BY GRANT LANCASTER
As business owners across the city struggle to keep the lights on during unprecedented conditions during the COVID-19 viral outbreak, some have found that the loans offered as an emergency lifeline are confusing and painfully slow to pay out.
Less than a month after Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered NYC’s bars and restaurants to move to delivery and take-out businesses, small coffee shops like Ad Hoc Collective in Greenwich Village have watched their revenue vanish, Ad Hoc owner Mariquit Ingalla said. Ingalla owns two small coffee shops in the area, both open for less than six months.
Since the shop closed for dine-in customers March 16, Ingalla continues to come in but only makes a few drinks a day or sells a few gift cards. She has not laid off any of her employees yet, but she cannot schedule them and told them that if they would rather file for unemployment than wait for things to improve at the shop, she respects their decision.
To get some help, Ingalla applied to the NYC Small Business Continuity Loan Fund, but has not gotten a response, and now applications for the fund are closed, according to the city’s website.
Ingalla turned to federal emergency loan programs, applying for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan through the U.S. Small Business Administration, which advertises a $10,000 advance within three days of application, but she has not seen that money yet.
Finally, Ingalla applied for the Paycheck Protection Program through Chase Bank on April 3 when applications opened, she said. The program is an SBA initiative that employs participating banks as lenders.
The response she got was not encouraging – a confirmation email that said Chase would either call or email her and that their call centers were not able to answer any questions about the loans, she said.
Some of the other lending banks are smaller banks that have told Ingalla they are only accepting loan applications from existing customers, she said.
Ingalla compared the response to being injured in the woods and someone trying to reassure her by saying that help might be on the way.
“You might be qualified for some help right now,” Ingalla said.
Ingalla has yet to hear anything from Chase about her loan, she said April 6.
Andres Pazmino, president of the Greenwich Village Chamber of Commerce, said that he has heard of a lot of confusion in the loan process from small businesses and self-employed people in the neighborhood.
The Chamber is trying to help businesses apply if they need it, but when the applications opened April 3, Pazmino said that he had mostly heard people say the loans were difficult to apply for and that some banks were only accepting previous customers.
Even if the shop is able to re-open by May or June, Ingalla is skeptical of her business’s ability to bounce back. June is one of the slowest months for business anyways, and she doubts many tourists will be eager to come to one of the epicenters of the viral outbreak this summer.
Her landlord offered to charge her half rent for May and then pay back the difference with June’s rent, Ingalla said. But with the loss of revenue and typical poor June business, Ingalla wonders if that will be possible.
“It’s like a death sentence,” Ingalla said.