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Business During the Coronavirus: Applying For The Paycheck Protection Program Part 2

The voyage into the abyss continues…

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We all saw the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) unveiled with great fanfare last month. In short, businesses can apply through Small Business Administration (SBA)-authorized lenders for 2.5x their average monthly payroll. If they use at least 75 percent of the funds for payroll between now and June 30, the loan is forgiven. I run an integration business where cash is king and the future during a pandemic is far from certain. A program like this sounded like a great idea, and I made plans to apply in early April.

I began harassing my Bank of America banker the day after the CARES act passed in March and he let me know the application process would be streamlined and out of his hands. Applying was supposed to be like applying for an auto loan with decisioning back in a matter of hours.

What follows is an update since I left you on April 10. Here’s the original article if you want to catch up:

Saturday, April 11, 200: I saw a missed call from an unknown number and quickly returned it. “Hello, sir, this is Angela from Bank of America,” a voice greeted me. Waves of relief and excitement washed over me. Was this it? Would Angela have good news? “I was just calling to make sure you’ve uploaded all your documents to Intralinks,” she said. My hope immediately turned to rage as I quickly deduced Angela was calling as a courtesy and didn’t have any insight into where my application stood or whether or not my documents were correct. She was very nice, but I couldn’t have been more annoyed. How could the bank sit on my application for two weeks with no communication and then the only person to connect with me had no idea about my application? I pumped Angela for information and got nothing. I hung up more frustrated and angrier than before the call.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2020: My CEO buddies start reporting great success applying with local banks, touting quick turnaround times and short approval windows. I’d been one of the first to apply with Bank of America and here I was watching my friends get their loans when they’d applied after me. I decided to hold on, surely Bank of America would come through. I’d been told numerous times by my relationship manager they’re the largest SBA lender in the country. Nevertheless, my anxiety levels started edging further north.

Thursday, April, 2020: SBA announces late in the morning that the PPP program is out of money. My stomach drops. I cling to hope that the bank had submitted my application to SBA and just hadn’t told me about it. Bank of America wouldn’t sit on my application for over two weeks and run the clock down, would they? That would amount to malpractice of the worst sort. I couldn’t fathom that reality. I started texting and emailing my personal banker to see if there was anything new to glean. In a late-evening phone call he said maybe it might be a good idea to apply to a local bank instead. My stomach dropped even lower. Every single one of my worst fears were confirmed in that phone call. The clock had run down, I’d done nothing to pivot and there I was holding the bag.

I’m not sure how you keep score, but my scorecard revolves around keeping our employees busy and making payroll every two weeks. In that moment I felt the floor drop out. I’d played by the rules, where entrepreneurs usually have an instinct when they apply and when they don’t. Was I losing my touch? I felt like I’d let my team down and went to bed more stressed and full of anxiety than any night during the darkest days of the Great Recession.

Friday, April 17, 2020: I couldn’t sleep and went for an early run with a buddy of mine who’s a doctor. We share a lot on our runs. It’s fantastic therapy and I let him have all the gory details of my failure across five or six miles. I felt better at the end of the run, but still had an empty feeling inside (the closest I’ve ever come to an Austin Powers “de-mojination”).

Monday, April 20, 2020: A good banker friend of mine texted me. “Have you applied for the PPP?” he asked. I shared a brief version of my drama with him. “You should apply on our site,” he said. “Let me know the application number when you do and I’ll grab it.” I sprang into action. Since I could probably teach a class by now on applying for these loans, I had the application completed in less than two minutes. Eight minutes later, a glorious response came back. “You’re approved by the bank and in line for the next round of SBA funding.” Emotions ran wild. I couldn’t believe it! All of the energy I’d invested in the Bank of America process and my buddy approved me via text in less than ten minutes. I immediately created an account at the new bank to house the PPP loan funds when they come through.

Tuesday – Friday, April, 21–24, 2020: I try not to get sucked into the House and Senate debates over the PPP, but can’t help myself as I watch the bill make its way to the final vote Thursday afternoon. Around noon on Friday the PPP bill was signed into law by the President and Marco Rubio tweets that funds should start flowing on Monday, April 27.

I don’t want to jinx it, but God willing and the creek don’t rise, we should (we call that the “S-word” at Livewire) be funded sometime this week. Send good mojo our way and I’ll do the same for you!

Stay frosty, and see you in the field.