We are a library that is a hybrid government agency (special taxing district) and a 501(c)3. Does being a 501(c)3 override local gov’t agency status as far as applying for the CARES PPP? We've reached out to several attorneys and even the SBA and we get opposite answers. Help!
I have spoken with many public libraries about their experience considering and applying for the different aid packages currently being offered in the wake of the pandemic. I also have the benefit of working with an associate attorney who once worked for the SBA, closing disaster loans.
So, in addition to the guidance being offered by New York State Library Development and the New York Library Association, which I encourage all libraries to pay ongoing attention to, I have two things to add:
First, as Mr. Rogers would say:
Remember, you are special.
Listening to the different experiences, and most importantly, reading the law, regulations and guidance, I can say that each and every library, library system, and resource group in the state of New York is differently situated under these aid packages, including PPP.
The is because, while the State of New York has created uniform frameworks for fostering libraries, within those frameworks, there is great room for self-determination and autonomy. That “room” means that every library has a different business structure, banking arrangement, budget profile, cash flow situation, grant and contractual obligations, approach to payroll, personnel policies, union obligations, commitments to the community, and plan of service.
This array of approaches and obligations create a unique identity that will be uniquely impacted by the current crisis.
Which brings me to my second point, which is based on my favorite baseball phrase:
Run it out.
Run. It. Out.
What does that mean? For those of you who don’t play baseball, it means…
No matter how soft a pop fly you just hit--no matter how easily the pitcher just snatched the ball out the air and is sending it hurtling to first—once the ball is in motion, drop your bat, and run the bases. Even if you think you can’t possibly make it home. Even if you are pretty sure you’ll be tagged out before you take 5 steps. Even if you suspect the catcher is laughing at you. If your library’s budget or ability to operate is being negatively impacted by COVID-19, your board owes it to the library and its community to explore every avenue. That includes PPP, and other emergency lending.
“Running it out,” of course, should not happen in a vacuum. It should happen as part of a well-considered, diverse plan for dealing with the current crisis (to that end, see my “Ten Things” column about boards and emergency response). But PPP and other aid should not be off the table until…they’re off the table.
To do this, be ready to assess the library’s fiscal position. Are you facing a pinch now, or more worried about next year? You also need to work closely with your bank, and be ready for both of you to closely assess your special identity (charter, bylaws, policies, payroll, obligations, cash flow) vis-à-vis the SBA’s rules for application.
For some of you, your library will get tagged out before you round first base. Your bank may decide you don’t qualify, or your board may even assess that that PPP or other emergency relief aren’t for you. But others of you just might make it home.
And if even only 5 libraries in the State of New York qualify for PPP and are able to help their communities recover from the impacts of a pandemic, because they did everything they could to get the aid they need to function, then the effort will be worth it.
Does your library qualify for PPP? If you need it to stay in the game: run it out.