On Friday, the Paycheck Protection Program, part of the federal CARES Act, will open to independent contractors, sole proprietors and gig workers. The program provides nearly $350 billion to help cover payroll for small businesses and income for self-employed workers who have lost their jobs amid the coronavirus crisis.
"To date, about a third of that has been used already, so there is still money in the fund," said Betsy Markey, executive director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.
The program opened to small businesses with 500 or fewer employees on April 3. Since then, hundreds of thousands of small businesses nationwide have applied for the forgivable loans to cover a portion of their payroll costs. The overwhelming demand has led to a backlog of applications.
Markey said in Colorado alone, about 600,000 business are eligible to apply. She said the $350 billion allocated so far would not be enough to keep up with demand, especially as the program opens to self-employed individuals.
Littleton hair stylist Jordyn Batcheller will be among the independent contractors filling out an application for the Paycheck Protection Program. She normally rents salon space at Phenix Salon Suites.
"I've been applying for a bunch of different things, checking my emails trying to see whatever I’m eligible for," she said.
Batcheller says she is tentatively booking appointments for May, hoping that the government will allow at least some limited business openings by then.
"The good thing for my industry is that everyone does need their hair done and everyone is going to be desperate," Batcheller said.
In the meantime, she and other unemployed workers are hoping federal funding will remain available for them. Congress is looking to approve an additional $250 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program.