Federal funds for COVID-19 corporate relief have been impoverished at one time, but now there is more money than the companies receiving it.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there was $ 128 billion left to lend under the paycheck protection program as of Wednesday night, with just over a week for businesses to apply in the current cycle. Applications should be sent on Saturday August 8.
But in New York City, it has been difficult to tie that pot of federal dollars to some of those most in need of funding.
In the South Bronx, a local sales agent said he had gone in person to talk about the program to predominantly Spanish-speaking auto repair owners who had not yet applied.
In Manhattan, Borough Chamber of Commerce staff are going door-to-door to spread the word, especially in upscale neighborhoods and the Lower East Side.
In north Brooklyn, loan processors have struggled to reach manufacturers who may not speak English or have digital skills.
‘The tip of the iceberg’
“All the big smart companies came in and got theirs,” said Leah Archibald, executive director of East Williamsburg-based Evergreen Exchange, which helps small businesses in the region’s industrial area. “I feel like we are missing a lot of minority and immigrant owned businesses.”
Archibald’s group maintains a list of around 1,500 companies through an annual door-to-door survey kept “as up-to-date as possible,” she said. But still, there are those his team misses.
In mid-May, Archibald noted, a Spanish-speaking colleague was delivering meals to housebound residents when he met the owner of a carpentry shop two blocks from their offices.
The carpenter, who speaks only Spanish, had attempted to apply for PPP in person at his bank, where he was told to complete the application online. He never finished the papers.
Due to the chance meeting, Archibald was able to put him in touch with a fluent Spanish-speaking community development finance institution to guide him through the process.
The carpenter got the help he needed, but the chance encounter made Archibald realize “that there are so many people falling through the cracks,” she said.
“When you see the tip of the iceberg, you know the majority of the volume is hidden,” Archibald added.
Minority-owned and women-owned businesses have struggled to get PPP funding across the country, as defenders have pointed out for months. As the end of this cycle approaches quickly, concern grows that the situation is not improving much.
In East New York, Camille Newman, director of the SBA-funded Women’s business center, is keenly aware of the low loan approval rating among minority applicants.
She said many clients in her group were turned down for various federal loans: some because of their credit scores – which is required by applicants for the SBA’s economic disaster loan program, but not for the P3. – or because they do not have the necessary documents. aligned.
“A lot of these businesses, when they started – as mom and dad, or they’re street vendors, or they sell from home – they don’t think about the documentation and how I should report my taxes, ”she said. .
“You have to show everything you’ve got,” said Lalita Kumut, owner of The Fragrance Shop in the East Village. “They are asking for your income tax. They ask your accountant anything. You cannot ignore it.
Kumut applied for a PPP in April and has yet to see the money coming in, she said. She joined a coalition of business leaders at a press conference on Wednesday urging the state to implement rent relief for small businesses.
“I have anxiety now,” she said. “I don’t want to close my shop.
The Paycheck Protection Program is not for everyone and should only be used by homeowners who intend to follow the rules, including spending 60% of the money on payroll and keeping workers employed for 24 weeks, Archibald said.
“It’s not free money. You really have to do this stuff, ”she said. “You have to sign a statement saying it is my intention to do so.”
Jessica Walker, president of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, stressed that P3s are “not a panacea for all businesses,” especially because the loan can only cover the biggest burden a business has: rent.
“Rent is a huge cost for most businesses and the PPP is designed to primarily help you pay your employees, your labor costs and only cover part of the rent,” he said. she declared. “It helps a lot of businesses, but it’s not necessarily good for all businesses.”
Nonetheless, Walker said, the House is working to reach businesses before the deadline, hosting webinars and workshops, and contacting owners by phone and in person, particularly in Harlem, Washington Heights, Inwood and Lower East Side.
“Now that we know there have been winners and losers – and in particular[…]
Christophe Le Gorju, senior director of the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, tries to get more businesses in his borough to apply, but finds it an uphill battle.
To spread the word, he visited stores along the auto repair row of Jerome Avenue where many workers speak only Spanish and are often independent contractors. Some thought – mistakenly – because they had a work visa that they couldn’t apply, and others who only stopped working briefly were not sure they were eligible.
“They thought they didn’t qualify because they had barely closed,” he said. “It’s not about shutting down the business. It is a question of loss of income.