‘Fingers crossed’: Small business owners anxiously waiting for federal loan money

SPOKANE, Wash. — Thanks to two federal loan programs, there are now billions of dollars up for grabs for small business owners across the country, but over the weekend, some had trouble even applying for their shot at the money and those who were able to get through are now crossing their fingers.

Josh Wade owns Nectar Wine and Beer in Kendall Yards and says he has been able to apply for the loans he can. Now, all he can do is try and stay busy, while he waits.

“Fingers crossed that at least that $10,000 advance will come through,” Wade says of the Economic Injury Disaster Loan he applied for a week and a half ago. The EIDL is meant for businesses impacted by COVID-19 with under 500 employees.

Wade tells 4 News Now he has been forced to lay off 14 of his 18 employees.

“That was the most difficult day, really, that I can imagine in my business life, that I’ve ever had to endure,” Wade says. “There were some tears and there were some high stress times and like, ‘what am I going to do? What are we going to do?'”

Those who remain, he says, have taken pay cuts. His staff is getting creative with online ordering and homemade meal kits in an effort to make up the difference. Wade is hopeful he can hire those 14 employees back if all goes according to plan and he is approved for another federal loan, through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, which went live April 3.

“When revenue dries up as quickly as it does, businesses are a lot like people. They live paycheck to paycheck,” Wade says. “I don’t think we’re going to be waiting for months and months. I think it’ll be weeks, a few weeks, which in the meantime makes it very difficult because you don’t have the capital to pay for those employees right now so they’re just sitting on unemployment.”

Thousands of other business owners had trouble even asking for the money through the PPP last week, when the program glitched.

“Everybody experienced the same pandemonium last Friday because the rules were unclear, the systems weren’t set up,” says STCU president and CEO Ezra Eckhardt. “Each of those small businesses has to complete an application and get it turned in to compete for the limited amount of dollars that are available. So, if you think about it, you literally have every single small business in the United States file at the same time. It’s like everyone trying to turn their taxes in all on the same day,”

According to a report from CNN, the SBA handled $28 billion in loans last year. Last week, it set up the PPP, a platform meant to get $350 billion to business owners like Wade.

Eckhardt says employees at local banks and credit unions worked through the weekend to get their systems up to speed and adjust to the SBA’s new rules, so he expects future applications to go through more smoothly.