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As the federal government hits the $349 billion lending limit on the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), many entrepreneurs across the country have been in the dark about much-needed assistance to pay their employees during the coronavirus crisis.
The SBA reported Tuesday morning that there were over 1.6 million applications for PPP loans totaling over $339 billion financed across 4,900 lending institutions. Officials for the federal agency said on Wednesday that the SBA has processed more than 14 years’ worth of loans in less than 14 days. Some applicants received approval and had checks cut within a week. Others are still waiting for acknowledgment that their application was even received.
“On March 19, we closed down. So, I had to put my own employees on unemployment. And then I started the whole litany of applying for all of the SBA loans that were supposed to be afforded to everybody,” Nancy Calamusa, owner and operator of New Jersey Pediatric Feeding Associates, a specialized medical treatment facility focusing on speech therapy and feeding habitation in East Brunswick, said to Fox News.
At the beginning of March, Calamusa saw her facility’s productivity drop to 30 percent, then it dropped to zero when she shuttered its doors due to the shelter-in-place order. She was forced to let go of her staff so they could collect unemployment, but many of her staff are still waiting for those payments to come in as well.
“I've had zero luck,”: she says. “I’m in a group on Facebook of about 10,000 business owners and we're all saying the same thing. Our anxiety is up, our frustrations are up. We're all trying to figure out where our next step is.”
“We're seeing that these larger corporations, as you see someone like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, just got $20 million. You know, and here we are trying to survive and provide medically necessary intervention to a population that is at risk and vulnerable. And yet, you know, kayak rental businesses are getting $10 million. the process should have been a better hierarchy on who received these funds first.”
This is not just our business, our industry. This is hitting everyone. It's like, you know, a giant river. A flood of applications through a little spigot called the SBA.
— Marsh Shamburger
Since the PPP loan program is now placed on hold, thousands of small business owners like Calamusa are waiting for Congress to approve another request from the White House to add another $250 billion for the program. Lawmakers on the Hill have been haggling over whether or not to extend the program as it stands now or to add provisions that would help minority businesses among other items.
In a statement provided to Fox News on Wednesday evening by SBA officials, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and SBA administrator Jovita Carranza said there’s an urgent need to approve funding.
“By law, the SBA will not be able to issue new loan approvals once the programs experience a lapse in appropriations,” reads the joint statement. “The high demand we have seen underscores the need for hardworking Americans to have access to relief as soon as possible. We want every eligible small business to participate and get the resources they need.”
Marsh Shamburger, who owns and operates Albuquerque, N.M.-based AE Productions, one of the largest live production companies in the southwestern United States, providing equipment and logistics for large-scale events, concerts and festivals, including Coachella, saw all but one of his 39 jobs scheduled over the course of three months canceled at the start of the outbreak in the U.S.
The sharp drop in business left Shamburger faced with the hard decision of layoffs. He was left with no other choice but to let his 38 staff members go — including his own wife and son.
“Two weeks ago, we were looking at probably one of our best years,” Shamburger said to Fox News back in March. “We have a zero-income coming in right now. It happened that quickly. I think we were shocked at how quickly things can turn.”
Marsh Shamburger (right) was forced to layvoff his entire staff, including his wife Rachel, once his live event production business was disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. (Courtesy of Marsh Shamburger)
At the start of the shutdown nearly a month ago, Shamburger set out to apply through the available loans from the SBA, including the disaster relief loan. At the beginning of April, he applied for a PPP loan in the hopes that he could hire back his employees and keep them on the payroll for the time being. But he never heard back on any of the loans he applied for.
“So far, we’ve had zero requests for information, which is concerning,” Shamburger said to Fox News on Tuesday.
"Time is of the essence right now. I’ve got a landlord who’s been super kind to me and my company, but there’s only so far that guy can go. We were hoping that the PPP would cover anything for him. A chunk of it at least, but If we can’t operate concerts until next year … the math just does not work."
Shamburger also shares his frustration with how the money has been allotted to applications and the slow process he and many others have experienced.
“This is not just our business, our industry. This is hitting everyone. It's like, you know, a giant river. A flood of applications through a little spigot called the SBA,” he says.
“It's physics at that point. I understand why they're doing it the way they are because of the mechanism that was in place already, But I just wish that they would use multiple means to get this out. They're going to have to come up with creative and additional means to distribute funds for relief for this thing.”
In what may be described as a luck of the draw, many business owners did receive quick approval for their PPP loans. Some even received checks within seven days of their application.
“We applied for the EIDL [economic injury disaster loan] right when they announced it. They accepted our applications and we never heard another thing from them,” said Steve Wallace, an Army veteran and owner of the Bracket Bar, a local establishment in Wisconsin, located about seven miles from the city of Eau Claire. The bar is still making meals for take-out as well as selling packaged goods, but he’s had to drastically reduce the schedule for many of his employees.
Wisconsin Bar owner Steve Wallace (left) and his wife were able to quickly get a PPP loan from the SBA.
“We had much better luck with the PPP loan,” he says. "We were able to work with our local bank and they were ahead of the game. They had that package to me before it was even released by the SBA. We filed on April 3 and last week we got a note last Thursday that our loan was approved."
Wallace says that the loan was deposited right into the bar's bank account, fully funded. While he is grateful that he has some financial relief during a new reality in the U.S., he feels there should be fewer restrictions on the PPP, since he was unable to get the other loans.
"My costs are the overall scheme of things," he says. "But I have to show that 75 percent of this loan went to payroll, which is normally only about 20 percent of my costs. My rent and utility bills are higher than my payroll."
"It won't be a problem for us to pay back down the road, especially if there's a deferment, but I think there's a lot of us in the same predicament. It's going to be a huge problem for small business owners."