MANITOU SPRINGS, Colorado — A major chunk of money in the federal stimulus bill is finding its way to small business owners in Colorado. The Payroll Protection Program is a financial lifeline for small businesses who still have to pay bills, even if they can't be open to earn money.
Businesses who are approved can receive low-interest loans from banks through the Small Business Administration in the amount of two and half months worth of their payroll.
Matt Gray, the owner of The Loop Mexican restaurant in Manitou Springs learned he was approved for the loan on Sunday. He's been selling go-orders out the front door ever since the stay-at-home order was issued last month. While customers are still buying, it's only a fraction of what they made before the pandemic.
"We've been doing a fair amount of to go business. Not enough to pay all the bills, but some of the employees make a few tips and I make a little bit of money, but not enough to break even," Gray said. "I'm still below the break even point."
He cut hours to reduce his costs. There are less than a handful of employees in the restaurant at a given time. With the relief funds on their way, he will be able to pay all of the staff as if they hadn't scaled back.
"I was actually approved last Sunday which was just 3 days ago, they were actually working at my bank last Sunday," Gray said.
According to Congressman Doug Lamborn's Office, some 28,459 loans amounting to $8.4 billion of aid were approved for Colorado small businesses as of Monday. There have been so many loans awarded that there are fears in Washington that the money could run out before everyone who needs help gets it.
"I think what happened was it created this sort of frenetic land rush that everybody wanted access to these funds and it was sort of like they were all running through the door at the same time," said Bruce Alexander, CEO of Vectra Bank of Colorado.
He said within hours of the banks in his group posting the PPP applications on their website, around 20,000 people had applied. He and his employees have been working 24 hours a day to process all of the requests.
"The early indications are that of the $350 billion that was originally authorized, already $250 billion of it is out there and that it might run out in the next few days to a week," Alexander said.
Efforts by Republicans in Congress to increase funding to the PPP by $250 billion have been met by opposition from their Democratic colleagues who want to see additional measures added to the bill.
Gray was told to expect his money in 7 to 10 days, and he is confident the politicians will reach an agreement to help other small businesses like his.
"I'm positive they're going to approve it."
Business owners who apply for the PPP loans must have payroll records with them to provide to the banks. Mr. Alexander from Vectra Bank urged all business owners to talk with their bankers or financial institutions during this crisis.
"Most of us have recognized the stress that they're under being closed and still having operating expenses," Alexander said. "And so, we've processed deferrals on loan payments, we're trying to help guide them as to what to do with their landlords or other ways that they can reduce operating expenses to stay alive."
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