Created: October 14, 2020 10:51 PM
(ABC 6 News) - Federal loans are keeping doors open for thousands of small businesses amid the pandemic but uncertainty from Congress is stalling applications for Paycheck Protection Program forgiveness.
Business owners who received $50,000 or less may apply for a "simpler" loan forgiveness application, according the U.S. Small Business Administration.
But that amount could still change, along with the application process if Congress chooses to.
Fred Gommels has been operating the Martial Art Fitness Center, Inc. in Rochester for 35 years but it almost didn't survive from the spring shutdown.
"When you have a business owner who's put their heart and soul into creating an entity like this and then we only have 24 hours notice to say that you have to shut down... There is no other term for me to use to describe this other than it was traumatic," Gommels.
Loans helped keep his center open but like thousands of other business owners, he hasn't applied for loan forgiveness yet.
"Someone's not going to waive a magic wand and say all is forgiven. You're going to have to prove and provide the documentation on what you used the loan money for," said Kathleen Harrington, Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce President and City Council At-Large candidate.
Harrington said lawmakers can still further simplify the process and choose to raise the money that's forgiven. Applications usually go through lenders and banks.
The Consumer Bankers Association is pushing the government to forgive PPP loans amounting to less than $150,000. The New York Times reports 96,000 businesses are awaiting forgiveness.
Harrington said PPP loan forgiveness is just one of many factors worrying business owners amid the pandemic.
"We've spoken to people who are grateful for the PPE money but that's running out and what's not running out is the limited amount of business that they could do," Harrington said.
Gommels said it could take years for his business to recover. He's encouraging the community to shop local to keep businesses afloat.
"We business owners, we walk with confidence, we talk with confidence, but the average consumer has no idea of the challenges that we face on a day-to-day basis. Let alone, something as serious as a pandemic."
Harrington also said guidance is still lacking on taxable expenses from the PPP loans.
The November election and another stimulus package could delay certainty for forgiveness guidelines.
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