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THE COST OF COVID-19, PART 2: Accessing emergency funds possible, but requires know-how

Accessing COVID-19 emergency funds possible, but requires know-how
Posted at 9:55 PM, Jul 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-29 18:45:37-04

While Hello Beautiful Salon & Spa may have missed out on the first round of Payroll Protection Program money, local small-business experts said subsequent infusions of federal funds are giving those who were unable to benefit earlier this year another shot at help.

However, the three experts KRIS 6 News spoke with -- LiftFund's Laura Leal Estrada, SCORE of Corpus Christi's Debbie Fernandez and the Del Mar Small Business Development Center's Anne Fierova agreed -- that being seen by federal loan programs can be difficult, not necessarily because of the small business' size, but because of the lack of resources a very small business can reasonably access.

"Trying to navigate (Small Business Administration loans), from my experience -- I was with the agency for 26 years -- the better the small business was equipped to fill out the applications, having a relationship with a lender -- especially for PPP -- made the big difference," said Fernandez, a SCORE of Corpus Christi mentor who doubles as its chairwoman.

The local SCORE chapter is part of a nationwide organization that provides free small-business mentorship to anyone interested in small-business ownership, and draws from mentors locally and nationally.

"I think, in retrospect, not having a relationship with a lender, probably put some of the smaller small businesses at a disadvantage," Fernandez said. "Unfortunately, not being able to hire a bookkeeper or an accountant that had all their information at their fingertips -- yeah, quite honestly, probably, did impact them to where they couldn't get their applications in as fast as those other businesses."

Debbie Fernandez

Estrada, whose LiftFund helps small businesses gain access to credit, loans and other services, also said a lack of visibility is also a problem when it comes to finding emergency financial help because federal programs don't have marketing budgets.

"(Owners) have to chose to participate," she said. "To pay attention to the media to know these are available again. They need to know who to contact to find out who (has finds available)."

But she also acknowledges, as does Fernandez, that some business owners find themselves overwhelmed emotionally, as well as financially.

"They're so tired," she said. "We're all emotionally entrenched. They almost don't feel like they have enough energy to be rejected."

laura leal estrada

But she points to the fact that applications for the latest wave of PPP money are still being accepted until Aug. 8, as a place to start.

"We wanna make sure we've got people getting the money," Fierova said. "Lenders are beating the bushes looking for people, but different lenders have different parameters."

Some of those lenders include Frost Bank, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, BBVA Compass, Security Service Credit Union, IBC, Prosperity Bank and LiftFund, which partnered with the City of Corpus Christi at the beginning of the pandemic to issue $25,000 micro-loans.

"Accessing capital funds right now -- it's the easiest money for businesses to get their hands on," Fierova said.

The women all said this is down to lending institutions and federal programs willing to forgo some of the traditional hoops in order to help businesses get what they need, such as PPP, which has a built-in forgiveness feature that absolves the loan if the business meets certain parameters.

"Even if it's not (forgiven)," Fierova said. "It's two percent for five years. But for payroll, it will be forgiven."