Phyllis Kimber Wilcox |

During the COVID-19 pandemic the Small Business Administration (SBA) has responded to the needs of businesses struggling to stay open and/or recover from damages resulting from the economic stress caused by the onset of the virus. 

This response has been critical to ensuring the economy continues to recover.

While the impact of this crisis has been shared across the board, small businesses were hit hard. And Black-owned businesses, which in the best of times have a more difficult road to success, were hit especially hard by the pandemic.

Earlier this year the IE Voice profiled Black business owner, Marcus Jinks. Jinks owns MK Beauty Supply in San Bernardino. While he received a grant to cover his personal protection equipment (PPE) needs, at the time of the interview, Jinks was anxiously awaiting approval of his request for an SBA loan to expand his business. “I wanted to get an SBA loan,” Jinks explained. “Well, I applied for one,” he added before stating. “I’m still waiting to hear back.” 

His frustration with the delay in SBA processing of his loan was not an aberration. Small business loans under normal circumstances can take longer than other types of loans; and although the time it takes for approval of SBA loans has improved from what it was in 2020 and earlier this year, delays experienced by Jinks and others were the result of overwhelming demand. 

Despite the delays this year the SBA has approved over 6.5M loans totaling over $275B, the average loan amount was $42K, 96 percent of the loans went to businesses with fewer than 20 employees, and 32 percent went to businesses in low to moderate income communities. All of this reflects an improvement in equitable access to and approval of  these loans.

Are COVID related loans still available for small businesses?

Although the window to apply for the final round of funding through the California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program closed September 30, 2021, there are COVID-19 related small business loan programs still available through the SBA.

There are COVID-19 related small business loan programs still available through the SBA.  (facebook.com)

Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL)

The EIDL or Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program aids businesses that are experiencing a temporary loss of revenue due to the pandemic. This program is accepting applications through December 31, 2021.

These loans may be used for usual and customary expenses such as working capital and normal operating expenses like the continuation of health care benefits, rent, utilities, fixed debt payments and so forth. The maximum loan amount is five hundred thousand dollars and covers up to twenty-four months in business losses.

Debt Relief for Certain SBA Loans

Debt Relief is being offered for certain SBA 7(a), and 504 microloans under the CARES Act.

The 7(a) loan is the SBA’s   “most common loan program for small businesses.” There are however special requirements associated with these loans.

“CDC/504 Loan Program provides long-term, fixed rate financing of up to $5 million for major fixed assets that promote business growth and job creation.” Businesses are encouraged to contact their lender for questions on the availability of this assistance.

Paycheck Protection Program

The Paycheck Protection Program provides payroll protection to businesses who operated during pandemic. On August 4, 2021, the SBA launched a new loan forgiveness platform to allow borrowers with Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans of $150,000 or less through participating lenders to apply for forgiveness directly through the SBA.  However, lenders must opt into the program for borrowers to participate. Borrowers that need assistance or have questions should call (877) 552-2692, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.

What worked and what changed

While the programs offered by the federal government and administered through the SBA have proven effective, there were problems at the beginning that left many small businesses–especially Black businesses– unable to access the available funds.  Many did not have formal relationships with banks who were charged with administering the funds.

There were also difficulties for businesses that did not have the money to continue operating during the shutdowns or were too short of capital to pay expenses and overhead.[1]  Later rounds of funding were established with the intent to assist these struggling enterprises.

The SBA has made attempts in subsequent rounds of funding to make sure these issues were addressed. The Black Voice News spoke with SBA, Small Business Administration about the Cameo program which makes microloans available to small businesses through Covid 19 pandemic funding.

Many small businesses that did not have the money to continue operating during the shutdowns or were too short of capital to pay expenses and overhead were forced to close. (istock.com)

The Black Voice News spoke with Carolina Martinez[2], Cameo CEO regarding the programs available to assist small businesses during COVID-19. When asked what attributes businesses have in common who are successful at securing these loans Martinez explained how the agency has  seen a lot of things evolve since the beginning of the program. “But definitely, we are seeing the importance of understanding what businesses are eligible and just submitting the appropriate documentation as keys for success.”

She continued, “There’s definitely a higher demand, probably [more than the] funding available. So, it really comes down to how the small businesses have been affected by COVID.”

Main reasons businesses are turned down

According to Martinez, among the main reasons businesses are turned down for these loans is because they are not fulfilling one of  the primary requirements which in addition to the points noted above, includes the need to have been in business prior to June 1, 2019.

She stressed, “It’s really just making sure all the requirements are checked and that they really are fulfilling the intent of the program.” The loan programs are  very focused on eligibility and the application she affirmed.

Looking to the future

Commenting about loan opportunities for women and minority-owned businesses, Martinez advised,  “We have been putting out different programs to really help women and  minority- owned and Black owned businesses especially. We are hopeful that a lot of the efforts that have been made to streamline the processes of the current programs are going to help reach those communities.”

Martinez said she is expecting more information about a pilot program called Community Navigator, which focuses on reaching out to these communities, “to guide them and help them navigate post pandemic resources to help them continue growing.”

The SBA is taking a holistic approach ensure underserved communities are aware of support available through the SBA. (source: pexels.com)

Martinez acknowledged the importance of outreach to make sure the communities most in need of this help are aware of the program. “The SBA is taking a holistic approach to make sure underserved communities are aware of the whole ecosystem of support [available to them through the SBA].”

To this end, Martinez shared how the SBA is trying to find those small businesses where they are and provide them with trusted partners. These community partners have relationships in the  communities they serve and will help women and minority-owned businesses navigate the various program requirements.

Martinez believes what may keep small businesses from taking advantage of SBA programs is that a lot of businesses are just not aware of what is available. The SBA is trying to solve this issue as she previously confirmed, by meeting eligible businesses where they are. This includes using pop up shops, going door to door, and using partner organizations to get the word out—this  includes in rural and indigenous communities.

The SBA is making it possible for small businesses to face the challenges ahead by providing the necessary support, funding, and information to assist small businesses with their continued development.

Phyllis Kimber-Wilcox is a freelance writer who reports for Black Voice News. Her interests are the intersections of historic events with contemporary realities and their impacts on the persistent social, structural and economic barriers which continue to adversely affect and limit Black lives with an eye toward  community-based  solutions. Contact Phyllis with tips, comments. or concerns at phyllis@blackvoicenews.com.