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Many Companies With More Than 500 Employees Could Qualify For Stimulus Loans

As the nation scrambles to take advantage of the $2 trillion stimulus benefits in the CARES Act, numerous sources have stated that only businesses with 500 or fewer employees are eligible to apply for loans under the Act’s Paycheck Protection Program. In fact, businesses with far more than 500 could be entitled to participate in the program.

First, section 1102(a) of the Act applies to any business concern, nonprofit organization, veterans’ organization, or Tribal business having the greater of:

1) 500 employees or  

2) the “size standard in number of employees established by the [Small Business] Administration for the industry” in which the business operates.

These “size standards” are contained in a list maintained by the Small Business Administration, organized by North American Industry Classification System (“NAICS”) code, which establishes the maximum number of employees that a particular entity operating in certain industries can have and still qualify under the Paycheck Protection Program. Depending on the applicable NAICS code, a business with significantly greater than 500 employees may still qualify. For example, petroleum refineries (with capacity of less than 200,000 barrels per calendar day) and turbine manufacturers with up to 1,500 employees could qualify, businesses in the crude petroleum extraction, natural gas extraction and coal mining industries could qualify if they have up to 1,250 employees, and entities in the electric power distribution and natural gas distribution industries may have up to 1,000 employees and still qualify. These are only a handful of examples of hundreds of industries contained on the size standards list. Given the Act’s “greater of” language referenced above, the 500 employee maximum will apply even if the SBA’s size standard table indicates a lower number for a particular industry.1 Bear in mind that the SBA generally considers both the actual business concern, as well as all of its affiliates, in determining whether an entity qualifies as small.

Second, businesses must count “employees” as that term is defined under Title I of the CARES Act, i.e., an individual retained on a full-time, part-time, or “other basis.”  While the SBA previously had not expressly defined the term “employee,” the CARES Act has adopted preexisting SBA guidance from the SBA’s HUBZone Program to provide an explicit definition. As a result, it is likely that the full SBA guidance will be used to calculate the number of employees under section 1102(a) of the CARES Act. Under that guidance, an “employee” is an individual who works a minimum of 40 hours per month, including any employees obtained through temporary employee agencies. Independent contractors may also be considered an “employee” where there is evidence of an employee-employer relationship, which is assessed under a multi-factor test. On the other hand, independent contractors who are not considered employees would not count toward the entity’s employee count for purposes of determining eligibility under the Paycheck Protection Program.


1 The SBA’s size standard list also provides standards for certain industries expressed in annual receipts. These are not relevant under the stimulus package. If an industry’s NAICS code reflects a dollar figure, but does not include a number of employees, the 500 employee limit will apply.

© 2023 Bracewell LLPNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 90

About this Author

David Ball, Intellectual Property Attorney, Bracewell Giuliani, law firm

David J. Ball is a partner in Bracewell's litigation practice. David has experience in the areas of intellectual property litigation (patent, copyright, trademark, trade dress, and IP theft), bankruptcy litigation, and state and federal appeals.  He also regularly represents financial services firms (international banks, regional banks, hedge funds, etc.) in complex commercial disputes.  David routinely draws on his litigation experience to counsel clients in all manner of business transactions, including risk analysis, contract formation, mergers and acquisitions, and...

David Shargel, commercial litigation, white collar criminal defense attorney, Bracewell Law firm

David Shargel is a senior counsel in the trial section of Bracewell's New York office. His litigation practice focuses general commercial litigation, internal investigations and white collar criminal defense. Mr. Shargel's practice also involves issues surrounding electronic discovery and data management.

Mr. Shargel has litigated complex commercial disputes involving contract, business torts, insurance coverage, technology and fraud, and has litigated disputes concerning federal and state constitutional law, including the Commerce and Due...

Josh Zive, Legislative Regulatory Advocacy attorney, Bracewell law firm
Senior Principal

Josh Zive is a senior principal at Bracewell with an eclectic background in legislative and regulatory advocacy, campaign finance and ethics laws, strategic communications and issues related to international trade and economic sanctions. He works closely with associations and companies involved in legal and political controversies to craft and deliver arguments that can be successful with legal, political and public audiences. No matter the forum or the specific controversy, Josh strives to serve as trusted counsel for his clients and to provide timely and practical...

Robert Wagman, Bracewell Law Firm, Government Business and Litigation Attorney

Bob Wagman has experience representing U.S. and foreign companies of all sizes in a broad range of industries in all facets of conducting business with the government including government contracts, grants and other federally-funded projects. Bob’s experience ranges from representing companies in litigation matters before courts and administrative tribunals to advising clients in transactional matters and regulatory compliance.

Bob has represented numerous companies in civil False Claims Act (qui tam) matters ranging from representing companies...

Annie Allison, Bracewell Law Firm, Copyright and IP attorney

Annie Allison focuses on advising and assisting clients on intellectual property issues related to trademark, copyright, and technology law.

She regularly prepares and prosecutes trademark applications and assists in the management of global trademark portfolios. Annie also assists on a broad array of IP and technology related matters, including IP licensing and technology transactions focused on software, digital media, advertising, merchandising, and innovative technology. She advises clients on data privacy strategies and related regulatory compliance. Her experience also...