Federal Coronavirus Aid: New Bill Adds $ 310 Billion to Small Businesses
New York restaurants excluded from a federal aid package are about to have another chance for financial relief from COVID-19, hopefully with a better chance this time around. President Donald Trump on Friday enacted a bill adding $ 310 billion to the exhausted paycheck protection program, with a significant portion going to small businesses – a crucial development for a policy that has been criticized for its deference to chains like Potbelly, Ruth’s Chris, and Shake Shack.
The payroll program should to restart on April 27, Senator Marco Rubio wrote on Twitter. The initial funding ran out on April 16, less than two weeks after the acceptance of applications began. Due to the shortfall, many smaller sites – often without established relationships with banks – have not had a fair chance for forgivable loans.
The new measure aims to direct funding to small institutions by setting aside $ 30 billion for community lenders and an additional $ 30 billion for medium-sized banks and credit unions. A separate disaster loan program, which includes grants of up to $ 10,000, will receive additional funding of $ 50 billion.
Federal money for hospitals and testing brought the total cost of the bill to $ 484 billion.
Larger issues with the paycheck fund, including particularly tough provisions for the battered New York restaurant community, like tight rehiring deadlines, will not be resolved until the next round of stimulus laws in May.
Republicans attempted to replenish paycheck funding earlier this month, but that was delayed due to Democrats’ demands to spend more money on small businesses. These demands had additional resonance following reports that the big chains received loans of $ 10 million – while many small restaurants said they had been excluded. Shack Shack has announced that it is repaying its paycheck loan following the outcry.
An early draft of the CARES Act, which established the paycheck program, limited funding to small businesses, but this provision was later amended to allow large restaurants to apply as long as they did not employ more. of 500 workers at a given location. This change allowed virtually all major restaurant groups to apply.
Indeed, more than 44% of First Stimulus Bill loans went to businesses asking for $ 1 million or more, according to a new report from the Small Business Administration. Within this group, almost two-thirds of loans were between $ 2 million and $ 10 million.
For context: A restaurant with 224 full-time employees earning minimum wage, including a better-paid general manager and executive chef, would likely receive less than $ 900,000, according to the program’s loan calculation numbers.
Real small businesses seem to have been pushed to the back of the line during the loan process. A report from the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce showed that 84% of small businesses surveyed had not received funding as of April 17. From this group, just over 40 cafes, bars and restaurants participated, none of which received a paycheck. BentoBox, which operates the websites of 5,000 restaurants across the country, has helped customers navigate the federal loan process, and the majority of them have not received any funds, according to Krystle Mobayeni, CEO of the company.
These larger overviews match what individual restaurateurs told Eater that they are not getting any government money. Eric Sze, co-owner of popular Taiwanese spot 886, which donated bento boxes to rescuers, applied for a loan on the first day they were available. He has not heard from his financial institution since.
Michael Bergemann, who directs the famous Corner slice Pizzeria at Gotham West Market, applied on April 3, but did not apply until a week later because Bank of America, according to its account, was not yet ready to begin processing applications. He says he hasn’t received an update on his loan status since then.
“There has been little communication from the banks,” said Stephanie O’Rourk, partner at CohnReznick, a tax firm with a leading hotel practice. The whole process is a “frenzy,” she said.
Bergemann, who said 90% of its sales were “non-profit” because of commissions on delivery charges, also applied for a separate economic disaster loan, which provides grants of up to $ 10,000. , but he only received a “vague confirmation email”. A survey by the National Federation of Independent Businesses indicated that few of them received funds from the disaster loan program.
New York restaurants weren’t the only small businesses to experience this problem. A lawsuit in California alleges banks pre-processed requests from large corporations – asking for larger loans – to collect excess processing fees. It does not appear that the bill is doing anything to address this alleged problem. Tapping into community institutions to disburse more funds won’t necessarily help New York restaurateurs awaiting loan approvals from the biggest banks.
There is also nothing in the bill targeting the decimated restaurant industry for help. This is a problem considering that less than 9% of paycheck protection funds, or roughly $ 30.5 billion, went to food and beverage companies. The construction industry, by comparison, received $ 44.9 billion despite just over half of the hospitality workforce – and a lower unemployment rate.
More than 500,000 food and beverage workers in New York City, or about 80 percent of the industry’s workforce, have been laid off or on leave, according to the State Restaurant Association.
Despite the busy application process, restaurants themselves have criticized payday loans. Those receiving funds must rehire all workers – using pre-COVID-19 payroll numbers – by the end of June to receive a full pardon. Few operators expect to be able to achieve this, especially if they are operating at half capacity later this summer. Restaurants can also only use 25 percent of the repayable portion of the loan on non-salary expenses like rent.
At the end of the day, accountant O’Rourk said, the paycheck protection program “doesn’t match the reality that most restaurants face.”
With additional reporting by Tanay Warerkar
This story has been updated to indicate that President Trump enacted a bill that allocates additional funds to the Paycheck Protection Program.