WASHINGTON, DC – Melissa Kelly, a well-known chef and small business owner, testified virtually for a U.S. Congressional committee on Wednesday as the committee held a remote hearing examining the impact of the paycheck protection program on employees. small enterprises. Kelly is the executive chef and owner of Primo Restaurant in Rockland.
The United States House of Representatives Small Business Committee specifically held the hearing to learn more about the issues borrowers and lenders faced when applying for and using PPP loans. Namely, the committee focused on using the product that will allow borrowers to receive full loan forgiveness.
“Members will also have the opportunity to hear what has generally worked with the program, what has not worked, the changes that Congress has recently made to the program and suggestions for continuing to optimize the program,” said declared a description of the meeting.
The June 17 meeting was the committee’s second remote hearing, and each witness had five minutes to make a statement with each committee member, and then five minutes to question the witnesses.
The committee includes representatives from Oklahoma, Ohio, American Samoa, New York, Iowa, Maine, New Jersey, Colorado, Florida, Tennessee, Minnesota, Kansas , Maryland, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois and North Carolina.
After opening the meeting, committee chair Nydia Velázquez, New York, noted that it is imperative for the committee to identify issues with the PPP program so that the issues can be corrected now, and for any potential future use.
Other witnesses included a senior vice president of a bank with experience in SBA lending, a director of the Center for Responsible Lending and the owner of an Ohio animal hospital.
Kelly was able to open her restaurant in Rockland with an initial loan from the Small Business Association, Rep. Velázquez noted during Kelly’s presentation.
Kelly said she is testifying not only for herself and her staff, but for the entire restaurant and hospitality community.
She said that while she had emergency funds she could draw on for employee salaries at the start of the pandemic, she worried about how quickly those funds would be drained.
Hearing about the PPP loan, she became interested, although disappointed with the way the program was set up.
As a seasonal restaurant, more employees are on board during peak months. The PPP loan requirements were based on her current number of employees at the time of application, however, forcing her to claim fewer employees than she actually has during the season.
Eligible expenses to be covered under the PPP loan, Kelly noted, are limited and many of her expenses related to COVID-19 are not covered by the loan.
Kelly was concerned about the loan’s limited time frame to spend the funds, raising concerns and fears for Kelly that she was not spending the funds enough time and that part of the loan would not be canceled.
During the question-and-answer period with committee members, Kelly noted that she was able to retain 16 of her employees thanks to the P3 loan. At present, she noted that her establishment was not open for indoor dining, but was in the process of building an outdoor dining hall and that she would be bringing additional staff back to the area. the near future as she cautiously reopens her restaurant for indoor dining.
In response to another question, she indicated that it is important to modify the PPP in order to provide more funding to catering and hospitality professionals.
“Our industry is in crisis,” she said, noting that small communities across the country could lose restaurants without more support from the federal government.
Responding to a question from Maine Representative Jared Golden about what help the federal government can provide to help prepare homeowners like her for the next stage of recovery, Kelly noted that the next six months are very unknown given that it is usually prepared for July-October. pic now.
Additional financial opportunities for his business, such as catering to weddings, are not being considered for this year. She also noted that the extra $ 600 unemployment money paid to workers was a trap because some employees in the industry are not eager to return to work when they are able to raise unemployment funds at the place.
When asked to elaborate on the unique challenges of being a seasonal business, Kelly noted that it was intimidating to be in such an uncertain position thanks to the pandemic.
Scaling up PPP is imperative, she said, as it could lead to the survival of small businesses that depend on a specific window of time for peak operations.
Without providing more help in the very near future, Kelly noted, the entire year could be a complete washout for small businesses in the hospitality industry.
Responding to a pair of questions about what solutions the SBA might implement to improve PPP in the future, Kelly noted that the PPP Flexibility Act (PPPFA), designed to give borrowers more flexibility and time to spend the proceeds from the PPP loan were useful, but the SBA would need to review the details of the funding increase.
As the pandemic lasted longer than initially expected, Kelly wanted to be able to receive additional funding in the form of a loan, but this opportunity was denied due to the way the program process was established by the SBA.
Kelly, in response to another question, noted that in addition to changes to the P3 program and support from the federal government, small businesses need a clear understanding of the rules of the program so that no small business owner live in fear of breaking the rules without realizing a the rule is being broken.
When asked to address what she considers to be the biggest challenge in getting the SBA loan canceled and how she tracks how loan money is spent, Kelly noted that she had created a new bank account to track all loan funding.
She noted, however, that she was concerned that part of her loan might not be canceled due to her inability to meet some of the requirements for the number of employees she must support financially with the loan. This particular requirement was difficult to meet, she said, due to the closure of restaurants inside.
Contact George Harvey at: [email protected].