SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The U.S. Small Business Administration’ Paycheck Protection Program has come under a lot of fire for benefitting the big guys over small businesses. The good news is the tide appears to be turning.

Small business owner Sammy Go is an example. He is passionate about his flowers and his arrangements are famous across the country, featured in Sunset, Harper’s and Martha Stewart Living magazines.

But when the pandemic hit, business tanked. “I mainly do weddings and events, all of which have been postponed, if not canceled for the foreseeable future, obviously,” said Go.

He sprang into action and applied for a loan through his longtime bank, Bank of America. “My loan was very modest, and I couldn’t even get my application approved,” said Go.

Finally, after weeks of waiting, he turned to a much smaller lender that a friend told him about, San Francisco-based Square. A day later, the money was in the bank.

“These old-school banks are really kind of chugging along and really not serving who they’re supposed to be serving,” said Go. “But this tech company that is attempting to help small businesses really pulled through, and made it easy to apply.”

Coincidentally, his father also got good news. Randall Go is an optometrist whose business shut down because of the pandemic. But he says Wells Fargo, where he applied for a PPP loan, just didn’t seem to care.

“It was just a feeling of frustration,” said Randall Go. “Why should my small company be put in a situation where it has to compete with the Shake Shacks, with the Ruth Chris Steak House, with the Lakers? There’s no competition, it’s apples to oranges.”

After waiting for more than a month, he decided to try to a small lender in Idaho he heard about, A10 Capital. He was approved in a day. “I had to sit down. My knees were shaking, my voice was trembling, and I actually broke down in tears of happiness, of joy. I just couldn’t believe it,” he said.

This is the Small Business Association’s second round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program. This time, according to the latest federal data, more money is going to the moms-and-pops. The average loan: $79,000.

“We saw there was going to be a need, an immediate need that needed to be met. It felt like it was a crisis for very small entrepreneurs across Main Street America,” said Jackie Reses, head of Square’s Square Capital division offering the loans to small businesses. “We are trying to help the florist, the plumber, the bagel shop, the hair salon, and everybody’s local restaurant.”

Reses says Square has approved more than 50,000 applicants and there’s room for more, especially for sole proprietors with no employees, like Sammy Go. “This is a program that can work for those types of businesses,” said Reses. “They don’t realize that they apply.”

For Sammy Go, it’s been a lifeline. There are no weddings scheduled for a while. But he’s gearing up for the immediate future: Mother’s Day. “I haven’t touched a flower in months, so it’s kind of like, I’m excited to work,” he said.

Many of the smaller lenders will only lend to their customers, but Randall Go says try them anyway, because they can make exceptions just like in his case.


For a list of lenders that are offering PPP loans go to www.sba.gov. If you have a question and would like to talk to a human about it, call the U.S. Small Business Administration Disaster Assistance customer service center at 1-800-659-2955. 

The SBA’s Bay Area office is located at 455 Market St., Suite 600, San Francisco (415) 744-6820, email: sfomail@sba.Gov.

When you are researching, look out for scams. The Federal Trade Commission has issued a warning about scammers offering small business loans. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also has good advice to protect yourself from scams:

 

 

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