PPP loans prioritize businesses with 20 or fewer employees, change eligibility

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) – Greater relief for small businesses struggling to bounce back during this pandemic is underway, with new changes to the paycheck protection program known as PPP.

The most significant change concerns who qualifies for the Payment Protection Program. This change was made to give more small and minority business owners a better chance to keep their doors open.

Trenice Seniors owns Celebrities Hair Design in Tallahassee. She says that even before Governor Ron DeSantis called for show closures in the spring of 2020, she was already feeling the pinch.

“When the books went from full day to person, that’s when it got real,” Seniors said.

Like many other business owners across the country, she had to lay off an employee and temporarily shut down her beauty salon. The announcement of a loan program to cover expenses that would otherwise remain intact has been great news for seniors. But she quickly saw how difficult it was to get a PPP loan.

“As I was scrambling to get all the financials and everything, I would hear, ‘Oh, the money is gone now,’” she said.

The Associated Press found through PPP data released in December that the majority of minority business owners had only received PPP loan money in recent weeks. At that time, there wasn’t much money left for everyone.

The Small Business Administration says that since the loan launched in April 2020, only 1.6% of the money has gone to African American businesses and only 9.7% to women. To date, nearly $ 663 billion has been paid to businesses under the Payment Protection Program.

“I was filling out the applications and trying to tap into the banks that had the P3 money. It took a lot of prayers because things got really real,” Seniors said.

Fortunately, for those who feel left out, there is some relief with the latest round of changes to the Paycheck Protection Program.

The first two weeks of applications are reserved for companies with 20 employees or less. One billion dollars is also reserved for sole proprietors and independent contractors. These are people like home entrepreneurs and beauticians, fields largely dominated by women and minorities.

Yet there are obstacles to overcome.

Seniors were one of the many business owners baffled by the P3 application process. She brought her concerns to Mt. Olive Housing and Community Development Corporation. Executive Director K. Lennoris Barber says his goal is to help business owners, many in underserved communities.

“When programs like CARES or COVID relief opened, they didn’t have the proper documentation, they weren’t financially structured to respond to the application process,” Barber said.

Barber says since the pandemic he’s helped even more businesses manage their finances; while guiding them through the process of applying for financial assistance for things like the P3 loan.

This aid provides much-needed support and relief to business owners such as the elderly.

“I was finally able to get in touch with someone by the grace of God who walked through the door and was able to help us,” she said.

The next application window for PPP money opens on February 23.

If you want to contact K. Lennoris Barber, you can visit him at Mt. Olive Peacocks Center. The address is 527 West Brevard Street in Frenchtown, or you can call it at (850) 543-7655.

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