Lakewood Heights neighbor Shawn Corley applied for a small-business loan from the Paycheck Protection Program. He is still waiting to receive funding. (Photo courtesy of Shawn Corley.)

Ruth’s Chris. Shake Shack. Pie Five. Those are just a few of the major chains that took millions of dollars in federal stimulus money meant to help small businesses through the coronavirus. Meanwhile, Lakewood Heights neighbor Shawn Corley can’t get the measly $175,000 he asked for from the Paycheck Protection Program. The $349 billion forgivable loan program has run out. Corley was counting on that money to keep his actual small business, Brandsmith, afloat. The creative marketing agency has been in business seven years and employees six people full time. Now, Corley is in the process of transitioning some of his full-time employees into 1099 contract workers. All he can do is wait for a second round of funding to become available and hope that his bank doesn’t unfairly shuffle large-business applications to the front of the queue. “Banks are going to make more money off those big loans, so come to find out, they put large companies in the front of the line, and small businesses were put in the back,” Corley said. “My application has been sitting there for a month and hasn’t even been submitted to the Small Business Administration.” We talked with Corley about applying for federal funding to cope with the economic fallout of the coronavirus.

How is your business?

We’ve lost clients. A lot of the business we work on is entrepreneurial startups. They’ve shut down. We’ve had a couple retainer clients who haven’t been able to pay us. We had some savings for the company that we used to say afloat. We are trying to hold out as long as possible. My employees are not just my employees. They’re friends. The last thing I want to do is let people go at the worst possible time to be let go. If funding comes through then we’ll be able to sustain them for the two and a half months that it covers. That will hopefully give us a chance for clients to pay us and have some of them get new business.

The Brandsmith office. (Photo courtesy of Shawn Corley.)

How have you felt during this application process?

It was a roller coaster of emotions. We didn’t know what we were going to do, and then there was this lifeline. We were counting on that. I thought we were in the first wave, and there was no chance we weren’t in. I was sleeping better. When I found out the fund ran out of money, I felt for the people who didn’t get their [application] in on time. To find out mine didn’t get submitted, that was heartbreaking.

What’s been most frustrating?

The thing I’m ticked off about is that a lot of companies manipulated the system. Shake Shack is a huge company, but it entered as if its individual stores had less than 500 employees. I get that everybody needs help, but it wasn’t meant for big corporations with multimillion-dollar CEOs.

Has the problem been fixed?

I heard this morning that the loopholes likely haven’t changed in the second round. Shame on the people who did it the first time. If you do it in the second round, that’s even worse. I have no idea who’s in charge of closing these loopholes. There’s nowhere to get answers. There’s no accountability. There has to be oversight. I want justice.

What’s next for your business?

The loan becomes a grant if you use it to pay for payroll, but we’ve used up our reserves waiting for this. If business doesn’t get better, then I’ve just added a huge loan to my business that I have to pay back.

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