Small businesses that need help making payroll amid the COVID-19 crisis can begin applying today for federally backed loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.

The program provides loans that cover two-and-a-half times a business’ monthly payroll obligations. Congress allocated $349 billion for the program, which provides loans based on a first come, first serve basis.

Businesses that use at least 75% of the loans to cover payroll costs will have their loans completely forgiven. Up to 25% can be used for expenses such as rent and utilities. For businesses that don’t meet that benchmark, interest on the loans will be just 1%.

Gov. Doug Ducey urged Arizona businesses to take advantage of the program as quickly as possible.

“This program is first come, first served, meaning it’s critical that Arizona businesses prepare and apply now,” the governor’s office said in a press statement on Monday.

Unlike previous SBA loan programs aimed at helping businesses weather the coronavirus outbreak, people apply for paycheck protection loans through their banks, not through the SBA. The SBA released list of approved lenders in Arizonthat businesses can contact to apply for paycheck protection loans.

Paycheck Protection Program loans are available to businesses and 501©(3) nonprofits with fewer than 500 employees, including independent contractors and people who are self-employed, as well as veterans’ organizations and tribal businesses. Some businesses with more than 500 employees will also qualify for loans if they meet SBA size standards for their industries.

How you can tell if you might be ill

Symptoms of COVID-19 resemble that of the flu. So, if you’re experiencing coughing, fever, difficulty breathing, or shortness of breath, you should consider getting checked out. Call your primary care physician or visit an urgent care center or emergency room — but call the health care provider before you go so they can be prepared for your arrival. The Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center is taking COVID-19 calls: 1-844-542-8201

How COVID-19 spreads• Through the air by coughing or sneezing

• Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands

• Touching an object or surface with the virus on it

How to prevent spreading COVID-19Cover coughs or sneezes with your elbow. Don’t use your hands.

Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

Clean surfaces frequently, including counter tops, light switches, cell phones, remotes, and other frequently touched items.

Contain: If you are sick, stay home until you are feeling better. Once symptoms are gone experts recommend staying home an additional 72 hours.

This article appeared first on Arizona Mirror.

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