small businesses

President Trump signed legislation Saturday extending the deadline for small businesses to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program, enacted in the weeks following the economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The original deadline to apply for the PPP was this past Tuesday night. But $130 billion still remained in the fund, out of $660 billion allocated. Both houses of Congress approved the extension unanimously earlier this week. With Trump's signature Saturday, businesses will now have until Aug. 8 to apply for the assistance.

WOSU's Letters from Home collects stories about day-to-day lives during the coronavirus pandemic. This week, we heard from Ohioans answering the question: What are you adding back to your life as Ohio reopens?

Land Grant is among the many Ohio breweries impacted by COVID-19.
David Holm / WOSU

Though Ohio never closed down breweries, the COVID-19 pandemic has touched nearly all sides of the beer industry. 

Some Over-the-Rhine businesses are open and others remain closed as the coronavirus pandemic and protests over the police killing of George Floyd continue.

Across the state of Ohio, local music venues are struggling as the coronavirus pandemic has forced these entertainment hotspots to keep operations at a standstill. Local musicians who rely on live performances to earn a steady income have suffered with planned concerts canceled or postponed indefinitely.

A man cleans the sidewalk in front of the Grandview Theater on May 14, 2020.
David Holm / WOSU

Columbus will use $5.5 million of its federal CARES Act funding for grants and loans to local small businesses.

When the federal small business rescue program was announced, Krista Kern-Desjarlais scrambled to research it, talking to her banker and digging online.

Kern-Desjarlais runs two restaurants in Maine — the Purple House in North Yarmouth and Bresca & the Honeybee, a summer-only food stand on Sabbathday Lake. She decided to hold off on that coronavirus rescue effort, called the Paycheck Protection Program or PPP.

For 30 years, Cleveland screen printing company Nightsweats & T-cells has been turning out merchandise and art to support people living with HIV.

They print t-shirts and other items for events and fundraisers, particularly in the theater industry. Pandemic-driven event cancellations and theater shutdowns have thrown business into uncertainty, Gilbert Kudrin, who runs the operation, told ideastream.

For instance, Nightsweats & T-cells ships goods to New York and around the United States for the nonprofit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, he said.

The first time Rosemary Ugboajah applied for a small-business relief loan, it didn't go well. She needed the money for her small Minneapolis-based company, which has created ad campaigns for brands like the NCAA Final Four.

So she went to her credit union.

"They were hard to reach, but eventually I got through to someone and they emailed me back saying they can't process the loan because they don't process SBA loans," she said. "I wasn't aware of that."

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio)
John Minchillo / Associated Press

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) is back in Washington along with the rest of the Senate. He's calling for changes to be made to the federal government's Paycheck Protection Program, which has been distributing millions to businesses to keep employees on the payroll during the pandemic.

Trish Pugh started an Ohio trucking company with her husband in 2015. Even for a small business, it's small — they had two drivers, counting her husband, until they let one go because of the coronavirus crisis.

And so her company applied for a loan under the first, $349 billion round of the Paycheck Protection Program, which the federal government had set up to rescue small businesses.

It didn't go well.

Small and struggling. Those were the companies meant to be helped by the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers loans to small businesses clobbered by the shutdown of the economy.

The program has helped many such companies. But the law's fine print didn't close all loopholes. Large companies, we now know, got loans. And, now it appears that companies didn't have to be struggling to win a loan, either.

Christian Piatt finally got a loan to help rescue his brand-new bar and restaurant in Granbury, Texas.

But it wasn't easy.

He applied through the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which is meant to help small businesses threatened by the pandemic. One bank told him it couldn't lend through the program. Another told him he might have better luck elsewhere. The third approved his loan and he got the money.

Now he's wondering: How should he use his $34,000 loan?

Small businesses, already hammered by the coronavirus pandemic, can't seem to catch a break.

On the first day of the reopened Paycheck Protection Program, a key lifeline from Congress, banks are reporting that the Small Business Administration's portal is not working.

Bankers told NPR on Monday that the system, known as E-Tran, would not allow them to enter loan application information that is needed for small businesses to access the program.

Banks handling the government's $349 billion loan program for small businesses made more than $10 billion in fees — even as tens of thousands of small businesses were shut out of the program, according to an analysis of financial records by NPR.

The banks took in the fees while processing loans that required less vetting than regular bank loans and had little risk for the banks, the records show. Taxpayers provided the money for the loans, which were guaranteed by the Small Business Administration.

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