When it came to PPP, not all were treated equally.
What we think:
More attention needs to be paid to the struggles of minority-owned businesses.
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Beginning Feb. 24, the Small Business Administration opened its 14-day Paycheck Protection Program loan application period exclusively for businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 20 employees. As many will likely remember, the first rollout of PPP loans last year wasn’t without its speed bumps. Most notably, PPP money was claimed (and in some cases returned) by corporations like Shake Shack, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and the Potbelly sandwich chain, to name a few. All the while, minority-owned small businesses encountered significant hurdles to filing for and receiving last year’s PPP funding.
While that bailout emphasized saving jobs in the restaurant and hospitality industries — even those jobs created by corporations — it left a sour taste in the mouths of many small business owners. This round aims to be more equitable.
Included in the provision:
Sole proprietors, independent contractors and self-employed people will be eligible to receive a PPP loan.
The restriction on PPP access for small business owners with prior non-fraud felony convictions will be removed.
Student loan debt delinquency will be eliminated as a disqualifier for participating in PPP.
Non-citizen small business owners who are lawful U.S. residents will be ensured access by allowing those proprietors to use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number to apply for PPP.
One additional goal is to ensure often-overlooked minority small business owners aren’t overlooked this round.
“Thousands of minority-owned small businesses were at the end of the line in the government’s coronavirus relief program as many struggled to find banks that would accept their applications or were disadvantaged by the terms of the program,” The Associated Press reported in late December. “Data from the Paycheck Protection Program released Dec. 1 and analyzed by The Associated Press show that many minority owners desperate for a relief loan didn’t receive one until the PPP’s last few weeks while many more white business owners were able to get loans earlier in the program.
“The program, which began April 3 and ended Aug. 8 and handed out 5.2 million loans worth $525 billion, helped many businesses stay on their feet during a period when government measures to control the coronavirus forced many to shut down or operate at a diminished capacity. But it struggled to meet its promise of aiding communities that historically haven’t gotten the help they needed.”
The postmortem of the first round of PPP loans was sad and predictable. Those who didn’t need loans got them and those who needed them most were largely ignored until negative public perception became too much to stomach.
Many small businesses, including those owned by minorities, should have a renewed sense of hope with the second round of PPP funding moving from concept to reality. But it’s a shame it took a pandemic to shine a light on the discrepancies that still hinder businesses owned by people of color. That these businesses were overlooked at all should serve as a valuable lesson as the nation, state and our city continue their recoveries.
Editor’s note: The PPP application period for businesses with 20 or fewer employees ends March 10. Guidance for small businesses, including finding lenders and identifying loans, can be found at sba.gov.