Opinion: How I Finally Got A Small Business PPP Loan Without Losing My Mind
I knew I was having trouble getting a paycheck protection program loan when the voice on the other end of the phone asked, “Have you tried uploading your document using a Chrome browser? ”
It wasn’t some humble, haphazard help desk rep speaking. He was the director of business relations at my bank, whose electronic signature was linked to all kinds of US Customer Satisfaction Index service awards.
It had been 10 days since I started applying for one of the PPP loans offered by the Small business administration, and for some inexplicable and infuriating reason, the bank portal has repeatedly refused to accept my request online using DocuSign, although there were other issues as well.
After countless attempts to enter new passcodes and multiple calls to my Midtown Manhattan branch, the manager’s best advice was to make sure I had Chrome. “Oh, and all this time I was using Netscape on my Radio Shack console!” I said to myself, before hanging up as acid reflux started to trickle out of my ears.
It was my accountant Morris’ idea to go get the PPP money. “Good news!” he texted at the end of March, shortly after the program was announced. He explained that the funds were specifically designed for small businesses like my media relations firm, with strong credit and only seven employees. I had never borrowed a dime in 33 years of practice, but Morris noted that the interest rate was negligible and the loan would be forfeited as long as I was using the money to cover essentials such as salaries, health insurance and rent, and that I did not lay off. anyone for two months.
The need was certainly there. Long-time clients had severely cut fees, and months-old invoices had been stuck in accounting limbo since the Covid-19 shutdown. New projects were dead in the water, and more and more strain on cash flow was coming. The loan could avoid time off, or worse, and keep our team together, even if they are working remotely. What would be the difference when getting a loan from a directly online lender?
We gathered the required information – payroll records, tax returns, employee data, certification checklist – and we were ready to pounce. Only my bank, one of the largest in the country, said it was not ready to process requests. Then they told us that existing loan clients have first priority. (Sure – sell more debt to those who already have it!) Then came the DocuSign problem, followed by confusing and contradictory emails from the bank’s automated PPP office. Are we in line, aren’t we?
Morris was so worried that he called me on one of his Passover blackout days to try and download the form once more. And then suddenly, the first round of funding was fully engaged, including a significant share given to public companies and well-endowed universities and sports teams.
As lawmakers tangled around a second wave of PPP dollars, the bank assured me that my demand was “escalated,” which turned out to be a higher level of dysfunction. My form was complete. No, it wasn’t. He was still on a credit review. But maybe not. And yet no one has been able to confirm whether our electronic signature has ever been accepted. I felt compassion for the bank employees who had to keep persevering, coming to work through the chaos and fear of infection, but I was furious that I was unwittingly the target of such ineptitude and disbelief. ‘poor communication.
“Make sure your accountant has 2483,” advised the relationship manager, which really baffled us, since 2483 was the original from the SBA. two page PPP application form we downloaded it the first day. What else would we use? I was told to be patient, and to “check the spam filter on your email” as if we haven’t already received dozens of robotic messages confirming receipt of our urgent requests. Canned emails were coming from the bank’s “emergency response unit” alerting me that my “case” was under investigation and that I would receive a response within 15 days, forever. this period of pressure.
Naturally, I did what anyone in my position would do – I started forwarding my Code Red calls to the bank’s PR people I found through LinkedIn, and threatened to share my frustration with the media. It worked – sort of. Just as new funds were released at the end of April, I heard from a Missouri “risk analyst” who verified that our application and credit check were in fact complete and that the DocuSign issue had indeed been “resolved”. several days earlier. . Who knew?
But as polite as she was, using my name and reminding me that our daily follow-ups were recorded to ensure quality, the analyst couldn’t get out of the script and finally admit that she had no idea how to do it. contact SBA underwriters to find out where in the chain our loan could be approved. Or if all the delays had thrown us in the back of the line. Or if the new reserve of funds had not been exhausted. “Mr. Ripp, please call me with any questions,” she said, unaware that she hadn’t answered any questions.
As the days went by, we realized that other calls would only demonstrate the maxim that insanity does the same thing over and over again and expects a different outcome. But we still called and emailed, and we hit it off with other small business owners hitting the P3 wall, with or without professional help. I found myself paying more attention to the bankruptcy hotline announcements flooding my inbox.
The end zone
Meanwhile, Morris looked for brokers and lenders who might be able to guide us into the end zone. Lo and behold, a dark horse emerged, and in just five days we received a congratulatory notice that a regional FDIC bank had successfully submitted our application and we had secured a place in the PPP pipeline. , with exactly the same information as us ” I had always used. Even with a head start of four weeks, my main bank could not get us to reach our goal.
I know how lucky I am to be included in the SBA’s safety net, given the number of businesses that have closed for good in recent weeks. And yet, as I wait for our funding – and expect new hurdles to emerge in our closing documents – I can’t help but wonder if this short-term lifeline will support us or will just push back my shop’s end date if the economy doesn’t. don’t come back soon. Right now what I can do is improvise, try to hang on to existing clients with quality work, support my wonderful coworkers, and pay my accountant’s bill once without complaining. That’s all any homeowner can do.
Allan Ripp runs a New York press relations company.