How Architecture Firms can Apply for an SBA COVID-19 Disaster Relief Loan

Cover image credit: HPZS Office Headquarters, Chicago, Illinois

By: April Marie Hughes, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C

Dear Architectural Firm Owners,

Like many of you, I could never have guessed I’d be in this position of completing a Disaster Loan Application when I took ownership of my company, HPZS, five years ago. Last year, our revenues have almost tripled the revenue of the company in less than five years, with the same amount of technical staff and with the expansion of administrative capabilities like in-house accounting and marketing departments. As the Chicago Chapter President of the American Institute of Architects, representing over 4,000 professionals in our City alone, I imagined a year of meeting new people, making new connections, leading a new initiative (or two) as previous presidents before me, and embarking on a strategic planning effort to align our local chapter with our future goals related to climate action. Suffice it to say, things really seemed to be looking up; the hard work was paying off.

And then a massive record scratch: Global pandemic! Construction projects threatening to come to a halt, new projects put on immediate hold until further notice, travel and in person meetings suspended. Worry about cash flow: that consulting dollars will be held on to by Prime firms, or, that agencies that process invoices do not have the capability to remotely keep their administrative processes moving even if we continue to do the work at home. Personal safety at risk; now we shelter in place? Children no longer in school, child care no longer available. Family that no longer can be visited; the idea of vacation cancelled until further notice. Personal and professional life as we know it at risk, and for how long, we don’t know.

I’m sharing this communication with you because this profession is represented by hard working, smart entrepreneurs dedicating ourselves to making our communities better; putting in the long hours so our employees can have healthcare, our children can have a brighter future. Small businesses, according to the SBA, get most of their capital financing by personal and family savings, business profits and assets, and to a much lesser extent business loans and credit cards. I want firm owners to know that applying for a loan like this is not admission of failure, or lack of planning; it’s a helping hand that our government is supplying to make sure that small business, which represents 99.9% of all firms in the US according to the US Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, stays in business on the other side of this quickly changing global disaster. We are the backbone of this economy, and we’re going to need the problem-solving creativity of entrepreneur architects to meet the new challenges society will face, from schools to healthcare to multi-family living, and to continue to employ the architectural workforce.

I know this is scary. Let’s admit it, see it as an opportunity to rise without delay and get through this together. And one way to do this is to share experiences, quickly and openly. I’m simply going to take you through my experience of going through all the steps necessary to get through the Disaster Business Loan Application. (I am not promising you this is going to result in a loan, for me or anyone else.) But hopefully this prepares you and takes some of the fear out of not knowing about the process, so you too can get started.

First: to learn more about how the loan process works from start to finish, read more here (link below):

To Apply for the SBA Disaster Business Loan:

1)   Go to this Address: (link above)

2)   Please note: Please note one does NOT need a FEMA number for this application. The reason you select when you apply is for the loan is ECONOMIC INJURY. You must SAVE as you go along in order not to lose data. Be patient, the site is slow; I’ve found before 7am and after 11pm are when the traffic seems to subside. (The site currently notes off peak hours are 7pm – 7am).

3)   Click Apply Online, and then click Register at the top left. This is where you create a username, password and security questions, which is Part 1. Part 2 is more information about the specifics of your business for the Loan Application. You will also return to this location when you need to log back in periodically to check on or continue your loan application. Cook County has been named an eligible Disaster Area, in fact, the entire State of Illinois has been made eligible as of Wednesday morning, March 18.

4)   Disaster Business Loan Application. This is the Part 2: as a business owner, you are in the best position to fill out this document quickly; so as much as you may want to, don’t delegate this task. You will need to provide your personal information as an owner (make sure the first address you fill out is your home address) and information about your company (how it is incorporated, etc.) Please note that if you have multiple owners with more than 20% ownership, you are going to have to add those individuals in this section. You will also need to indicate if you have an affiliate ownership(s).

