New small business loans and government grants target hard-hit and colored entrepreneurs
“We got no explanation for the question we were asking,” Poindexter said. “We were like, ‘We’re not going to deal with this. “
As the SBA started accepting new PPP loan applications this weekit did so with new measures in place to ensure that the distribution of funds is more equitable and transparent. There have been numerous complaints that the original PPP last spring left smaller businesses behind, and entrepreneurs of color in particular, after money was exhausted.
The current cycle is the third tranche of the PPP, which Congress funded with $ 284 billion from the stimulus package adopted in late December. This time, the SBA has staggered the process, allowing community lenders and small banks, which tend to serve people of color, to offer loans first. All other banks will start processing requests on Tuesday. The agency has also simplified its application form and reduced the maximum size of eligible employers from 500 employees to 300 employees.
The additional funding comes at a critical time for businesses owned by people of color, which often have less access to capital than their white counterparts. Almost a year after the start of the pandemic, 66% of entrepreneurs of color in Massachusetts said they would need additional P3 funds survive the next six months, according to a recent survey by Alignable small business online network. This compares to 56 percent of all contractors in the state.
“The rules of the game are finally as close as we’ve had since this program began in the spring,” said Steve Grossman, managing director of Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, a research and advisory group with a goal non-profit that entrepreneurs.
ICIC partnered with other local stakeholders to create the Massachusetts Fair Access P3 Initiative, which has worked to ensure that companies that may have escaped the cracks of the first P3 cycles will receive help in the future.
“There is the danger that the way we administer aid will widen the gap between those who are already well served and those who are not well,” said Karen Kelleher, executive director of Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and a leader of the access group.
By allowing smaller businesses to come first, the new SBA measures aim to prioritize their funding. Small businesses often need more time to prepare loan applications because they don’t have an army of lawyers and accountants who can help them. Other new measures, such as applicants expected to demonstrate a 25% quarterly revenue reduction year-over-year, were designed to target companies that need support the most.
“There is less worry around a big rush that people worried about in the first two rounds,” said Glynn Lloyd, executive director of the Foundation for Business Equity. “The money is going to be there for a little while, so we don’t have to work seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
Banks are preparing for this round of PPP and applicants appear to be better prepared, said Sushil Tuli, CEO of Leader Bank.
The Arlington institution, which began accepting applications on Wednesday, has invested in the technology and increased its staff by 20% to help with the granting and underwriting of loans. Already, the bank has received more than 276 requests totaling $ 34 million. About 40 percent are from business owners looking for a second P3 loan, and about one-third of applications are for loans under $ 25,000, most from business owners of color.
“It’s more than we expected,” said Tuli.
But a big barrier among business owners of color is distrust of taking on more debt if they don’t qualify for remission. The SBA has sought to reassure applicants, reporting this week that it has approved nearly 85% of total PPP cancellation requests, or roughly 1.1 million loans worth over $ 100 billion.
However, Poindexter, the owner of Wally’s, remains not sure if he will request a PPP again. The club has remained closed since March and it hopes to apply for a shuttered site operator grant from the SBA, which was another element of the stimulus bill.
“I’m going to have to do more research,” he said. “For me, the psychological ramifications of what I’ve been through before still weigh on the decision of whether I want to be involved.”
Representative Ayanna Pressley has lobbied for grants – money that doesn’t have to be repaid – because she knows it will help black and brown businesses the most. Member of Parliament for Boston and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris introduced a bill in May to establish a $ 124.5 billion microenterprise fund offering grants of up to $ 250,000 each and setting aside 75 percent of that money for small businesses owned by people of color, women and elders fighters.
“I am encouraged that the latest round of PPPs, adopted and enacted last month, include many of the reforms I have championed,” Pressley said in a statement. “But let me be clear: while these changes are a step in the right direction, they don’t go far enough to provide our small businesses with the support they need. What we really need are straightforward, straightforward subsidies.
President-elect Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion economic bailout, unveiled Thursday, designated $ 15 billion in “fairly distributed grants” to help more than one million of the hardest-hit small businesses.
Grants have also been at the heart of Governor Charlie Baker’s efforts to help small businesses turn around. Since last fall, Massachusetts has launched a series of grant programs totaling more than $ 700 million, funded primarily by federal COVID-19 assistance the state has received. So far, the state, through the quasi-public Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation, has awarded three rounds of grants totaling $ 195 million to 4,119 companies.
The first round, awarded at the end of December, went almost exclusively to businesses owned by people of color and women. The following rounds also benefited a significant number of people of color and women.
Over 10,000 small businesses have applied for the grants; a program offers up to $ 75,000 to businesses with 50 or fewer employees, while another offers up to $ 25,000 to businesses with five or fewer employees. The deadline for the current round has been extended to Monday at 11:59 p.m. and companies can apply at autonomisationsmallbusiness.org.
Many small businesses will need multiple sources of funding to stay alive, and they appreciate the growing number of options.
Vicki Gray, owner of New chapter Home improvement in Cambridge, received $ 30,000 in PPP funding last spring, which allowed it to reinstate four employees. She is considering applying for the current tour. Gray also applied for the state grant program in November, but has yet to receive those funds.
Complicating factor: She had to show a reputable certificate from the Secretary of State’s office, but it never arrived in the mail. So she went straight to the office to get a second copy. Many small business owners say these bureaucratic hurdles have slowed the process down.
Gray’s business provided painting and remodeling services to private homes before the pandemic, but it has since shifted its business to commercial clients and contracts with the government.
“I feel pretty good and confident about PPP, and hope to get a little more, maybe $ 50,000 to $ 60,000, as we grow older,” Gray said. “It’s a way of helping us create jobs and keep citizens at work. “