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PPP loans prioritize businesses with 20 employees or less, changes eligibility

Next round of PPP Loans prioritizes smaller businesses
Posted at 6:06 PM, Feb 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-23 18:06:26-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — More relief for small businesses struggling to rebound during this pandemic is on the way, with new changes to the Paycheck Protection Program known as PPP.

The biggest change is on who is eligible to be part of the Payment Protection Program. That change was made to give more small and minority business owners a better chance at keeping their doors open.

Trenice Seniors owns Celebrities Hair Design in Tallahassee. She says even before Governor Ron DeSantis called for salons to shut down in the spring of 2020, she was already feeling the pinch.

"When the books went from a full day to nobody, that's when it got real," said Seniors.

Like many other business owners across the country, she had to lay off an employee and temporarily shut her beauty salon down. News of a loan program aimed at covering expenses that would otherwise go untouched came as great news to Seniors. But she quickly saw how challenging it was to get a PPP loan.

"As I was scrambling to get all of the financials and everything in, I was hearing, 'Oh, the money's gone now,'" she said.

The Associated Press found through PPP data released in December that the majority of minority business owners didn't receive PPP loan money until the last few weeks. At that point, there wasn't much money left to go around.

The Small Business Administration says since the launch of the loan in April of 2020, just 1.6 percent of the money has gone to African American businesses and only 9.7 percent to women. To date, close to $663 billion has been paid out to businesses under the Payment Protection Program.

"I was putting in the applications and trying to tap into the banks that had the PPP money. It took a lot of prayer because things got really real," said Seniors.

Luckily, for those feeling left out, there's some relief with the latest round of changes through the paycheck protection program.

The first two weeks of applications are reserved for businesses with 20 employees or fewer. There's also $1 billion set aside for sole proprietors and independent contractors. Those are people like home contractors and beauticians, fields that are largely dominated by women and minorities.

Still, there are barriers to overcome.

Seniors was one of many business owners confused by the PPP application process. She took her concerns to the Mt. Olive Housing and Community Development Corporation. Executive Director K. Lennoris Barber says his focus is on helping business owners, many in under-served communities.

"When programs like CARES or COVID relief opened, they didn't have the proper documentation, they weren't structured financially to respond to the application process," said Barber.

Barber says since the pandemic, he has helped even more businesses manage their finances; along with walking them through the process of applying for financial assistance for things like the PPP loan.

That help is giving some much-needed support and relief for business owners like Seniors.

"I finally was able to get in contact with someone by the grace of God who came through the door and was able to assist us," she said.

The next application period for PPP money opens on February 23rd.

If you would like to contact K. Lennoris Barber, you can visit him at the Mt. Olive Peacocks Center. The address is 527 West Brevard Street in Frenchtown, or you can give him a call at (850)543-7655.