5)   Personal Financial Statement. If you have ever applied for a business loan or line of credit, the contents of this section will be familiar to you. Be ready to supply personal mortgage information, loan, debt and asset information; from car to student loans, as well as providing balances in your retirement accounts. You’ll be asked questions about the current value of your property; feel free to go on and make an educated guess about your home, or Kelly Blue Book to figure out the value of your vehicle if you have one. If you have a singular individual in ownership, expect to spend 1-2 hours on this section or more, especially if all the information above you are going to have to assemble. To kickstart my application, used a loan application from a few years ago as a springboard for filling out this section. Again, if you have multiple owners each of them is going to have to complete this task and this will take longer.

6)   Schedule of Liabilities. This section may take you the longest to complete, if you were to fill it out the way that the site suggests, by downloading the form and filling it out and uploading it. The application does offer that you can supply your own form. After speaking with my accountant, we agreed that the best and fastest course of action was to create a singular PDF with the following information:

  • A cover sheet, indicating the contents of the package (below):
  • Cash Income Statement Year to Date, 2020
  • Accrual Income Statement Year to Date, 2020
  • Cash Balance Sheet Year to Date, 2020
  • Accrual Income Statement Year to Date, 2020
  • A print out of all your Accounts Payable

The reason to do this is simple: we use cash basis to file our taxes and run our businesses, but our industry needs accrual accounting to track the massive number of payables that small firms have due to consultants, and of course, all our Accounts Receivable (work for which you have invoiced.). Second, all of these documents cover the variety of debts that our businesses have, from monthly bills to loans, which don’t just all show up on one statement. By approaching it in this fashion, you will spend far less time than you would filling out the SBA form.

7)   Request for Transcript of Tax Return (for both your company, and you personally as an owner). Things get easier moving forward from this point on in the application. You will be prompted in the program to download the IRA From 4506-T authorizing the IRS to supply the last three years of your business’s tax returns and sign it; upload it. You will then be prompted to electronically sign a document for your personal taxes to be released.

8)   Complete copies of your most recent Federal Income Tax Returns (including all schedules). This would be for the taxes you just filed this year, 2019. Simply upload a PDF of your return and all the schedules; if you don’t have this for some reason, contact your Accountant and ask for it. If the most recent Federal income tax return has not been filed, a year-end profit-and-loss statement and balance sheet for that tax year will suffice. Where it gets a little trickier: this is going to need to be done for each principal owning 20 percent or more, each general partner or managing member, and each affiliate when any owner has more than a 50 percent ownership in the affiliate business. Affiliates include, but are not limited to, business parents, subsidiaries, and/or other businesses with common ownership or management.

9)   Truthful Information Certification. Another easy one: simply check the box on the screen and move on to the next section. (Of course, this assumes you are telling the truth; and I know you are!)

10) Submit Application and Supporting Documents. The site was so busy and hard to navigate due to traffic that whenever I tried to preview the loan application, it would kick me off the site. It’s not necessary to submit. So, go ahead and submit your application.

11) Follow Up. While I’m not there yet myself, the SBA notes that if additional information is required to process your application, you must submit it within 7 days of the request.

In summation, the best time to get started on this is now. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at And good luck.

***** MARCH 31, 2020 10:00 AM CST UPDATE*****

The SBA has now updated the process from when this article was written. If you would like to apply for a COVID-19 EIDL, please follow the process below.

The message from the SBA to individuals regarding the process is as follows:

We know you are facing challenging times in this current health crisis. The U.S. Small Business Administration is committed to help bring relief to small businesses and nonprofit organizations suffering because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law the CARES Act, which provided additional assistance for small business owners and non-profits, including the opportunity to get up to a $10,000 Advance on an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). This Advance may be available even if your EIDL application was declined or is still pending, and will be forgiven.

If you wish to apply for the Advance on your EIDL, please visit as soon as possible to fill out a new, streamlined application. In order to qualify for the Advance, you need to submit this new application even if you previously submitted an EIDL application. Applying for the Advance will not impact the status or slow your existing application.

Also, we encourage you to subscribe to our email updates via and follow us on Twitter at @SBAgov for the latest news on available SBA resources and services. If you need additional assistance, you can find your local SBA office and resource partners at If you have questions, you may also call 1-800-659-2955.

Leave a Reply