INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The wait is still on for many small businesses hoping to see relief from the Small Business Administration.
However, even when that help does arrive, those with just a handful of employees won’t be getting as much as they thought.
“This right here, I wouldn’t have predicted this in a million years,” said small business owner Stephen Cull.
Like millions of Americans, Stephen is feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. His family owned vending machine business, Value Vending LLC, is down 70%. He has about 300 machines all over central Indiana, but they aren’t seeing nearly the same amount of traffic.
Some machines are stuck in buildings he can’t access. He can’t restock them or even collect the thousands of dollars he anticipates are inside them. The product he’s already purchased is slowly reaching it’s expiration date.
“It’s not like we’re completely shut down, but we’re down enough that it’s strangle holding us pretty hard,” Stephen said.
For the first time in his life, Stephen has applied for unemployment, but he won’t see that money for weeks as they work to figure out a system for self employed workers.
He’s refinancing his home, and his daughter picked up a job stocking shelves overnight at a grocery store. He doesn’t want to have to receive unemployment, but right now, his hands are tied.
“My attitude throughout my life has been you work hard, and you figure it out,” Stephen said. “But right now, I don’t know. We have exhausted about everything we can to figure it out.”
“It’s not like we’re not a hard working family, we really are,” his wife, Melissa, added. “It’s just there’s no way to work out of this right now.”
Stephen is now counting on the assistance from the Small Business Administration, which was part of the stimulus package. Stephen applied for the disaster loan and believed he would get $10,000 in three days. That was two weeks ago, and he hasn’t seen a dime.
The SBA also said instead of $10,000, businesses will receive $1,000 per employee. Stephen’s only employee is his daughter, who also owns her own business. It’s unclear whether he would count as an employee.
“We might see $2,000, a thousand for me and a thousand for (daughter) Claire,” Stephen said. “But in our world, that’s just a drop in the bucket. Not being unappreciative, but we have a lot more going on than just that.”
“They’re angry, and frankly, I don’t blame them,” said Barbara Quandt, Indiana director of the National Federation of Independent Business.
Quandt says she doesn’t know of a single person who has gotten their loan yet. The SBA couldn’t say when those might be coming.
“We’re not pointing fingers, but let’s fix it,” Quandt said. “These people are desperate, and if we don’t do something right away, there’s going to be a lot of them that won’t be able to open back up.”
As for Stephen, there’s nothing else he can do. No matter how hard he works, his business continues to suffer. But for him, working hard is better than giving up.
“I’m going to go down fighting this whole thing,” Stephen said. “I’m not just going to pack it up and say its over. It’d be very easy to do that. I’m going to go down fighting the best I can.”