A $349 billion loan program mean to help small businesses through the coronavirus crisis has left critics saying that many Main Street businesses might get squeezed out by larger corporations loaded with legal and financial experts.
The Montana Chamber of Commerce and state bankers are urging the state’s small businesses to do their homework and take advantage of the loan program if needed.
Lenders will begin processing applications today.
Todd O’Hair, president and CEO of the Montana Chamber of Commerce, said thousands of calls have come in in recent weeks, suggesting that small businesses will be looking to the stimulus package for help as the pandemic eats into revenues.
“Montana bankers and business leaders are working hard to prepare for the new disaster relief and recovery programs,” said O’Hair. “While there has not been a lot of information available, the relevant government agencies are kicking into gear and working at an incredible pace to get these programs in place and ready to be leveraged.”
The stimulus package passed by Congress last month included The Paycheck Protection program. It was billed as a tool to help small businesses retain workers and pay bills during the pandemic.
But according to the Associated Press, an expansive definition of “small business” in the law has left the program open to more than just Main Street shops. Critics fear that only those applicants with the legal and financial expertise – that being large businesses and corporations – will be able to maximize the program’s benefits.
Cary Hegreberg, President and CEO of the Montana Bankers Association, said it’s incumbent upon Montana business owners, nonprofit leaders and bankers to work together to help right Montana’s economy by making sure small businesses can access the program.
“While these programs promise to be very helpful, getting the right information prepared and ready for your banker is critical for a business applying for the new Paycheck Protection Program,” said Hegreberg. “It’s vital that you work with your banker to determine what program is going to be the right fit for your business or non-profit.”
Hegreberg said that payroll information for the months prior to the crisis will be needed as documentation, along with rent payments, utility bills and other operating costs the business routinely incurs.
“Montana bankers are working hard to get up to speed and ready to assist business owners, and we are working closely with the State Chamber to help provide the best, most accurate information available,” Hegreberg said.