By Douglas W. Motley
A phone-in town hall teleconference hosted by California Senator Mike Morrell and Assemblyman Jay Obernolte on Friday, April 3 elicited a response from 170 small business owners, many of whom are struggling to stay afloat and worried about their survival during the current COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak.
Morrell – whose 23rd Senate District includes the mountaintop communities – and Obernolte, whose 33rd Assembly District also includes mountain area communities, both fielded questions sent in ahead of time by concerned business owners who are interested in applying for several different federal government-sponsored business loan and grant programs, while they are still available.
“I’ve been through four recessions and I have walked in your shoes, and so has Jay Olbernolte. These loans are the lifeblood of families in California, and Congress has given us opportunities to make sure your business survives,” Morrell said. Obernolte, who hails from Big Bear, added, “I have run a successful small business for 30 years, and I know firsthand how important these programs are for small businesses.”
Of primary interest to Inland Empire business owners, Morrell said, is the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), established by the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration, with funding available from the $2 trillion relief package agreed to last week by Congress and the Trump administration. Under this program, business owners can apply for a loan of up to 100 percent of their payroll, rent and utilities expenses prior to the program being established. Interest as low as a half percent is still under discussion.
“I would encourage you to apply quickly, these loans may already be over-subscribed,” Morrell urged. Also available are the traditional SBA loans. “You can apply for them at your bank,” he said.
Also, of interest to business owners is an Economic Injury Business Loan of up to $2 million, with interest set at 3.2 percent and as low as 2.47 percent for nonprofit organizations.
Saying she had applied for an Economic Injury Business Loan, phone participant Deborah asked if it was true that the loan would not have to be repaid. Obernolte responded, “This loan, which covers employee wages and benefits, gets forgiven. This economic disaster loan allows you to replace your business losses. The goal of the program is to bring people back and keep them employed.”
Another participant asked whether she could apply for the PPP loan for payroll expenses and at the same time apply for an SBA loan for other expenses. “These are both COVID-19 disaster loans, and yes you can apply for both,” Obernolte said.
Terry, a local realtor, wanted to know whether he would need tax documents in order to apply for a loan. Obernolte said he would need to provide last year’s employment tax returns.
Eric, who is in the process of obtaining a private loan to expand his restaurant business, wanted to find out if he could also apply for a PPP loan as well. “The bank will look at your debt-to-income ratio to make that determination,” Obernolte responded.
A disabled senior wanted to know if they could get a loan to start up a new business. “Small business loans are used to keep a business afloat; you can’t use them to start a new business,” Obernolte said.
Cindy, a self-employed hairdresser, said she needed help getting a loan. Obernolte said she could get a loan, providing that she was a bonafide business and was declaring her income.
In addition to the above teleconference participants, another 20 or so individuals had their questions and concerns responded to by Senator Morrell and Assemblyman Obernolte, as well as Vincent McCoy, executive director of the Inland Empire Small Business Development Center.
Last Friday’s teleconference, which began at 2:30 p.m., wound up at 3:40 p.m. with Assemblyman Obernolte reminding everyone that he and Senator Morrell can both be contacted through their district offices. “You can get in touch with us by calling our district offices, by emailing us or visiting our websites.”
Morrell said his Rancho Cucamonga and Sacramento offices were both open during business hours. Before signing off, he thanked local chambers of commerce for promoting the last-minute town hall teleconference.