Many charities are facing criticism for laying off workers and cutting salaries when they have substantial financial reserves in endowments. A second wave of criticism may occur if these charities have taken government subsidized Paycheck Protection Program loans (PPP loans) that are forgivable.
The PPP loan application requires applicants to make the following certification: “Current economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the Applicant.” The Small Business Administration (SBA) has stated that this certification must be made in good faith and take into account the applicant’s “current business activity and their ability to access other sources of liquidity sufficient to support their ongoing operations in a manner that is not significantly detrimental to the business.”
The SBA has indicated that loans made over $2 million are likely to be audited. In that event, there is the possibility that organizations with large endowments which obtained PPP loans of over $2 million end up being subject to civil and criminal penalties.
The SBA has created a safe harbor regarding the certification if the loan was under $2 million. This means the SBA will assume the certification was made in good faith. However, organizations with endowments, especially those with seven to ten figure endowments, may run the risk of serious harm to their reputation from constituents and the press.