When the federal government introduced the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), officials made it clear that PPP loans were designed to help small businesses stay afloat and afford payroll amid the coronavirus.
In the home-based care space, however, the problem is that many small business owners might not be equipped to deal with the intricacies and requirements of the PPP program.
“Most home health agencies find the [process] to be extraordinarily difficult,” S. James Boumil, a Massachusetts-based attorney representing home-based care agencies, previously told Home Health Care News. “Most of these home health companies are being run by nurses and nurse aides. They’re not accountants.”
But franchisees in the home-based care space are in a unique, favorable position. They have the backing of corporate offices to provide advice and expertise regarding how to deploy PPP funds.
Even so, some uncertainty still exists.
Generally, a franchise presents entrepreneurs with the opportunity to own and operate a business without having to start one from scratch or purchase an existing company. A franchisee pays an initial fee and royalties to a franchiser, which, in return, offers its trademark, products, support and resources to the franchisee.
In the home-based care space, some examples include BrightStar Care, FirstLight Home Care, Right at Home, Senior Helpers and several other large networks.
Based in Maryland, Senior Helpers has more than 320 locations in its network, with locations in 43 states, Canada and Australia.
Amid the COVID-19 emergency about 180 Senior Helpers franchisees received PPP loans, most of which were secured through BoeFly, a financing company for small businesses and franchises.
One such recipient is Jon Purdy, who has two Senior Helpers territories and one physical office in the San Jose, California area. He received about $400,000 in PPP funding, which he’s putting toward staffing costs.
“The PPP loan is the backstop,” Purdy told HHCN. “I would be having to layoff office staff if I didn’t have it, and I would be losing even more caregivers than I have.”
Unlike some small business owners, franchisees like Purdy aren’t flying blind. Instead, their corporate locations have been offering guidance and advice.
Senior Helpers CFO Rob Sharkey shared a snippet of that advice with HHCN.
“We encourage our franchisees to utilize the funds for what the program was for, to keep our hardworking employees employed,” Sharkey said. “We are fortunate to be in an industry that hasn’t been impacted like others and have the ability to keep jobs intact during this pandemic. Being disciplined and treating this as a ‘business as usual’ approach is a message that we have voiced throughout this time.”
But even with the guidance, franchisees are still grappling with many of the same issues facing the industry as a whole.
On June 5, the PPP Flexibility Act of 2020 (PPPFA) was signed into law, with the goal being to give more clarity and freedom to loan recipients. It extended the PPP application and loan forgiveness deadline, in addition to reducing the minimum amount of funding required to go toward payroll, among other changes.
But some worry there could still be more changes to come, for better or worse.
“All the PPP rules and false starts combined with the 41 changes that followed have given me (and every other advisor) a colossal headache,” Leon LaBrecque — a lawyer, accountant and chief growth officer at Sequoia Financial Group — wrote in Forbes. “There are some significant improvements in the PPPFA. However, [the] Treasury still can’t leave a good thing alone, and we anticipate more changes.”
Bernie Fitzgerald, a Senior Helpers franchisee with three locations in Florida, has similar worries.
He received a six-figure PPP loan, which he is using for payroll and rent.
“Our main concern is getting the correct information … to comply with the complicated forgiveness forms,” Fitzgerald told HHCN. “Hopefully, the PPP flexibilities will make the compliance for forgiveness easier.”