F-M business leaders urge companies big and small to apply for Paycheck Protection Program


FARGO - Fargo-Moorhead area business and financial experts are urging small business owners to take advantage of a new federal loan program designed to keep people on payrolls and keep the economy going.

The nearly $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program is part of the recently enacted Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. It’s meant to help businesses and workers stay afloat as government-ordered shutdowns aimed at stemming the COVID-19 pandemic threaten to send the economy into recession.

“It’s one of the biggest concerns we’ve had. Getting the word out,” said Joe Raso, president and CEO of the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation. “I mean, first and foremost, it’s going to be critical for all of our businesses.”

That means everyone from the “solopreneurs,” that mix of craftspeople, artisans, freelancers and gig and contract workers, to 501(c)3 nonprofit groups and firms with 500 or fewer employees.

All business owners or top executives should be communicating with their lenders, accountants and lawyers to find out if they can access the PPP, Raso said.


Joe Raso

Generally, loans like those obtained from the U.S. Small Business Administration have to be paid back. But with PPP loans, borrowers may have all or part of the loans forgiven - provided they meet certain guidelines.

The program “has the opportunity to keep people employed or bring people back from being laid off,” Raso said. And the cost savings of the loan forgiveness “is not inconsiderable.”

Applications for the program are available on the U.S. Treasury Department’s website and were to start being accepted as of Friday, April 3.


The GFMEDC is working with the Chamber of Commerce and the Convention and Visitors Bureau to get the word out, Raso said.
“I think it’s critical … We have had conversations with companies who we just naturally believed were keeping track of it, … and they weren’t aware of the details,” Raso said.

Raso said the loans will give entrepreneurs and small business people time to plan on how to move ahead, while still supporting their employees.


“It all comes down to paying your people so they can support their families,” Raso said.

The loans should provide enough of a cushion to promote stability and bring some confidence back to the marketplace, he said.

The EDC is “looking at it as well,” he said. “It’s critically important that all businesses look into this.”

Raso encourages people with questions to call the Chamber or the EDC to get guidance on who to reach out to.

Chad Flanagan

Chad Flanagan, the partner in charge of Eide Bailly’s Fargo office, urges business people to lean on their financial team to determine just how the PPP, or SBA’s disaster relief loans for economic injury, can help them.

“I think they should contact their banker or accountant, and maybe their attorney too. And I think they should do it immediately,” Flanagan said, adding that some firms may end up swamped.


“Our role (at Eide Bailly) is to make sure that they have everything together,” Flanagan said, because “there is some complexity to it.”

He says the Paycheck Protection Program is the strongest option he’s seen for businesses.

“I think it’s important as we go through this pandemic. Payroll and working capital is so important. … These programs can assist in meeting those obligations,” Flanagan said. “That hopefully can get them through this near-term volatility.”

Judd Graham

Judd Graham, the senior region president for Bremer Bank, said whether or not entrepreneurs and businesses access the PPP may be the difference between success and failure for some.

“I think it’s very crucial that they take advantage of it. Especially for those small businesses that have been closed, or those who have had a significant reduction in revenue and are struggling to keep their employees paid,” Graham said.

Graham said businesses need to have documentation on payroll and other reimbursable costs.


“It will be busy,” he said. “I think most bankers will be working on the weekends until the rush of these applications are in.”

Graham said there are other SBA loan programs, as well as state-level programs in Minnesota and North Dakota, available to help small businesses, too.

These are unusual and difficult times, he said.

“Everybody points to the recession of ‘08-09, certainly that was a tough time as well. But this one came as (a result of) a health issue, not as a result of a financial issue. The economy was going along well. I don’t think there’s anyone who can say they’ve lived through anything like this. It’s very unique,” Graham said. “I’d just like to make sure that people know the program is out there. … Business people need to explore all the opportunities to help them get through this difficult time.”

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