NAPLES — As hundreds of thousands of people try to file for unemployment, we’re learning the problem is just as bad for small business owners.
Congress approved hundreds of billions of dollars to help companies pay their rent and keep employees on payroll, but companies in our area haven’t seen the money yet. Off The Rock Tavern opened just four months ago in Naples, and now, it’s already closed down, with 28 employees out of a job. Owner Frank Lacava is trying to get financial aid, but it’s a lot harder than it sounds.
“Nobody that I have talked to has received a dime," said Lacava.
Lacava said he invested more than $1 million in his restaurant, only to have it close a few months after opening.
“It was a real shocker. We have 28 employees that rely on their income. Our business was thriving. We were packed every night," said Lacava.
Now, all those customers are gone, and the patio outside is empty. Lacava said, as soon as they were shut down by the Governor’s order, he started looking for help.
“We applied for it immediately, and we could not, we got put in a queue," said Lacava.
That was on March 18th. So far, Lacava is still waiting in that queue, along with every other business owner he knows.
“I’m just not sure we could have avoided some kind of backup. Doesn’t make anybody feel better, but just the scope of what we’re talking about is beyond, beyond imagination," said FGCU Finance Professor Dr. Tom Smythe.
Smythe said businesses like Lacava’s are seeing a lag because the infrastructure is just not there to dole out $600 billion.
“Just that one item is roughly 20% of an annual budget. That’s enormous, I mean we don’t spend that much on defense," said Smythe.
The federal government is trying to find ways to fix the problem. Banks are currently distributing the loans, and Senator Marco Rubio just posted to social media that online services like PayPal and Square might soon be doing so as well. Meanwhile, Lacava said he has thousands of dollars worth of beer to dump out, and he could really use some good news.
“There’s millions and millions of people out there applying for these funds, but they don’t have any access," said Lacava.
Smythe said, so far, small businesses around the country have already applied for more than $150 billion in loans. Smythe said, in his opinion, using private banks to distribute the money is the most efficient method, it’s just going to take time.