Washington — The Organized Dentistry Coalition is asking Congress for flexibility in the Paycheck Protection Program to allow dentists to purchase personal protective equipment as states begin the reopening phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an April 30 letter to leaders in the House and Senate, the dental organizations thanked Congress for providing additional funding to the Paycheck Protection Program and other critical loan programs but said small business health care providers — “especially those in dentistry” — will need a “significant increase” in personal protective equipment in order to protect themselves, dental team members and patients from COVID-19 infections.
“Given the nature of oral health care treatments and procedures, the exposure to this virus through aerosol generating procedures and droplets in the air is especially concerning for dental offices,” the groups wrote.
The coalition told Congress that many of their dentist members have already received their funding and are now tasked with making decisions on what nonpayroll costs they will use these funds for in order to receive full loan forgiveness.
“It is clear that access to [personal protective equipment] is of primary concern, but the cost of more robust and additional [personal protective equipment] is also causing many of our members to believe that this will have a considerable economic impact on their businesses,” the groups said. “At this time, we are asking that the nonpayroll costs that are allowable for [Paycheck Protection Program] be expanded to include the cost of [personal protective equipment]. Further, a borrower that uses [Paycheck Protection Program] funds for [personal protective equipment] — so long as it stays within the threshold for non-payroll related costs — should not be prevented from receiving full forgiveness of these loans.”
The organizations pointed out that the intent of the Paycheck Protection Program was to encourage small businesses to retain or rehire staff in a timely manner but said dentists who own practices cannot do that without first ensuring the health and safety of everyone.
“Allowing this flexibility for [Paycheck Protection Program] loan proceeds will help to mitigate the increased costs of the [personal protective equipment] that will be required in order to provide care to our patients and protect ourselves and our employees. We believe that this flexibility could be done through agency action and be included in future guidance from the Department of the Treasury and the Small Business Administration. However, if congressional action is required, we are asking that this change be included in the next COVID-19 relief package.
"On behalf of our collective organizations, we would like to thank you for recognizing the need for small businesses, including dental practices, to receive financial support during these difficult times. Dental offices are eager to reopen to treat their patients and rehire their employees, but patients, providers and employees need to feel safe to return. [Paycheck Protection Program] loan fund flexibility is a simple way to help address this," the letter concluded.
For the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic, visit ADA.org/virus.