New Round of US Small Business Loans May Be Too Late for Some

"We are at the point where we can't continue financially to operate," said the operator of a Mass. musical theater academy that didn't get any funding under the Paycheck Protection Program

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On Friday, President Donald Trump signed a more than $480 billion bill that replenishes money for small business loans to prevent layoffs.

The funding revives the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program, which ran out of funds last week, but it may be too late for some businesses trying to stay afloat.

Heidi Stipetic's theater in Taunton, Massachusetts, was two weeks away from the opening night of "Annie," when they had to close their doors due to the coronavirus. Now she's packing up and closing for good.

“We had a number of shows we had to postpone due to the virus,” Stipetic said. “We had to cancel our April vacation theater camp as a result of the virus. We are at the point where we can't continue financially to operate.”

She founded the nonprofit Applause Academy 11 years ago to introduce kids to musical theater. Since the virus hit, she applied for two federal loans to keep the theater open, including the Paycheck Protection Program loan, but didn't get any funding.

“For us, to think about taking on additional debt is very scary, and the uncertainty of not knowing when can you actually produce something," Stipetic said. "When can you bring people together? When could you sell a ticket for something? It's so uncertain right now we have to get a better feel of what the future looks like.”

Small businesses are in desperate need of assistance to weather the storm brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, 80% of applicants are still waiting for financial help. Attorney Josef Volman specializes in business law at Burns & Levinson in Boston and he’s been advising clients having difficulty obtaining PPP loans.

“It really was a question of timing,” said Volman. “Those borrowers who were able to get their applications in and literally get to the front of the line were the ones who were able to get the funds before they ran out.”

Volman says he's advising clients now to keep the application process going as this second round of money becomes available and to be persistent.

“If you have an existing relationship with a lender, utilize that longstanding relationship to help you get through the process,” said Volman. “This is really a time to take advantage of the network you have built with your accountant, bank, lawyer, any other consultants who can help you navigate what is an unfortunately complex set of government guidelines, but once you get through it, it can be very helpful.”

Supporters of Applause Academy are raising money to help Heidi pay her bills, including a loan she took out five years ago to renovate the theater. Their generosity is the silver lining for her.

“The power of people, love, compassion, kindness, communities coming together to support one another -- the beauty of all of that makes the sadness of the pandemic…it offsets it tenfold,” said Stipetic.

The Small Business Administration issued new guidance on Thursday, making it less likely that big publicly traded companies can access this next round of funding for the small business relief program.

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