Where to Look If Your Small Business Can’t Get a PPP Loan

Small-business owners can turn to other SBA loans and grants from state and local agencies and organizations.

Kelsey SheehyFebruary 22, 2021
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Update Feb. 22, 2021: Only businesses with no more than 20 employees will be able to submit PPP applications from Feb. 24 through March 9. This move is part of a wider revamp of the Paycheck Protection Program announced by the Biden administration.

Additional changes include lifting restrictions on business owners with delinquent federal student loans, as well as those who have non-fraud felony convictions. The administration will also rework the loan calculation formula for self-employed individuals, allowing sole proprietors and independent contractors to qualify for more money than previously allowed. For the latest information, read our PPP page.

The Paycheck Protection Program can be a lifeline for businesses that qualify, but it’s not the only program available for business owners struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.

Those who don’t meet PPP requirements may be eligible for grants and other financing, including state and local grants and other loan programs supported by the Small Business Administration.

Other SBA loans and grants

The Small Business Administration has several lending programs available to struggling businesses. Loans backed by the SBA tend to have lower interest rates and more favorable terms than loans from private lenders, but borrowers still need to meet minimum credit standards and may need to put down collateral.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans

Historically used for businesses impacted by a natural disaster, these low-interest loans are now available to businesses with up to 500 employees that can show a financial loss due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Eligible businesses can receive up to six months of working capital, up to $150,000. Collateral is required in excess of $25,000. Money borrowed via an EIDL can be used to pay operating expenses, including fixed debt payments. Unlike PPP loans, EIDLs are not eligible for loan forgiveness but payments are deferred for one year.

SBA 7(a) loans and microloans

The SBA has several other lending programs available to small-businesses owners who took a hit from the coronavirus. How much you can borrow, and under what terms, will depend on your business needs and the specific loan program.

Microloans, for example, top out at $50,000. Standard 7(a) loans are capped at $5 million. SBA Express loans, part of the 7(a) program, normally max out at $350,000, but the Economic Aid Act passed late last year temporarily raises the limit to $1 million from Jan. 1 to Oct. 1, 2021. After that, the maximum limit for Express loans will be $500,000.

While 7(a) loans can be used to refinance existing debt, among other things, microloans cannot. Funds from either loan program can be put toward working capital.

These loans are not forgivable, but they do qualify for the SBA’s debt relief program, which was also beefed up with the latest round of coronavirus relief. The SBA will pay the first six months of principal and interest on loans approved between Feb. 1 and Sept. 30, 2021.

Shuttered Venue Operators Grants

Shuttered Venue Operators Grants offered through the SBA are reserved for theaters, live music venues, talent representatives and some museums, zoos and aquariums that can show a revenue drop of at least 25%. Certain promoters and producers also qualify.

The SVO grant program is brand new and isn’t accepting applications just yet. Once open, businesses that lost at least 90% of their revenue between April and December 2020 will get first dibs on grant awards, then those that lost at least 70%, followed by all other eligible businesses. Supplemental grants may also be available to these top-priority groups.

Qualifying venues can receive a maximum of $10 million, though most will receive much less. The exact amount is based on revenue, either 45% of 2019 gross revenue or average monthly gross revenue, depending on when your business opened. The money can be used on operating costs, including leases and mortgage payments, as well as worker protection, state and local taxes, and payments for debt incurred prior to Feb. 15, 2020.

Other grant programs

Loans aren’t the only option for businesses in need of funding. There are thousands of grants available to qualifying small businesses, including those offered by federal, state and local government agencies.

Not sure where to start looking for a grant? Try your local chamber of commerce, Small Business Development Center or Economic Development Administration office.

Databases like Grants.gov and GrantWatch.com provide a comprehensive, searchable listing of available grants (note: GrantWatch.com keeps grant details behind a paywall).

Applying to every grant under the sun is not the best approach, says Libby Hikind, founder of GrantWatch.com. Do your research and apply to grants that are a match for you and the funder.

“Don't waste your time applying for something you are not eligible for,” Hikind says. “Take the time to find out about what past grants the organization has funded and who won the awards. By learning all you can, you will have more context to frame your proposal and be better positioned for a win.”

Most grants have very specific requirements and are often targeted to a specific mission, location, type of business or demographic, such as veteran-owned or minority-owned businesses.

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