During the COVID-19 pandemic, change in the economy is happening almost daily. During the massive economic downturn, some individuals have received government stimulus checks, but gig economy and self employed workers are still struggling to get their unemployment benefits. Some small businesses are unable to receive Paycheck Protection Program loans from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, because of the money going towards larger companies.
On April 23, Congress passed a $484 billion relief bill to go towards small businesses that were passed up on the initial round of loans under the Small Business Association’s Payroll Protection Program.
Eugene Weekly checked in again with Frank Gibson, an attorney with Eugene law firm Hutchinson Cox, about small businesses that were unable to get funding from the first round of the PPP.
Gibson says part of the reason why some businesses missed out on this initial funding is a lack of knowledge about the program by both the banks and the businesses, which may have delayed the application process.
“Some banks got the PPP information for the application late. By the time the application was ready, the money was gone,” Gibson says.
But not all the money even went to small businesses, Gibson adds. The loan went towards many bigger corporations.
He explains PPP loan is meant for an organization with 500 or less employees. Chain restaurants, like Shake Shack, and other lobbying business were able to work in a loophole that qualified them for the loan — so long as a single location didn’t exceed 500 employees. Shake Shack and Ruth’s Chris steakhouse have now returned the loans after public outcry.
“A lot of them [loans] got soaked up in that way,” Gibson says. “I suppose these big companies make the argument that they need the money too, but there are a lot of local restaurants that are surprised that’s where the money ended up.”
With this new bill, Gibson says he hopes more of the funding will be allocated to small, local businesses. One question he figures needs to be answered is if businesses will have to re-apply.
To help businesses with the process of PPP funding, the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network is offering free advising and assistance programs.
In a press release, Mark Gregory, state director with the Small Business Development Center Network says businesses should speak with their lender whether or not the application is still in the queue and to see if the business has any extra steps to take in their application to ensure they can receive funding.
“If your lender can’t answer questions call your SBDC,” he says. “Don’t wait.”
While some businesses will finally be receiving funding missed in the first round of PPP loans, some Oregon gig workers are still struggling to get their unemployment benefits.
According to an April 22 update from the Oregon Employment Department, some independent contractors have been denied unemployment when they first filed for it. But the department said as long as someone’s unemployment is connected to the pandemic, they are eligible for benefits.
Gibson says it is difficult for gig workers to apply for benefits because there is a complex set of regulations. Normally, gig workers are not eligible for unemployment, but are allowed to get benefits because of the economy affected by the coronavirus. With the CARES Act, these workers get benefits as well as the extra $600 a week others on unemployment are eligible for.
For application issues, the state urges people to contact their local WorkSource — an agency that helps workers with employment. A representative from WorkSource can help move the application along.
To speak with an advisor from the Oregon Small Business Development Center visit BizCenter.org/Centers. To find a local WorkSource office visit WorkSourceOregon.org. For other information on COVID-19 Oregon unemployment go to GovStatus.Egov.com/ORUnemployment_COVID19.