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ADA dentists discuss PPP loan forgiveness

October 12, 2020

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — Months after receiving their Paycheck Protection Program funds, many dentists are beginning to consider applying for forgiveness.

The Paycheck Protection Program was established by Congress in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to provide small businesses with economic relief in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to an ADA Health Policy Institute poll from September, more than 90% of 19,000 dentists surveyed said they applied for relief from the federal program. Borrowers will need to begin making payments unless they submit applications for forgiveness within 10 months after the forgiveness period ends for their loan.

Photo of Dr. Phillip Fijal
Dr. Fijal
In early October, the U.S. Small Business Administration began approving forgiveness applications.

For Dr. Phillip Fijal, chair of the ADA Council on Government Affairs and a general dentist in Des Plaines, Illinois, the decision to apply sooner, rather than later, was simple: He wanted to get the forgiveness process started.

“I just went proactively to my bank and said, ‘What do I need to do?’" Dr. Fijal said.

The first step was deciding which of the two forgiveness forms to use: the EZ Application or Standard Application. Dr. Fijal opted for the EZ. The SBA has since released an additional form, one that simplifies the process for loans under $50,000.

The journey
When choosing the time period to request forgiveness, Dr. Fijal chose the 24-week period, which dictates that the business must have used at least 60% of the PPP funds for payroll. Because he uses an outside payroll service, he said he was also able to easily download all his payroll paperwork and submit it with the forgiveness application.

“Most outside payroll services should be able to put together a payroll PPP forgiveness report,” he said. “If you're not going to use all your money for payroll expenses, there are places on that form that you have to put in the amount of money that you spent on rent, the amount of money you spent on supplies, and documentation is required to verify that.”

Photo of Dr. Richard Andolina
Dr. Andolina
Dr. Fijal said the driving force to take out a small business loan was to keep his staff employed when his practice was closed for almost two months early in the pandemic. During that time, he and his staff stayed busy by tackling administrative tasks, renovating the office and getting ready to open under new safety protocols as a result of COVID-19.

“We stayed distant, we kept our masks on, but there was plenty of work to be done administratively,” he said. “It really was a time for us to kind of bond together as well as a group. The PPP money really helped out a great deal. I knew that staff salaries were going to be taken care of, and I could just focus on taking the other receivables and start paying off some of the other bills.”

Dr. Richard Andolina, a general dentist in Hornell, New York, and past chair of the ADA Political Action Committee, also took out a Paycheck Protection Program loan. His journey began when he was forced to close his practice for three months of routine dental care when providers in New York were limited to emergencies only. During that time, he furloughed most members of his staff.

“Once the ‘pause’ was lifted on June 2, our office opened up to an extremely limited patient flow, probably 20% of our normal schedule, fully following the guideline recommendations of the ADA and the CDC,” Dr. Andolina said. “Over the following months we increased patient flow and procedures and are now presently up to about 90% of normal.”

“Having been in practice for nearly 40 years, I was financially able to withstand the situation. My concerns continue to be with the newer dentists and businesses in our community,” he continued. “The reason of my concern with other businesses is that they employ many of our patients. Without income, it’s likely that our patients’ regular dental treatment would be delayed or canceled.”

A unique perspective
Dr. Andolina brings a unique perspective to the small business loans experience. In addition to dentistry, he is also passionately involved in banking, serving as the board chairman of the Maple City Savings Bank in Hornell. That background also allowed him to witness the PPP program from the lender’s perspective.

“Our bank deals regularly with the SBA, but not to the extent that was placed upon them with this initiative,” he said. “In the initial funding, the very large banks were able to develop programs to complete the applications quickly and those who received funds were mostly larger corporations and businesses, not small businesses such as dental practices. Those issues were corrected, allowing the rest of the applications to get processed and ultimately funded.”

Dr. Andolina pointed out that the PPP’s initial regulation for forgiveness was based on an eight-week period from the time the money was loaned before being extended to 24 weeks.

Dr. Fijal said he learned about PPP loan forgiveness and updates to the program from the ADA and also in the Morning Huddle daily e-newsletter that goes out to ADA members. He said he was the first PPP loan his bank processed.

“I was able to kind of help my bank with the application and answer some of the questions they may have had,” he said. “I think it was pretty beneficial to our bank, that I was the first, because it helped them work through a lot of questions as well.”

He said he consulted with his accountant and banker during the application process and encouraged all dentists to develop similar relationships — along with one with an attorney.

Final thoughts
“I think coming out of this whole period, the thing that is most glaring to me is that you have to really have those good relationships because it's going to help out somewhere,” he said. “It did for me. It was a huge relief to be able to go to my bank and say, ‘Hey, I need this money,’ and they can help walk you through it. It makes it simple and takes a lot of stress off of us at a very stressful time.”

Dr. Andolina said he recently submitted the paperwork to apply for full PPP loan forgiveness having used all of his loan proceeds to fund qualified payroll expenses.

“Our bank is reaching out to encourage businesses to apply for loan forgiveness as soon as possible, assuming that they have spent the money on allowable expenses,” he said.

Dr. Andolina said he and the bank are also keeping an eye out for a potential next round of COVID-19 relief legislation.

In the meantime, both dentists are glad they went ahead and applied for forgiveness.

“It’s our responsibility to be proactive about applying for forgiveness,” Dr. Fijal said. “Be cognizant of when your 24-week period window closes and then ask your bank what they're looking for.”

The ADA strongly supports legislation to streamline forgiveness for PPP loans. In July, the Senate introduced the Paycheck Protection Program Small Business Forgiveness Act, which calls for loans less than $150,000 to be forgiven upon the completion of a one-page document. Also in July, the ADA signed onto a coalition letter that estimated Paycheck Protection Program loans under $150,000 accounted for 86% of the total recipients of the loans, but less than 27% of Paycheck Protection Program loan dollars overall.

For instructions on how to use the EZ form to apply for forgiveness, visit the SBA site. There is also a tips list from the Academy of Dental CPAs for dentists who are applying or considering applying for forgiveness.

For more information about the ADA’s advocacy efforts during COVID-19, visit ADA.org/COVID19Advocacy.