Northeast Ohio small businesses await relief from federal government

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CLEVELAND – Millions of small businesses are awaiting more help from the federal government after a forgivable loan program ran out of funds last week.

John Dudas has owned Carol and John’s Comic Book Shop in Cleveland’s Kamm’s Corners neighborhood for nearly three decades but is now facing many firsts.

With the traditional brick and mortar business closed under state orders, Dudas said he began weekly sales via Facebook Live to clear inventory and help to pay bills and keep his two full-time workers employed.

“We have to find a way to get that product to our customers, so we’ve been doing delivery within the county and shipping, and we’ve had a lot of success with Facebook Lives sales,” Dudas said.

Dudas said he also applied for a Paycheck Protection Program loan through the U.S. Small Business Administration as soon as the program began accepting applications.

The program provides forgivable loans to small businesses if employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities, with 75 percent of the forgiven amount going toward payroll.

However, Carol and John’s Comic Book Shop was among millions of small businesses unable to receive help through the program, which ran out of funds last week after larger companies received millions of dollars in loans.

“I know literally hundreds of business owners that didn’t get it that just wanted their small piece of the pie to help keep them afloat,” Dudas said.

The U.S. Congress is considering a second phase relief package that would include hundreds of billions of dollars in additional funding for PPP loans. The Senate was expected to vote on the measure Tuesday afternoon with the House considering the bill later in the week.

“From all indications, it’s going to happen this week,” said SBA Great Lakes Regional Director Rob Scott. “I would say reengage with your lender because they’re going to have an opportunity for a part two of funding.”

The SBA and state governments are providing several funding programs to help small businesses through the pandemic, including PPP loans.

“It’s to keep people on the payroll, not going on unemployment, so that when that business is actually able to open their doors, they can hit the ground running versus losing employees and taking a while to bring them back on board,” Scott said.

Meanwhile, Dudas said he’s taking steps to prepare to safely reopen when allowed by the state, and he’s holding out hope that he will receive a needed loan from the federal government.

“The gestures coming from our customer base have been phenomenal,” Dudas said. “Well, it’s time for the gesture from the government, too.”

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