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Small businesses hit roadblocks with Paycheck Protection Program application process

Posted at 5:55 PM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-19 20:10:49-04

GRAND RAPIDS — Small businesses can start applying for the Paycheck Protection Program Friday, April 3rd.

The program is part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed by Congress last month.

Some business owners in West Michigan though, are saying they’ve filled out their application, but are running into some obstacles already with their banks or lenders.

Many big banks like Bank of America, Chase, and JP Morgan have said they are working to process those applications, but they need to get their respective online portal systems up and running first.

The owners of Midwest Air Filter, Marcie and Jonathan Shoham, said figuring out which loans to apply for and the ever-changing rules and guidelines has been overwhelming for them.

The couple has been running the commercial, residential, and industrial air filter distribution and manufacturing business for 16 years together and the business itself has been around for 70 years.

Marcie Shoham, President of Midwest Air Filter said, “Right now, most of our businesses are closed, unless they’re a food processer or a hospital.”

They tell FOX 17 they’ve been doing everything they can to keep their business afloat amid the Coronavirus pandemic, including applying for the Paycheck Protection Program.

“We do have it all compiled together, we’re just waiting for guidance from our SBA lender. It’s not as easy as ‘submit here and here’s your money’.”

The nearly $350 billion program from the Small Business Administration will forgive all loans if businesses keep employees on the payroll for 8 weeks and they only use the money for payroll, rent or mortgages and utilities.

“I would love to be able to bring my people back,” Marcie Shoham said.

Like many others, the Shohams are experiencing slowdowns with their banks.

Marcie Shoham said, “Last night we were able to submit the applications directly to our SBA lender with our bank, then at 11pm he emailed and said, ‘nope there will be a portal that you’ll have to submit it on now’.”

That’s what Ed Garner, the Regional Director of the Michigan Small Business Development Center was expecting.

He said, “The immediate concern was what if our financial institutions, lending institutions were prepared for kind of the onslaught that we figured they’re getting today.

Some of the banks we hear from aren’t quite ready for applications, but they’ve all been gearing up and hopefully if they’re not ready today, they’ll be ready by Monday.”

Since businesses have to apply directly through their SBA approved lender, it’s up to those banks to get their systems up and running. Even if it’s slow going at first, Garner encourages all small businesses to apply anyway.

Garner said, “I would advise people to go ahead and submit, because there’s going to be a cap on how much money they’re going to spend, so my advice would be to go and submit, wait until everything comes back. If you get accepted and get into the program, they’ll tell you how much money you can get and you can make the decision at that particular time.”

The Shoham’s say that money would be a huge relief.

“I would love to be able to come back in and sort of do business as usual, so my customers can rely on me, “said Marcie Shoham.

Jonathan Shoham, CEO of Midwest Air Filter said, “We’re in touch with our staff and they’re really wanting to come back to work.”

While they wait for progress and more specifics about the PPP loan, they’re encouraging others in their position to hang tough.

Jonathan Shoham said, “As a small business owner, you’re pretty resilient anyway and you have the entrepreneurial spirit.”

Steps for getting the Paycheck Protection Program application process started are listed below along with other resources.

Step1: Download this application from the Small Business Administration Website.

Step 2: Contact your bank and SBA approved lender to see if they are participating in the program.

Step 3: Be sure to ask if they are currently processing applications.

Businesses can also reach out to the Michigan Small Business Development Center. They are doing virtual meetings right now as well.