The U.S. Government on Friday opened the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) allowing independent contractors and self-employed individuals to apply for a portion of the COVID-19 $349 billion relief fund previously open to small businesses.
Search agencies recently began to apply for relief in droves, with some having more success than others. Agency founders point to the most challenges with larger banks and inconsistencies in government procedures.
“PPP is blowing through millions of dollars per hour,” said Andrew Shotland, CEO at LocalSEOGuide.com, which has 15 employees. “I submitted through Bank of America last week within five minutes of them accepting applications, and as of yesterday, I still haven’t heard anything.”
Small businesses have been spending countless hours determining how to apply and which documents are required. Some say the documents have changed three times since first being introduced.
“Getting clarity on how PPP works has been a mess, and there’s been a wide array of responses from banks,” said Conrad Saam, president at Seattle-based agency Mockingbird, which does online marketing for law firms. “It was launched before they knew all the rules, so people applied for the funding without knowing the framework.”
After not hearing anything back from Chase, Saam contacted a smaller banker in Henderson, Nevada, called First Savings Bank, based on a referral from a client. He said the smaller banks are picking up clients and the larger banks are “pissing off” small business clients for lack of service.
“The life of my business is at stake,” he said simply.
Saam said PPP was rolled out with little thought to the terms and who exactly needs it. People who run their business well will get the benefit of this, regardless of their need.
Not all search professionals think alike.
Mike Ramsey, founder at Idaho-based Nifty Ventures, a 20-employee search firm that supports lawyers, called the funding an example of how two political parties can work together, with an excellent bipartisan approach.
“I’m blown away at how quickly the government was able to move from creating this to getting funds approved,” he said. “Usually, the process is much longer. Getting a Small Business Administration loan involves much more paperwork and collateral.”
Search professionals also found success at smaller banks, rather than Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Chase. Ramsey found help at D.L. Evans, a small local bank in Burley, Idaho.
“I’ve been impressed with the agility of the small banks to handle this and have been very turned off by the big banks,” Ramsey said. “I think it will ultimately cost them.”
The funding is based on a variety of criteria, such as the size of the business, rents, payroll and other payments required to keep the company running. Ramsey expects he will need to payback between 10% and 15% of the loan, with the rest being forgiven, based on the rules of the loan.