Small local businesses struggle to get PPP loans

For Marques Jones, the COVID-19 pandemic presented a series of particularly trying challenges.

The business he owns – ComForCare Home Care in Henrico – provides care to high-risk elderly people who still live independently in their own homes. So, before the virus arrived, he invested money in protective gear that he had never needed to buy before. The added burden of spending money on items that weren’t in his budget – while still paying employees, as well as the loss of 30% of his hourly customers in the first three weeks of the pandemic – has left Jones shocked.

“It has been the most frustrating time of my life,” he said.

Easing the financial burden on small businesses like Jones’ was the goal of the federal paycheck protection program, implemented earlier this month with $ 349 billion in upfront loans from the Small Business Administration. America and replenished at the end of last week by Congress with an additional $ 250 billion. But for business owners who have applied for a P3 loan, the uncertainty of when (or if) the funds will arrive is more stressful and frustrating than relieving.

Jones was unsure of where his business was in the application process.

“It’s like filling out an application and dropping it into a black hole,” he says. “You have no idea what’s going to happen that’s why you need to seek help.”

Brei Stevenson, the executive director of Glen Allen Community Montessori School, echoed that sentiment.

“Once we submitted our cases, there was radio silence. I followed up about a week later and was told they were working on the apps as quickly as possible. During this time, I have seen other business owners on social media share the same feelings of confusion and fear of the unknown. “

Different banks, different structures
The process for which business owners request and receive their money seems to depend on the bank they are applying to.

For example, Atlantic Union (a bank with more than 25 Henrico locations) accepted applications from any company, but prioritized those from existing customers. Officials at Truist Bank, formerly Suntrust, have indicated that due to the volume of applications received before the second round of funding, they will not be accepting any new PPP applications. A post on the bank’s website showed how tight funding was compared to demand.

“Given the extraordinary demand for PPP loans, not all qualified applicants will receive a loan under the PPP from Truist,” it read.

Numerous attempts to reach banks in the region for details of loans they have already dispersed have not been returned.

Josh Rickey, owner of Canine Adventure, a local pet care company that has operated in the area for 12 years, said he was told to work with his current bank, BB&T (now Truist) to secure funding . But the bank will not accept his candidacy, he said.

“We were told to work with our current bank to secure these federally funded loans, and every time I contacted BB&T (Truist) to submit EIDL and PPP requests, they refused to take requests for my part.”

The Small Business Administration has not released location-specific data on the amount of loans received by businesses. But he said $ 8.7 billion had been distributed to more than 40,000 businesses in Virginia before the funding dried up.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses surveyed its members nationwide and found that while around 75% of them were small business owners who applied for a PPP loan, around 80% of this group had yet to apply. received money.

These numbers are very disheartening for Holly Wade, the NFIB’s director of policy and analysis.

“Small businesses were prepared and ready to apply for these programs, the only options for financial support for most, and it is very frustrating that the majority of these real small businesses have yet to receive their loan,” he said. she declared.

 

Brian Whitehurst, President and CEO of the Virginia Bankers Association. (Courtesy of VBA)

“ It was like we were all blindly spinning a wheel ”
Business owners should contact their banks directly for more information, according to Bruce Whitehurst, president and CEO of the Innsbrook-based Virginia Bankers Association.

“If they have a relationship with a commercial banker, contact that banker,” he said. “It’s always the first thing to do. If they don’t have that type of relationship, head over to the bank’s website and see what that bank has posted about P3s and the application process. “

While large national banks are sued for prioritizing loan applications to larger businesses, small local banks have received national praise for working with business owners. Stevenson credited her bank, which is based in Chesterfield County but has branches in Henrico and elsewhere in the region, for assisting her with the application process which ultimately led her nonprofit organization to receive the PPP financing.

“Village Bank has been great throughout the process,” she said. “In a way, listening to the experiences of others with their banks, it was like we were all blindly spinning a wheel and some of us were lucky enough to be with a big local bank, while others had to fight and worry more.

P3 is the most lucrative financing option for small businesses to try to stay afloat, but other options still remain for small business owners.

In addition to applying for PPP financing, Whitehurst also recommended that business owners apply for the Economic Disaster Loan, which can provide a loan of up to $ 10,000 to businesses. The requirements are the same and apply to businesses with fewer than 500 employees. EIDL funds are supposed to be made available to businesses within days of request, with no obligation to repay the loan.

EIDL funding ran out along with the PPP, but the bill passed by Congress last week to replenish the latter also included an additional $ 60 billion for the former.

After the bill was passed in the House of Representatives, MP Abigail Spanberger from Henrico (D-7th district) explained why she and almost the entire House supported it.

“Today, the Chamber has responded to this urgent need by providing strong funding for the PPP and EIDL programs, so that small businesses and their employees can protect their livelihoods, put food on the table and survive. this financial slowdown, ”she said.

President Trump signed the bill on Friday, the last step needed for the SBA to reopen the bank application process.

Whitehurst applauded the bill in a statement.

“This legislation will allow Virginia banks to quickly bring additional relief to as many small businesses as possible, saving jobs and limiting the economic damage from COVID-19,” he said.

“ A long road to recovery ”
Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin and Small Business Administration Administrator Jovita Carranza issued a press release Friday afternoon saying the SBA will resume accepting applications today at 10:30 am.

“The PPP has supported over 1.66 million small businesses and protected over 30 million jobs for hard-working Americans,” they wrote. “With the additional funds allocated by Congress, tens of millions of additional workers will benefit from this critical aid.”

The latest round of funding gives hope to small business owners who are desperate for funding, but without more specific data from the SBA and banks, the amount of funding remains uncertain and will reach businesses in this community.

For Marques Jones, the waiting game and mystery surrounding his candidacy status left him to the point of giving up on receiving help. But at 9 p.m. the day before the announcement that the first round of PPP funding was completely empty, he received the money to save his business – at least for the next few weeks.

But for the majority of owners like Josh Rickey, the fate of their business is still pending. Rickey doesn’t expect Canine Adventure to receive any government assistance at this point, he said.

“Canine Adventure sells a series of custom t-shirts to help us get through the tough times ahead,” Rickey said. “The road to recovery will be long for small businesses surviving COVID-19.”


 

 

 

About Keith Johnson

Keith Johnson

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