The federal Paycheck Protection Program has, in its second round, been reaching and helping businesses in the borough that have been hammered by the public and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some business owners are trying to keep going as best they can, with hopes that they will, after the current eight-week period, qualify for at least some forgiveness of what needs to be paid back.
Others are very dependent on circumstances almost as much out of their control as the pandemic has been.
Jay Hachadoorian owns Crossfit Gantry, a gym in Long Island City; Fran Biderman-Gross is the founder and CEO of Advantages, a branding, marketing and digital services agency in Kew Gardens. Both were denied loans in the first round.
Biderman-Gross, a board member of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, wasn’t completely stunned to find out that the big banks courted big clients first.
“I don’t know of anyone who was funded for under $2 million in the first round,” she said. She went through her regular bank and filled out all the required information, only to not hear back and to soon discover that the initial funding had been exhausted.
“I don’t know why I was surprised,” she said. But she said the second round to her knowledge has been far easier, with some businesses that did not even file until after her loan was approved getting funding themselves.
Biderman-Gross was able to go through her regular banker. Hachadoorian wasn’t so lucky.
“I’ve been with my bank for eight or nine years,” he said. “I have a line of credit with them.” He succeeded with an approved online lender. He said, in hindsight, there were sound reasons for his first denial, many, he said, caused by the lack of clarity from the U.S. Small Business Administration on the rules and qualifications.
“At our gym you make appointments with specific instructors or to attend specific classes,” he said. “We’re not a gym where you just show up and begin working out. My instructors are classified as independent contractors. I’m a sole proprietor, and I even do my own books.”
The instructors, he discovered, didn’t qualify under the regulations. He also believes small independent businesses had another handicap.
“Large businesses may have accountants and lawyers on staff,” he said. “If you’re a smaller business, your application may have been one of 10 or 12 your accountant was working on.”
Glenn Greenidge, executive director of the of the Sutphin Boulevard Business Improvement District in Jamaica, believes that the bigger banks have to work more with smaller businesses.
“Businesses with three or four employees, businesses that clear $300,000 or $400,000 a year,” he told the Chronicle in a telephone interview. “I know some barber shops and beauty salons that are paying $7,000 a month rent and have been out for two months. I’m not sure they’ll be able to open up, and if they do, that they’ll be able to survive.”
Hachadoorian said his gym has put up online offerings, though those have not approached normal revenue levels. He said the eight-week limit on the loan could be troublesome for businesses that don’t know when they can get back to full openings.
“We don’t now where the governor considers gyms to be,” he said. “Are we services or are we recreation? If we’re placed at level four, we might not be able to reopen until August.”
Biderman-Gross said no one really knows what the landscape will look like.
“But I like to think we can look for opportunities,” she said. She said the situation brought a new client looking for Advantages’ services with their own post-COVID future in mind, allowing her to rehire some of her workers to get the job done. They also have been reaching out to existing clients just to check in on them and see if they need help.
Biderman-Gross said the city and the country rebounded after 9/11, the economic collapse of 2008, hurricanes and more.
“Reinvention seems to be my middle name,” she said. “I like to look for opportunity. We have the opportunity to start over ... we just have to find it.”