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What It's Like To Apply For Small Business Assistance Right Now


For small businesses, federal help is on the way - or at least it's supposed to be. Friday was the first day small business owners could apply for the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP. It's a $349 billion pot of money designed to keep small businesses afloat until the economy reopens. But there are questions about whether that money will be enough and about how long it will take to reach businesses that need it. Tina Rexing is the owner of T-Rex Cookie Kitchen in Eagan, Minn. And she applied for the loan last week.


TINA REXING: Thanks for having me.

SHAPIRO: So tell us about how the process of applying worked for you. Was it pretty straightforward?

REXING: It was kind of straightforward. My bank sent me a link to where I should apply. I entered in my average payroll for the last six months. And then I pressed apply, and then it just went in to some sort of Internet hole (laughter). And I haven't heard back in terms of, like, where it is in the process. I reached out to my banker this morning to see where it went. And they are still waiting to hear final instructions from the SBA.

SHAPIRO: SBA - that's the small business administration. And so do you have any idea whether it's going to take days, weeks, months for you to see that money, assuming it comes through?

REXING: You know, I'm assuming it's going to take months. So as a small business owner, I'm really not counting on it. I'm just kind of doing what I can on my own to keep myself afloat.

SHAPIRO: Has the bank given you any guidance on timing of when they'll get back to you with an answer even?

REXING: No. I've been reaching out to my banker out pretty much on a daily basis asking, you know, when is this coming through, if it's not going to come through or if I'm not going to be approved because I don't think everyone is approved. I just want to be able to know that for sure so I can make certain decisions.

SHAPIRO: So tell us about how dire things are for you right now. I mean, what was business like before this pandemic hit? And what's it like now? Are you able to do any sales at all?

REXING: Well, before it hit, I actually just opened a second location in a shopping mall. And so I was open for two weeks, and then I had to close. So the mall closed and I had to let my staff - entire staff that I just hired - go. And I still have the kitchen where I do a lot of wholesale and retail - some retail now. I do curbside pickup. And I do a fair amount of online because I've an online partner that kind of helps me market to people outside of Minnesota.

SHAPIRO: So you've had to lay workers off, but what are your sales like now compared to what they were before?

REXING: It's probably half of what they were before. But at the same time, I don't have the expensive payroll, so I'm pretty much back to when I first started the company doing everything myself. You know, it's just like starting all over again.

SHAPIRO: Now, this federal loan is potentially forgivable, but to get that, you have to bring back any workers that you've let go. Do you think business will pick up enough to make that feasible?

REXING: No, and that's what's kind of scary is that you bring these folks back, which I'd love to do because they were great, but then if there's not enough business to have them keep working and then it's not 100% forgivable or you don't know for sure if it is, I don't want to be stuck holding the bag to have to pay my employees if the money doesn't come through.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. So how satisfied are you with the federal response? Is there more that you would like to see?

REXING: I'd like to see a lot more, like, just to figure out when and give me some timing because then I can tell my employees, yeah, I can bring you on with some certainty. But everything's so uncertain, and as a small business owner, you just don't want to make those decisions based on what you hear in the news. But everything's just in this limbo.

SHAPIRO: So at this point, how worried are you that your business might not survive the pandemic even with this federal assistance?

REXING: You know, I'm not worried that it won't survive. I'm just kind of concerned that it just won't be what it used to. And so I just have to make sure I pivot quickly and maybe even change the business model once this is all over. You know, I focused a lot on wholesale to event planning places and the U.S. Bank Stadium, and so that all dried up quickly. So I just have to figure out where else I could sell my product.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. Well, good luck with that. Tina Rexing owns T-Rex Cookie Kitchen in Eagan, Minn.

We appreciate your time.

REXING: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.