PPP targets smallest small business in third round – NBC Connecticut

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“It seemed impossible. It was just a dream, “recalls Eduardo Garces.

That dream came true when Eduardo Garces opened Cafe Real in Bristol city center in October 2019. Business took off at first, but was entrenched five months later by the pandemic.

“We felt like it was all falling apart,” Garces said.

After a four-month shutdown, Garces said he was determined to reopen, but it wasn’t easy.

“It’s really intense trying to stay in business and you tell people to stay home,” he explained.

The paycheck protection program was part of his plan for success. Launched by the Small Business Administration last spring, the federal government has distributed more than $ 6 billion to businesses in Connecticut.

“Nothing has been compared to the amount of aid and the level of funding the federal government has offered under the P3 program,” Bristol Economic Development Director Justin Malley said, noting that the state has proposed small loan programs and that cash-strapped towns and cities do not have the funds to do the same.

The loans cover eight to 12 weeks of salary costs. This time around, the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, such as travel and recreation, hotels and restaurants, can claim two and a half times the loan amount than other types of businesses.

Chris DiPentima, president of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said performing arts and commercial air manufacturing companies are also likely to qualify.

“Obviously, commercial passenger travel is very low, so these people have been significantly affected and will likely qualify,” he explained.

As in previous rounds, the money can be used to pay for labor costs as well as rent and utilities. Technology investments, like IT and software, are new this time around.

“Because a lot of people think it’s going to be the wave of the future after the pandemic,” DiPentima said.

From February 24 to March 9, only loan applications from businesses with less than 20 employees will be accepted. The goal is to give moms and dads, like those led by women, people of color and even non-nationals, who haven’t established a lending relationship with a bank, a chance to go first. plan.

“We think this is an opportunity to bring a few more people into the banking environment and give them the opportunity to maybe reset their future,” said Stephen Lewis, President and CEO of Thomaston Bank. “They really don’t have a long term or established lending relationship with a bank. In reality, they probably do a lot of their business using credit cards and possibly borrowing from the consumer side.”

More nonprofits such as chambers of commerce are also eligible under the program’s expanded guidelines.

DiPentima said it was important: “They continue to thrive because they are the ones who help the business community thrive. “

As the state reports that larger events will soon be authorized, Bristol’s New England Carousel wants to use its loan to rehire its staff. Executive director Morgan Urgo said the museum qualified for a loan last year, but after it ran out in October, it had to fire everyone again.

“We had to put most of the staff on leave, so we brought in some very dedicated volunteers,” she explained.

She plans to reapply.

“As a small non-profit organization that really did paychecks to start with, it was really important for us to stay on top of everything that came out,” said Urgo.

She said the museum’s profits fell 74% last year. He also had to return $ 15,000 in deposits when executive orders banned birthday parties, weddings and other indoor events.

“Financially it has been very difficult,” she said.

Malley said it makes perfect sense to give banks leeway by keeping large companies out of the application process over the next two weeks.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, very important to the city,” he explained.

Garces called the $ 6,000 loan he got as a lifeline to keep his cafe, which sells the coffee his uncle grows in Colombia, open.

“It’s very difficult for a small business or a start-up to say that I’ll be here for the next 20 years and be able to pay you back. You can’t guarantee it, ”he explained. “When you are a start-up, you are essentially an entity without a background. So you’ve only been in business for a year or two, and when you go to a bank for any kind of loan they’re going to look at, you need to have at least three years of income tax returns, that is. is never the case for a small business.

Even though he admitted he didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel yet, PPP gave his business a much needed boost.

“I think everything is in our favor. It was difficult. But the mere fact that we are here today is worth it.

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