Monday should have been a hectic day for Jezzika Lee Perez, who has owned a tax preparation firm serving small businesses in San Antonio for 20 years.
Instead, two days before the usual federal income tax filing deadline, Perez was focused on developing advertising campaigns to boost her business whenever the coronavirus pandemic that has slowed it to a halt has passed.
She has faith her business will survive, but applied – and was approved for – a forgivable loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
Perez applied last week through the River City Federal Credit Union and received the funding she needs for 2 1/2 months of payroll for her two employees.
“My concern is for most of my clients [who] are small businesses,” Perez said. “Frankly, the work will be there – it’s whether or not my clients are able to pay.”
Part of the $2 trillion CARES Act stimulus passed by U.S. lawmakers last month, the PPP is intended to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep workers employed during the coronavirus-related shutdowns. Initially funded with $349 billion, the program provides loans that are forgivable if employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities.
As of Tuesday, the SBA had approved over 1 million applications for a total of $247 billion, according to reports, raising concerns that the money will run out. Texas business owners have applied for $21 billion in PPP loans.
River City is one of many SBA-approved lenders in San Antonio flooded with loan requests when the agency opened the PPP application April 3 for small businesses and a week later for independent contractors.
Since the start of April, River City has approved 23 PPP applications totaling $2.2 million for small businesses and independent contractors, retaining 277 jobs. CEO Jeff Ivey worked through the weekend processing applications received from both credit union members and non-members, said Carrie Geyer, vice president and chief member experience officer at the small, local credit union.
“He’s just ‘head down’ trying to get these done, because the faster we can get them done the faster the funds can get out into the community,” Geyer said. But banks were also struggling against an initial lack of information from the SBA and computer glitches in submitting loans.
Like many financial institutions, Frost Bank is only accepting PPP loan applications from its business customers.
Still, in the first five days after the program opened, Frost received more PPP loan applications than the number of commercial loan applications it processes in a typical year, said a spokesman.
Applicants should expect “unusually long delays of several days or more,” he added, to get their loans processed.
IBC Bank was swamped with loan requests, said Eddie Aldrete, senior vice president, via email, and because “everything is changing by the hour and the minute,” he could not provide information about how many applications the bank has received.
Credit Human also received a rush of requests from small businesses when the SBA began accepting applications. “While there were some initial bumps in the process for everyone, we’re seeing improvement and are seeing responses from SBA in a timely manner,” a spokesman said in an email.
Loan requests ranged from a few thousand dollars to over $1 million, and the credit union will start funding those loans this week.
There are more than 141,000 self-employed business owners and over 36,000 small businesses with employees in Bexar County that could be eligible for the program, according to data provided by LiftFund, a micro-lender and community development financial institution also processing PPP loans on behalf of small businesses.
LiftFund has pre-approved 819 PPP loans totaling more than $68 million for business owners in the state.
On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that investment bank Goldman Sachs was teaming up with LiftFund to provide $50 million in loans to small businesses through the PPP.
“They are leading job creators in our state, but they have been sidelined by COVID-19. Their ongoing existence has been threatened,” Abbott said. “What they need most at this time is an economic lifeline, an infusion of capital, as they prepare to return to business as usual.”
The Martinez Street Women’s Center, a nonprofit that serves low-income women and girls, applied April 3 for a PPP loan of the maximum amount allowed for such an organization, $110,000, and received funding from River City a week later, said Andrea Figueroa, the center’s executive director.
The loan will make up for a revenue loss after the center’s spring fundraisers were canceled and as regular donations from both individuals and corporations starts to decline. Figueroa said the funds will go toward eight weeks of payroll for its 22 staff members while they work to support an increased need for food and other basic financial support for their clients. It will also cover mortgage interest and medical insurance.
“We knew that some of our families couldn’t wait, and don’t have the ability to wait for help, so we have been taking it upon ourselves, and with emergency funding we received as well, to provide those things for families,” she said.