Getting Back to Business
The emergence of COVID-19 changed life in the United States as we know it, requiring that we isolate ourselves as much as possible, practice social distancing when we must go out, and for dental healthcare practitioners, cease the practice of all elective dentistry and hygiene, seeing only patients who require emergency treatment. As detailed in this month's cover story, when the ADA's initial guidance was released, dental practices across the country shuttered their offices and furloughed employees. I cancelled all remaining appointments and closed my practice on March 16, and my associate agreed to remain available to handle our emergencies.
As part of the federal government stimulus under the CARES Act, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is making more than a quarter of a trillion dollars' worth of loans available to help small businesses, including dental practices, all or most of which can be forgiven if furloughed employees are rehired, a certain percentage of the loan is used exclusively for payroll, and the remaining amount is used for approved expenditures.
With no guarantees regarding when we will return to a normal workload coupled with the initial uncertainty of some banks regarding their ability to delay disbursement of the funds, it can be confusing for practice owners to figure out exactly when they should begin the PPP loan application process and what the best timetable is for bringing back their employees. First of all, if you're a practice owner and you haven't yet considered applying for a PPP loan, you should. We're all at risk, and this money is intended to help. Concerning the well-being of staff, the federal government has temporarily added $600 a week to the benefits received by all unemployed individuals, so presently, many furloughed employees are making as much, or potentially more, than they were at their practices. For practice owners, the challenge is to determine, based on what's best for their employees and the specific needs of their practices, when is the most appropriate time to begin the disbursement period and bring back employees in order to optimize the effectiveness of the loan to improve the business as well as to maximize the amount that can ultimately be forgiven by the federal government. Remember, you can't just assume that it is all free money. I highly recommend that practice owners seek financial counsel when planning the allocation of funds and developing a timetable.
The coronavirus may be severely affecting the health of the people and businesses of this nation, but with the practice of dentistry on hold, never in my career have I been able to spend this much time with my family. I encourage all dentists to embrace the time positively and improve their lives. I will always be committed to dentistry, but this pandemic has served as a reminder that there's more to life than travelling and lecturing.
Robert C. Margeas, DDS
Editor-in-Chief, Inside Dentistry
Private Practice, Des Moines, Iowa
Department of Operative Dentistry
University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa