CHICAGO (CBS) — A woman who took out a loan trying to save her small business during the pandemic now says that loan could cause her to shut down.
The owner just found out she owes thousands more dollars than she expected.
CBS 2’s Tara Molina is Working for Chicago, helping people navigate these challenging times. She reports that owner says she just can’t afford to pay it all back.
She’s on the hook for $36,000 today. Money she says she doesn’t have, and can’t be forgiven, all because of what she calls bad communication with the bank she turned to for help.
Amy, who wasn’t comfortable sharing her last name, built Yazz Jazz Music and Productions from the ground up.
“My business specializes in providing musicians, DJs, and bands for live events and weddings, social events,” she said.
When the pandemic hit, her business crumbled overnight. Forced to cancel more than 60 events, Amy said she turned to the Small Business Administration for help back in April, applying for a PPP loan through Bank of America.
“I was called by a banker from Bank of America who walked me through my application,” Amy said.
She got about $38,000 from the Paycheck Protection Program; money she says she set aside to pay her team through the cancellations.
Amy checked in with Bank of America for months regarding forgiveness of the loan.
Then, the call that led to her call to CBS 2.
“A couple days ago, they called me to notify me that they made an error, and that I was only qualified to receive $2,000 in forgiveness, and that I would have to pay back that $36,000,” Amy said.
CBS 2 reached out to Bank of America and the SBA to find out why. They said they can’t speak to specific cases like Amy’s, due to privacy laws, but said payments made to contractors don’t meet SBA requirements for loan forgiveness.
“We processed Paycheck Protection Program loans based on loan amount requests and representations made by businesses. In the forgiveness process, we are required to follow SBA rules about what expenses qualify to be forgiven,” Bank of America spokesman Bill Halldin said in an email. “Certain expenses, such as payments made to contractors, do not meet the requirements for loan forgiveness. In those instances, the loan continues at the SBA-established interest rate of 1 percent.”
Amy claimed the issue of payments to contractors, like her musicians, never came up when she walked through the process.
“I feel that I was misled,” she said.
After a year without music, this could be the end for her company.
“There is no way I would ask my team to pay me back that money. They used it to feed themselves and their families,” she said. “There’s no way I’m going to be able to pay that back. The money is gone.”
A spokesperson for the SBA deferred to Bank of America as the lender here, but said it’s up to the borrower to certify their loan eligibility.
The SBA’s frequently asked questions website also features two questions relevant to Amy’s case:
Question: Are lenders required to make an independent determination regarding applicability of affiliation rules under 13 C.F.R. 121.301(f) to borrowers? Answer: No. It is the responsibility of the borrower to determine which entities (if any) are its affiliates and determine the employee headcount of the borrower and its affiliates. Lenders are permitted to rely on borrowers’ certifications.
Question: Should payments that an eligible borrower made to an independent contractor or sole proprietor be included in calculations of the eligible borrower’s payroll costs? Answer: No. Any amounts that an eligible borrower has paid to an independent contractor or sole proprietor should be excluded from the eligible business’s payroll costs. However, an independent contractor or sole proprietor will itself be eligible for a loan under the PPP, if it satisfies the applicable requirements.
Amy has reached out to Congressman Brad Schneider for help; but is hoping, in some way, speaking out helps others.
In a statement, Schneider’s office said, “Constituents with problems gaining access to services provided by the federal government, whether it is the SBA’s PPP program or a problem with Social Security, the VA (Veteran’s Administration) or otherwise, are encouraged to call Congressman Schneider’s office to work with our federal caseworkers who can help resolve your issue.”
CBS 2 is committing to Working For Chicago, connecting you every day with the information you or a loved one might need about the jobs market, and helping you remove roadblocks to getting back to work.
We’ll keep uncovering information every day to help this community get back to work, until the job crisis passes. CBS 2 has several helpful items right here on our website, including a look at specific companies that are hiring, and information from the state about the best way to get through to file for unemployment benefits in the meantime.