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An effort is underway to make sure PPP loans reach small businesses in need

The Paycheck Protection Program loan from the federal government is designed to help small businesses hold on to employees, by helping them meet their payroll costs. However, there are concerns that some small businesses owned by women and people of color have missed out on the PPP.
At Elite Secrets Bridal, a small business in Baltimore, the impact of COVID-19 was profound. The pandemic caused weddings to be canceled and, in turn, the demand for wedding dresses plummeted.
LaTonya Turnage wondered if her Baltimore bridal shop would survive COVID-19 shutdowns. She heard of the Paycheck Protection Program, but didn't think she would qualify. Turns out, she did. There are now grassroot efforts to find and an identify small businesses that qualify for PPP, but have not applied.
Posted at 2:58 PM, Mar 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-22 21:56:29-04

BALTIMORE, Md. — Finding the perfect dress is a bride's dream, but at Elite Secrets Bridal, COVID-19 shutdowns nearly turned LaTonya Turnage’s small business into a nightmare.

“I can't even put into words how scary it was as a business owner,” she said.

When the pandemic hit, weddings hit the brakes. Turnage wondered if her Baltimore bridal shop would survive. She heard of the federal Paycheck Protection Program loans but had doubts.

“I didn't think that that was something that I would even qualify for,” she said.

So far, in 2021, more than 2.7 million PPP loans have been approved, totaling over $181 billion.

The average size of a loan: $66,000.

How that breaks down by race and ethnicity is an incomplete picture. It’s up to small business owners to volunteer that information and many choose not to, but of those that do, the disparity in lending is massive:

  • White-owned small businesses: $28 billion
  • Hispanic-owned small businesses: $5.2 billion
  • Asian-owned small businesses: $4.8 billion
  • Black-owned small businesses: $4.2 billion
  • Native American-owned small businesses: $1.7 billion

To try to address that, the Biden administration recently set aside several weeks to prioritize PPP loan applications from small businesses run by women or people of color.

“A lot of the smaller businesses in our disinvested communities have less resources and they also have less banking relationships. And the banking relationship was very key in the PPP loan process,” said Colin Tarbert, president of the Baltimore Development Corporation, the city’s economic development agency.

Their concern matches those in other communities around the country--that small business owners from communities of color were falling through the cracks of the PPP. Their solution is to bring together a network of grassroots organizations to target them.

“We had people on the ground that had relationships with small businesses in their community to be able to act as validators for the network,” Tarbert said.

LaTonya Turnage is among the 1,500 small business owners they’ve helped so far.

“It was almost like a dream come true,” she said. “There were a lot of our bills that were coming in and the money that we received really, really saved our business. It really saved our business.”

It’s a business that she said is just starting to bounce back.

“We were like, ‘Oh my god, this is what we're talking about,’” Turnage said. “We're starting to get back into doing what we love to do;back to saying, ‘Yes to the dress!’”

Right now, the deadline to apply for a PPP loan is at the end of March. In a nearly unanimous bipartisan vote, the House of Representatives voted last week to extend that deadline until the end of May. The bill now heads to the Senate.

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