Rick Williamson, a catering business owner in Willow Grove, tried unsuccessfully for three days to upload his application for an emergency loan from the Small Business Administration.
“I got kicked out of the system so many times, I had to start over,” said Williamson, who runs a third-generation family catering operation with five full-time staff and more than 40 part-time staff — all of whom he had to let go as the coronavirus pandemic shut down vast swaths of the U.S. economy.
He finally uploaded everything, but is still waiting on his loan application. In the meantime, he’s eligible for a $10,000 advance against the loan — and he doesn’t have to pay it back if the loan is denied.
“If I’m approved, they put that advance against my total loan balance,” he said.
The SBA has streamlined the loan application process for business owners, and now is advancing $10,000 to all applicants, according to agency spokeswoman Carol Wilkinson.
President Donald Trump on Friday signed into law the CARES Act, the massive coronavirus economic relief package, which provided additional assistance for small-business owners and nonprofits, including a $10,000 advance on an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL).
This advance may be available even if the business owner’s loan application is declined or is still pending, and will be forgiven, according to the SBA.
However, as a business owner, you still have to apply — all over again.
If you wish to apply for the advance on your disaster loan, go online and visit www.SBA.gov/Disaster as soon as possible to fill out a new, streamlined application.
In order to qualify for the advance, you need to submit this new application even if you previously submitted a disaster loan application. Applying for the advance will not impact the status or slow your existing application, according to regional SBA spokesman Christopher Hatch.
The SBA’s buggy website “has been resolved,” Wilkinson said.
She encouraged business owners to subscribe to email updates at www.SBA.gov/Updates and follow the agency on Twitter at @SBAgov for the latest news on available SBA resources and services. If you need additional assistance, you can find your local SBA office and resource partners at www.SBA.gov/LocalAssistance, or you can call 800-659-2955.
Also, the Treasury Department on Tuesday released the new website for applications to the Payroll Protection loans: https://home.treasury.gov/cares.
Business owners including Jim Rosenthal are still puzzled by the process.
“There’s some ambiguity between what to apply for and what hinders getting money from one versus the other,” said Rosenthal, who owns PDC Graphics print shop in Southampton.
“I went to the link and started to fill out an application the other day," Rosenthal added. "It asked for all sorts of information to create an account, and I started the application. When I went back, the site was down for maintenance. When I came back again, there’s no way to apply online anymore, it seems. Looks like they took that all down and the only way to apply is with manual forms and then to upload them.”
While she’s waiting for a state or city loan, Debra Williams with City Fitness in West Philadelphia is asking her clients to pay for classes by donation.
“I’m a brick-and-mortar establishment," she said. "I put my classes on EventBrite. I’m asking for donations. I’ve only been around for three years, and in the fitness business that’s nothing.”
“I’m totally class-based, personal training and spinning classes," Williams added. "It’s tough. I’m asking for donations, because everything’s just shut down.”
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s emergency loan application is also onerous, said Williamson, the catering business owner who is also applying for the Wolf administration’s COVID Relief Act loan.
“It’s harder than the SBA loan application," Williamson said. "You have to show profit for a certain amount of years. We had a bad year in 2017. So reading their guidelines, we might not even qualify.”
A business owner or nonprofit representative who has not completed the application through the old site will have to start over.
“But, the good news is that the new application is simpler and you don’t lose your place in line," said Maura Shenker, director of the Small Business Development Center at Temple, which hosts online seminars about how to apply for loans. "If they had already submitted an application with the old website, they’re good to go,”
There’s a webinar every weekday at 9 a.m. at https://pasbdc.ecenterdirect.com/events?reset=1.