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Small businesses want answers after applying for new loans

On April 3, the Small Business Association launched the Paycheck Protection Program. The loan would cover costs such as rent and payroll during COVID-19.

AUSTIN, Texas — Hours after the new Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) went live through the Small Business Administration (SBA) on April 3, Arash Saberi applied for the loan to keep his two businesses afloat.

"If we’re talking about things coming around in the middle of May or the end of May, I feel that a lot of places just aren’t going to be able to hold on at all," Saberi said.

Saberi owns Austin-based Spinners Bar and Grill and San Marcos-based Railyard Bar and Grill. Between the two restaurants, Saberi employs about 50 people. Because of the coronavirus pandemic causing new restrictions, Railyard is currently closed while Spinners is serving to-go meals only.

"It's something like 2% of my regular revenue and trying to sustain off of that and grow my business is just not going to be enough," Saberi said.

The SBA launched the new small business loan program amid concerns from the spread of coronavirus that places like Saberi's won't survive. Since applying for the PPP loan through his Wells Fargo bank, he has been notified he's been sitting in a queue waiting for the funding to be approved. Friday afternoon, Wells Fargo suggested he apply elsewhere to "increase [his] chances of receiving a loan before funds run out."

“It was clearly a rushed process," Saberi said. "It seems like nobody knows what’s going on.”

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For co-owner of Shawarma Point Food Truck in Austin, Faraz Vohra, has had to furlough workers for the time being. 

“Our goal is to use that money, 90% of it to feed the payroll and the people we’ve had to let go to get them back on our team," Vohra said.

He and his brother applied for both PPP and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance (EIDL). The two of them only employ about a dozen people regularly, but that changes during large events like SXSW or Austin City Limits.

“Even though our sales are down about 60-70%, we’re trying to do our best to stay afloat," Vohra said. "I hope the PPP and EIDL gets approved. With that help, I’m very positive that we’ll come out stronger.”

Vohra has received no follow-up notifications from Chase Bank on the PPP application except to confirm he submitted his forms. He applied for the EIDL on the Small Business Association website.

“It was like a two-minute process online to apply straight through SBA.gov, but all we know is that we've applied," Vohra said.

To make up for the costs, Vohra and his brother have adapted their menu to the regulations from Austin and Travis County.

Ready to rock tonight South Lamar Village Apartment Homes from 5-8pm - our regular menu as well as family packs will be available! - ✅ Feeds 3-4 $32.95 ✅ Feeds 5-6 $42.95 - 🥩 🍗 🌱 ➡️ 𝟮 𝗰𝗵𝗼𝗶𝗰𝗲𝘀 𝗼𝗳...

"We’re trying our best to promote all our online and to-go packages," Vohra said. "We’ve introduced some meal planning and some family packages.”

But Vohra said they're in a similar boat as Saberi with falling sales the past few weeks.

“We almost had no sales for the month of March or the second part of the month of March," Vohra said.

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