Small businesses across the country have been pounded by the pandemic. Entrepreneurs have been forced to make drastic cuts and pivot to new business models to keep going. Financial aid, though, is what has kept the lights on.
But today, many sources, including private foundations and the federal government, that once offered loans and grants have either closed their financial aid programs or put them on hold.
The biggest player, the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (P.P.P.), shut down in August, and Congress hasn’t agreed to more aid. If there is no agreement, it will fall to the new administration to negotiate an aid package in late January.
This has put small-business owners in a tough spot. After her business storefront was closed for three months, a PPP loan helped Destiny Burns, 56, the founder of the four-year-old CLE Urban Winery in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, stay afloat.
Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program. “I stabilized operations in my business, and the proceeds of the E.I.D.L. loan give me a cash cushion that was immeasurably helpful and enabled me to sleep at night,” she said.
She used the funds to invest in an upgraded website with enhanced e-commerce capabilities and installed UV light filtration systems in the air handlers at the winery.
She recently applied for a Small Business Relief Grant, designed to provide relief to Ohio businesses that have been hurt by the pandemic.
In late October, Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio designated up to $125 million of funding received by the state from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide $10,000 grants to for-profit businesses with 25 employees or less. There is also a $2,500 grant being offered for bars and restaurants (active liquor license holders only).
Ms. Burns is also applying for P.P.P. loan forgiveness. “My loan was well below $50,000, so I can use that ‘simplified’ form that was recently released,” she said. “It is still a complicated and daunting process.”
P.P.P. Flexibility Act, which also extended the deferment date of the first payment on the loan to 10 months after the end of the covered period, and the loan forgiveness application was simplified.
The S.B.A. does have other helpful offerings. Its Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program provides up to six months of working capital, with a fixed interest rate of 3.75 percent. Payment can be deferred for a year, but interest will accrue. Loans have repayments of up to 30 years.
The agency is also providing small businesses that have a relationship with an S.B.A. Express Lender to access a bridge loan of up to $25,000.