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Saturday, March 6, 2021

Local small businesses unable to access federal disaster relief loans

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Businesses, workers waiting for help

The federal government’s race to provide emergency assistance for businesses affected by COVID-19 was supposed to be a life preserver in uncharted waters.

For many area businesses and laid off workers, the water is continuing to rise and many fear of going under.

Dozens of local businesses applied for emergency assistance that was promised in the Coronavirus Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Congress passed the CARES Act and it signed into law by President Trump on March 26.

The biggest spending package in U.S. history was supposed to help large industry and small businesses with quick assistance.

Three weeks later, businesses and unemployed workers in the area are still waiting.  

Alex Logan is the owner of Shear Beauty salon in Fossil. Mrs. Logan has been working in the salon industry for nine years and opened her own business in 2018.

Salons and barber shops were ordered to close indefinitely by Governor Kate Brown March 23. Recently, the Governor pushed back on calls to allow for salons and barber shops to reopen.

“I’ve applied for multiple things,” said Alex from her home in Fossil. “Nothing has come through yet.”

Alex applied for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDLP) on March 30. She recently received an email from Small Business Administration saying that they had received her application. Part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, the EIDLP was intended to get businesses a $10,000 loan within four days.

After computer malfunctions and an avalanche of applications, the program had to scale back its commitment to $1,000 per employee. Funding is expected to be exhausted very soon.

Alex also applied for unemployment, along with a record number of Oregonians. More than 92,000 Oregonians applied for unemployment insurance in the week of March 22. Like the SBA website, Oregon’s unemployment system couldn’t handle the volume of applicants.

“I’m fortunate that my husband is still able to work,” said Alex. In addition to the SBA loans and unemployment, Alex has applied for a $500 grant for hairdressers. She is searching for other funding opportunities.

Kellie French, who owns the Service Creek Stage Stop, also applied for federal assistance in late March. “No email or information back from online application. Nothing,” said Kellie. “I contacted the SBA and was told that a loan person would be assigned but never heard back.”

Kellie says “We need help right now. If businesses have to wait a month or two months, it is not going to help. By then, businesses will have made it or not.”

Kellie does feel fortunate that people in the area have shown their support by ordering takeout meals. But with the river closed to boaters, her business will continue to suffer.

Several of her staff at Service Creek applied for unemployment but have not been able to access any assistance.

“We need help right now. If businesses have to wait a month or two months, it is not going to help. By then, businesses will have made it or not.” – Kellie French, Service Creek Stage Stop

Vicki Ackerman, who owns the Drive-In restaurant in Condon is in the same boat. Vicki says that the community has been overwhelmingly supportive but that it is a very challenging time.

“Supplies are harder to get, we’re paying two or three times the normal rates,” said Vicki. Like other businesses, Vicki has not heard back from the SBA. “I’m holding my own and we’re getting a ton of support from the community. It’s the only thing keeping us open,” she said.

Payroll Protection Program running out of funding

Despite what local businesses are experiencing, Congressman Greg Walden promises that relief is on the way. Rep. Walden says that the speed in which the programs were rolled out was monumental.

“I’ve never seen a program move this fast,” Rep. Walden told the Times-Journal. “905,000 loans approved, $220 billion of $350 billion have been approved, all in all it has been a remarkable success.”

Congressman Walden understands that many of the businesses in Eastern Oregon are still waiting for assistance. He says that continued support will be provided to help businesses and workers.

While the Small Business Administration is still taking applications for the economic disaster loans and Payroll Protection Program, Rep. Walden says that the funding is likely to run out very soon.

“One thing is clear, we have to keep the money flowing into the PPP program. It will likely run out of money this week.”

Representative Walden says that another $250 billion in funding for the Payroll Protection Program has been proposed by Trump. Administration.

“One thing is clear, we have to keep the money flowing into the PPP program. It will likely run out of money this week.” – U.S. Representative Greg Walden

Bank of Eastern Oregon starts lending funds from SBA

Bank of Eastern Oregon President Jeff Bailey says that the government acted quickly to calm the public. However, Mr. Bailey believes that the government put the cart before the horse.

“Things have started to get better in the past few days,” Mr. Bailey told the Times-Journal. Although “the interim rules that came out on April 3rd, we didn’t see them until April 2nd at 4pm.”

Mr. Bailey says that the expectations made on banks to lend money immediately was simply not realistic. The bank was unable to login to the SBA system until Wednesday evening of April 8. “For four days, we couldn’t get through to speak with anyone” at the SBA, Mr. Bailey told The Times-Journal.

“This is a $349 billion program. The SBA typically does $35 billion in loans. They were hoping to get 10 years of work done in two weeks,” said Mr. Bailey, who oversees The Bank of EO’s 13 locations.

Mr. Bailey says that the bank has received approximately 200 applications and at least twice as many inquiries. The Bank of EO is issuing loans from the SBA.

As hard as it is to believe for some businesses, the speed at which loans have been processed is incredibly fast by standards of the federal government.

“This is a $349 billion program. The SBA typically does $35 billion in loans. They were hoping to get 10 years of work done in two weeks.”

– Jeff Bailey, President of the Bank of Eastern Oregon.

The Small Business Administration has said that 70% of eligible American small businesses have applied for the Payroll Protection Program.

Still, this might only be the start of an ongoing aid package to businesses. Representative Walden says that the U.S. Congress and White House is committed to providing ongoing support.

Having a history of opposing large government spending, Rep. Walden, who is preparing to retire at the end of the year from Congress, is still in a state of disbelief. “This isn’t how I thought I’d spend my last year in public office,” he said. “Not to spend this amount of money.”

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