds of billions of dollars just waiting to be used by businesses just like yours, and you get one buck. I don’t know if I’d laugh or cry.

I guess the bright side is that for the next pandemic, we’ll really have this loan rescue program nailed down out of the gate.

Email ain’t what it used to be

I remember getting my first email address in high school. For quite a while it made no practical sense. We weren’t using it for anything, really; we just had them because the internet was new, and this was the future. My buddies and I would send emails to each other with nothing but a quote from Braveheart in the body of the message. Stupid? Maybe. Waste of time? Absolutely. But can you blame us? It was a new form of digital communication for regular people to use, and that was exciting and fun.

These days, however, no one wants to see Mel Gibson on any screen in anything, and “fun” is not really a word that many people associate with email anymore. It has become a crutch to modern communication. One of the first things you get at a new job is an email address and a flooded inbox as if to say, “Welcome! Your barrage of constant, instantaneous messages begins now and won’t let up until you leave.”

I’m exaggerating, of course, if only a little bit. Anyway, author Cal Newport shared some people’s current email descriptions in the New Yorker:


I recently surveyed the readers of my blog about e-mail. “It’s slow and very frustrating. . . . I often feel like email is impersonal and a waste of time,” one respondent said. “I’m frazzled—just keeping up,” another admitted. Some went further. “I feel an almost uncontrollable need to stop what I’m doing to check email,” one person reported. “It makes me very depressed, anxious and frustrated.”

It’s ironic because the efficiency and convenience (not to mention the cost) of email have made it indispensable. It’s hard to imagine our lives—especially our work lives—without it. Which is perfect for Newport because he has a book coming out provocatively titled A World Without Email. For most of us, it might as well be called A World Without Pizza or A World Without Reality TV or A World Without My iPhone. Oh, and what are we supposed to do without those things, Cal? Keep living?

Kidding aside, we could all use a break. Email is pretty miserable, this newsletter and a choice few others notwithstanding. All the quotes I included above hit the mark, and before you say, “Well, messaging tools like Slack are better,” let me stop you right there because they are most certainly NOT. Slack is just like email only faster and even harder to ignore. Right now, as I’m writing this sentence I have an uncontrollable urge to tab over to Slack when I know damn well there’s nothing urgent and important for me to read over there. Literally not a single message is worth me interrupting my actual work…and… yet… I… can’t… resist. Okay, I’m back.

You know that
 anxiety you get when you’re on vacation and you think about the emails piling up in your inbox? Slack anxiety is markedly worse. It’s like the difference between having one too many cups of coffee in the morning and the dread you have knowing that politics are going to come up at Thanksgiving—except you have it all the time.

I only bring
 this up because this week I stumbled across some email etiquette tips that an accounting firm CEO sent… in a firmwide email. And, eh, the tips are fine. Think twice before you reply all. Call once in a while, sure. This advice is helpful, but it feels too little too late. Etiquette isn’t going to solve this problem. We have to fundamentally change how we think and use email and other digital communication. Because, right now, it’s making everyone miserable. What we really need from email is:

FREEDOM!

Blockchain hype, the aftermath

Blockchain hype peaked a few years ago now, but here’s a coda to one of the most memorable moments of that storied time:

Long Blockchain, which changed its name from Long Island Ice Tea Corp. in 2017, had been trading over-the-counter since Nasdaq kicked it off its exchange in 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission said in an order. The SEC officially pulled the Farmingdale, New York-based company’s registration Monday, citing the fact that the last time it filed a financial report was for the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2018.

Yes, we’ve all become a little wiser since the ol’ “Let’s rebrand as BLOCKCHAIN” days. Now we’re all just chasing NFTs like K-pop stars in the streets. We totally know what we’re doing with this now.

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Caleb Newquist
Caleb Newquist Caleb is Editor-at-Large at Gusto. In 2009, he became the founding editor of Going Concern, the one-of-a-kind voice on the accounting profession, serving in the role for 9 years. Prior to Going Concern, Caleb worked as a CPA for nearly 6 years in New York and Denver. He lives in Denver with his wife, two daughters, and two cats.

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