Having been a CPA for over 30 years, I can honestly say that the last three months of my career have been some of the most challenging, but also some of the most rewarding.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way that all of us work and also how we see the world. For many years, I cherished the role of being my clients “most trusted advisor.” This meant I provided financial counsel related to income and estate tax matters and assisted in management consulting projects to help business owners maximize their profits. While all of these types of engagements brought value to the business owner, little did I know 2020 would transform my role to becoming a “front line” worker.
After speaking with many of my clients in the medical profession over the last few weeks, I realized many of the feelings of exhaustion and helplessness they conveyed, were also things many of my colleagues and I were feeling. After giving it a lot of thought and consideration, I have come to the conclusion that health care workers have risked their lives on the front line tending the physical health and well-being of their patients, while, my colleagues and I have been on the front line tending to the health and continued existence of businesses in our community. Please don’t get me wrong, I am in NO WAY comparing the life threatening risks health care workers have taken against COVID-19 to the work we have completed over the past few months, but there are more similarities than you may realize.
For the first month of the pandemic here in the U.S., it became difficult to count how many times we heard about the lack of PPE, Personal Protective Equipment, which was so desperately needed. As the pandemic unfolded and we were all subjected to “Shelter in Place” orders, it became very clear businesses were not going to be able to reopen very quickly, thereby putting their continued existence at risk.
In response, the government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security or CARES Act. Under the CARES Act, the Small Business Administration began offering forgivable loans under the Paycheck Protection Program. Soon PPP became the daily acronym our profession sought with the same desperation that health care workers had for PPE.
To date, we have been able to assist our clients in the application and approval process for over $20 million in PPP loans, but the road to that level of success wasn’t always easy.
The Paycheck Protection Program was rolled out very quickly and with little up front guidance, so needless to say, the rules of the game changed along the way. The process also came with great levels of frustration over technology issues and dependence upon a banking system, which was not set-up to administer a program of this volume.
It became a waiting game for many, as their applications were queued for submission and approval that required a second round of funding. Each day, the sense of urgency became more heightened, but in the end, each and every call or email I received letting me know a client was successful in receiving their loan proceeds gave me a feeling of the greatest professional satisfaction I have ever felt. We made a difference. We assisted our clients in getting the life line they will need to weather this invisible storm.
I always remind our staff public accounting is a personal service business, and this pandemic has made it more personal than ever before!