Small businesses across Queens that were severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic were hoping for relief through the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which was to provide $350 billion in guaranteed loans from the federal Small Business Administration to employers who maintain their workforce.
Many of these businesses had trouble accessing the cash-flow assistance from major banks and lending institutions and the funds allocated for the program were exhausted April 16 due to the overwhelming demand.
Congressman Gregory Meeks said the PPP and other initiatives helped many small businesses in his district by providing a life bridge to survive shutdowns and forced closures while providing a strong incentive for small businesses to rehire or hold on to their existing employees. The program fell short of helping all small business owners.
“Congress must now act to allocate another $350 billion in funds,” Meeks said. “Businesses that have tried and struggled to get the money must be given prioritized access to these funds in the next round and funds should be allocated to assist the application process for very small businesses unfamiliar with the Small Business Administration.”
“Too many restaurants, barbershops, and other mom and pop businesses were simply unable to get access before the funding ran out,” according to Meeks.
“There must also be transparency in how and to whom these funds are disbursed including information about the participation of MWBE businesses,” Meeks said. “Finally, there should be carve-outs to ensure minority depository institutions and community development financial institutions are allocated some of the funds to loan out. There is no time to waste.”
Meeks joined other Democratic lawmakers in calling for the Small Business Administration and the Treasury Department to ensure that minority-owned businesses are not shut out of the next round of PPP.
“While we work to secure additional funding for the survival of small businesses across the country, it is crucial that we can verify the accessibility of federal assistance to all eligible companies,” the members of Congress wrote. “Without stringent reporting, we can neither confirm racial disparities nor correct any exclusionary lending practices under the Payroll Protection Program. The story of minority-owned businesses struggling to access capital is the story of banking practices that too often exclude people of color as potential customers. A federally guaranteed loan program must not do the same.”