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Frustration with federal funding programs outlined by non-profit director

I’m part of a small business, a nonprofit that serves some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

Like most small businesses in our community, we’ve been substantially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are seeing an increase in demand for our support services, and we are working diligently to adapt in order to meet these needs in a manner that keeps our clients, staff and volunteers safe and healthy. We’re having to cancel fundraising events, and grant funding is more difficult to obtain. Fortunately, we have loyal donors who are contributing what they can to help us continue providing services.

We’re not alone. This is a difficult time for small businesses, and we are only one of thousands of small businesses that are trying to access the funds that Congress designated to assist us.

On April 6, the second business day of enrollment, we applied for a Payroll Protection Program forgivable loan of less than $50,000 through our bank. We still don’t know the disposition of that application, as our bank is not communicating the status.

We are uncertain if our application was submitted before the funds were depleted. We will keep trying to get an answer, but we may need to apply yet again if and when more funding is available.

Who got access to the funding that was supposedly designated to help us through these difficult times? Who is benefiting from the funds distributed by the Small Business Administration? Is it really small businesses?

It is clear that big businesses have staunch advocates in Congress. The rapid depletion of the Payroll Protection Program funds of the CARES Act — with funds too often distributed to what I would deem to be large businesses — is yet another testament to that.

I am asking for three actions to help provide accountability and relief for small businesses: We need elected officials to advocate for true small businesses, and I’m using that term to include businesses with under $1 million in annual revenues. However we choose to define a ‘small business,’ lumping multimillion-dollar businesses in with businesses with just a handful of employees is not fair.

We need elected officials to ensure that, in any new legislation to be considered by Congress, protections exist to ensure that smaller businesses, both for profit and nonprofit businesses, can actually benefit from the federal funds being distributed by the ‘Small Business Administration.’

Secondly, I’m asking the federal officials who represent us to request and publish information on how many small businesses in our area applied for PPP loans, how many actually received funding, and the names of the businesses funded, along with a list of which banks funded each of them.

Finally, I ask that any additional legislation related to the Paycheck Protection Program require that this information be provided by each bank on their websites in a clear manner and visible location, and updated every 30 days. I believe that this will add a needed transparency.

When Congress devotes funding to help small businesses during these unprecedented times, there must be protections to ensure that those funds actually reach the small businesses that need assistance. We don’t need politics right now. We don’t need promises. We need relief, and we need accountability. We cannot blindly trust this or any administration, or any government agency or bank, to do the right thing.

We need public accountability, and we need elected officials who can provide leadership and advocacy for our small businesses (both for-profit and nonprofit) and the citizens that they were elected to serve.

Scott Blades is the director of a nonprofit organization in Tucson.

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