2 Ways A Photographer (Or Any Small Business) Should Apply For Coronavirus Aid Immediately
As a photographer, you may either be a small business or a freelancer — in either case, you’re eligible for financial aid through the $2 trillion relief plan the government just put into place to help us through the crisis. And, of course, this isn’t just true for photographers. I happen to write about this specific business, but no matter what business you’re in — if you’re doing it as a small business owner (under 500 people, but also non-profits, farmers, co-ops… many can apply), you are no doubt being affected by COVID-19 and are entitled to get relief.
To cut through the glut of information out there, allow me to get you to just the two things you can apply for right now that might make a big and immediate difference to you. They are live and working. I just did these two things and the entire process took me less time than it did to write this article.
Apply For Disaster Relief
The official link is here: https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#/
It looks like this on the left and, as you can see, it’s an online form that is fairly easy to navigate. It will ask you to define what type of business you are. And if you look at the first two check boxes under Disclosures, you are eligible as either a small business or an individual.
The next section, Business Information is the only one that might require you to do a bit of research, though it’s likely you already have this information as it would be nearly identical to the numbers you’ve probably already figured out for your taxes. The most pertinent section looks like this:
If you have created a business, then you most likely already have your EIN number. If you’re a freelancer, of course, you’ll use your Social. Then the two fields in question: Gross Revenues and your Cost of Goods. This is the only part of all of this that took any research at all.
To double check accuracy, I put a call in to my CPA who confirmed those numbers with me and made sure they coincided with my tax filing. If you have your tax filings handy, you could easily enough look it up yourself.
The rest is all fields you already know by heart and streams through quickly. For some reason, in the introduction on the main page it estimates time for completion is two hours and ten minutes. It took me far less than that. At the end you’ll get a screen that lets you know your case has been submitted and tells you which email will be used to let you know if you’re approved. It looks like this:
Remember, this is called a loan, but it does not need to be paid back. They are very specific about this on the website:
Again, here’s the link: https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#/
Postpone Home Loan Payments
If you have a mortgage, the government and mortgage groups have agreed to let you delay your payments without penalty. The amount of time and the stipulations around the re-payment differ, depending on who owns your loan. If the gov’t owns your loan (Fannie or Freddie loans), you can delay up to 12 months — which is amazing. If it’s held through through a bank, it can be anywhere from 3 to 12 months (so, count on 3). Also, from what I’ve seen, some banks will simply let you start up again after that time and others will ask you to catch up fully after the forbearance, though I would guess that your bank will be lenient about this, if you talk to them in three months. Either way, you should prepare for a large payment, if need be.
Need help determining who owns your home mortgage loan? There’s a link for that: https://www.makinghomeaffordable.gov/get-answers/Pages/get-answers-find-out-mortgage.aspx
Why delay mortgage payments? A number of reasons. First, you simply may not have the funds due to a sudden downfall in income. This at least pushes the stress of that off a bit and keeps interest from accruing, while the world figures this out. If, heaven forbid, things have gotten so bad from this pandemic that you need to sell your home, this gives you a well-needed buffer time to do that without the burden of paying the mortgage.
Second, this is a delay without any interest accruing — there are not many times in life that that will ever happen. Even for people who might be able to struggle enough to barely afford to pay their mortgages, this would be a perfect time to take that money and put it into something that accrues interest for you (assuming the markets are going to come back, which they always do). Talk to your financial planner about ways to be investing for the next three-to-twelve months, letting them know you need a flexible account where that money might be taken out.
How to Apply
There’s two ways banks are having you apply for a delay — a phone call to an automated system, or an online form. Here’s a few examples of how sites are listing their assistance options prominently:
In the first example, you are lead to a form. It’s easy to fill out and, as you are already signed in at this point, it requires very little of you, in terms of new information. You are mostly just confirming your request.
The second example offers up a phone number. This is the automated system and after you verify yourself, the process is equally fast. I have two separate loans and experienced both of these processes. Neither took me very long, nor entailed having to look anything up. When done, I was sure to turn off my automatic payments and set a reminder for myself to reinstate them at the end of the period.
But not all banks display this information so prominently. If you’re having trouble finding where to go on your bank’s site, look for what is likely an already-existing section for “mortgage assistance,” “delay payments” or “forbearance.” But “mortgage assistance” is the usual verbiage.
Here’s an example of a number buried more deeply in a site’s menu.
If you do end up finding what you need through a traditional menu, do make sure that by the time you do get a number or form, that it looks as though it is in alignment with the current assistance programs specifically due to Coronavirus.
Those are the two main things that I think any small business owner should be doing immediately. There are plenty of other ways that the relief plan might be beneficial to you and for whatever hardships this might be causing. And for the entirety of that list, you can find in places like this: https://www.nytimes.com/article/coronavirus-money-unemployment.html#link-14381355
I hope everyone is getting through okay and that this might have been some help.