Local businesses feel pain after being excluded from SBA loans

Most of the stores that have been forced to close in the region’s downtown areas have not received any help from the paycheck protection program.

At the end of March, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) made $ 349 billion in small business loans available to millions of operators who hoped it would provide them with a lifeline for themselves and their employees at times. desperate.

“If you are forced to close and you can’t open your doors and you have no income stream, this (program) is essential if you have a number of employees, full-time employees,” said Neal Schwartz, president of the Armonk Chamber of Commerce and owner of College Planning of Westchester.

But for many who tried to navigate the dizzying and complex application process and then rushed to submit the forms to their banks, the effort and desperation was wasted in the first round of ready. Countless numbers of business owners were shut out when the program, which is part of the CARES Act that was passed by Congress, ran out of funds in about two weeks.

Many business owners thought they had done nothing wrong in the race for the money, but some banks may have dropped the ball or, worse yet, given their bigger ones preferential treatment. clients. The latter sentiment gained traction, especially as reports from big companies such as Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Shake Shack rushed in and received millions of dollars that many felt should have gone to mom-and-pop operations. -pop.

Chappaqua-Millwood Chamber of Commerce President Dawn Dankner-Rosen, who also owns and operates a small public relations firm, said she believes many local traders lack expertise and need more help. ‘aid.

“I am very frustrated. Everyone is. It is not fair. It’s unfathomable, ”Dankner-Rosen said.

The ambiguities of the program, hastily rolled out to quickly get money back into the hands of business owners whose livelihoods disappeared overnight, left many financial institutions who would ultimately decide whether to approve the applications. and process documents, following different sets of rules, said Carl Weiner. , accountant and restaurateur at Briarcliff Manor, who has helped many of his clients.

Some banks thought, for example, that an applicant should be a customer, especially the big banks, which handle more volume, he said. Others have used different deadlines for new clients.

Then the big banks might have approved the loans, but if they didn’t upload the information into the Small Business Administration (SBA) E-TRAN system, they weren’t on the list, which could cost applicants a crucial placement, Weiner said.

Weiner said his 15 business clients who applied for PPP loans from Tompkins Mahopac Bank have been approved. A few other of his Pennsylvania-based clients who do their banking at a small financial institution have also been successful, he said.

“The smaller banks did a much better job because it was mostly paper requests, not through an online portal,” Weiner said.

According to the SBA, as of April 20, 81,075 New York small businesses have received $ 20.3 billion in loans that provide for eight weeks of spending. Despite these figures, hundreds of thousands of people left empty-handed.

Loretta Brooks, co-executive director of the Mount Kisco Chamber of Commerce, agreed that many traders have expressed similar frustration. She has only heard of one member of her chamber receiving money.

“Business owners, especially those classified in non-essential categories, are really suffering,” Brooks said. “As we approach another month with no opportunity for businesses to generate income due to the forced shutdown, businesses still face the stress of growing bills that could overwhelm their future existence. The program’s promise of help was needed and welcomed, but there is an obvious problem with its execution that needs to be recognized and addressed.

The problems continued into the first day of the second round of PPP loans approved by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump last week. With the glut of apps on Monday, the SBA website crashed.

While there have been many horror stories and many more that haven’t heard of their banks, Arch Street Communications, a White Plains-based strategic communications and public engagement firm, has was the lucky recipient of the first round of loans.

Its CEO and founder, Nora Madonick, credited not only her expertise gained as a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program, but also a representative from Key Bank who informed her of loans before applications were accepted and urged her to prepare.

“They didn’t do anything for us, but they walked us through the process,” Madonick said. “We had to do the paperwork and the numbers, and it was difficult.”

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