‘Absolute chaos’ as businesses try to tap into rescue funds

NEW YORK (AP) – Desperate small business owners who hoped for a quick government lifeline to help them survive the coronavirus crisis are still without funds, instead battling red tape, wary banks and swamped computer systems.

Thousands of owners who applied for loans under the government’s Paycheck Protection Programme are in their second week of waiting for their money.

And thousands who sought relief through Small Business Administration (SBA) economic injury disaster loans have waited even longer – some since mid-March.

A few have gotten money. But a panoply of issues at the SBA and banks have far more wondering if they’ll be able to stay in business – they’ve been forced to close their doors due to social-distancing regulations or because customers have cut back their spending.

Those in limbo include owners hoping to avoid layoffs.

The cancellation of weddings, parties and other events forced caterer Leslie Nilsson to lay off half her staff of 10, but her kitchen staff are still working, preparing 500 meals a day for New York health care workers.

“If I don’t get this money, I don’t know how I’m going to pay them past these next two weeks,” said Bartleby & Sage owner Nilsson.

She has applied for a loan under the USD349 billion Paycheck Protection Programme.

She’s also hoping to get her administrative staff back to work.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin raised expectations of nearly immediate cash when, in announcing the Paycheck Protection Programme, he said companies could receive their loan money the same day they apply.

A dining section is closed at a small restaurant near Brown University in Providence. Desperate small business owners who hoped for a quick government lifeline to help them survive the coronavirus crisis are still without funds. PHOTO: AP