LEON COUNTY, Fla. (WTXL) — Local businesses are eager to see what comes out of the latest COVID relief package's Payroll Protection Program extension. That extension allows another $284 billion federally backed loans for struggling small businesses.
Johnson and Milner is one of about 4,000 businesses in Leon County that kept its employees going with the Payment Protection Program.
"It allowed us to focus on making sure everybody was safe and could stay home without having to worry about buildings at that weird time when the shutdowns were just getting started, " said George Johnson.
Johnson and Milner, Inc. is a construction company. While business didn't slow during the pandemic, there is still concern.
"When everybody else is getting their money and not so scared about the future, they're sharing it with us," said Johnson.
With more money promised under Congress's second relief bill, businesses across Tallahassee say it's happening just in time.
K. Lennoris Barber is the Executive Director of the Mt. Olive Housing and Community Development Corporation. He works closely with black business owners to get their businesses up and running. He says his clients can't wait for more PPP money.
"People are calling and people are discussing. We're just not sure yet what the rules will be," said K. Lennoris Barber.
Barber says previous rules led a lot of business owners with no access to a bank to seek his assistance.
"The program requires that you go through a financial institution in order to apply for a PPP loan. For those people who didn't have a relationship with a bank, we took them through several financial technology companies who put them in a position to work with the SBA to help them apply for those grants, " said Barber.
The next Paycheck Protection Program will give about $284 billion in federally backed loans that can be forgiven. Applicants will have between eight and 24 weeks to use the funds, but at least 60 percent has to go towards payroll. The rest will handle expenses like rent and utilities
Records of the first round of PPP funds show significantly less of Florida's allotment went to black business owners; only getting about 4 percent of the allotted $32 billion.
George Johnson says he has seen more help coming from the local government.
"Specifically the Department of OEV. They always seem to give us an extra heads up and opportunities that could help us more than usual or specifically because of our staff, " said Johnson.
Leon County Office of Economic Vitality Deputy Director Daryl Jones says through their MWSBE office, Leon County hasn't followed the national trend of black and women-owned businesses shutting down at high numbers.
K. Lennoris Barber says the main bump in the road for many minority business owners is the need to have a banking relationship.
"Black people typically don't have personal relationships with bankers. And there's the systemic racism that affects black people in ways... credit scores, collateral, " said Barber.
Now the Leon County Office of Economic Vitality is addressing that concern. The Office of Economic Vitality is establishing a micro-lending program with FAMU Credit Union as a way to cure the non-relationship with banks. The change comes after a disparity study found minority and women-owned businesses get less governmental funding in Leon County too.
"It captured what has been our spending across our local community. Those findings showed there was disparity and can be remedied by the aspirational targets we have assigned," said Leon County Office of Economic Vitality Deputy Director Daryl Jones
The Disparity study is intended to legally defend the Minority Women Small Business Enterprise (MWSBE) Program. The study will look at the last three years with a particular focus on how the pandemic has impacted minority and women small business owners, to better serve those communities.