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Minority business owners struggling to get PPP loans during pandemic

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WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) - The Small Business Administration says it lent more money during the first two weeks of the Paycheck Protection Program than it did during its entire previous 14-year history.

"If one good thing comes out of this pandemic; I think Americans are realizing how important small business is to the economy," Jayne Armstrong said, director of the SBA In Iowa.

Armstrong says her agency has approved 58,466 PPP loans in the Hawkeye State for a total of $5.09 billion locally. However, not enough is going to minority-owned businesses.

"There was a lot of misinformation out there," Armstrong said. "We wanted to make sure everyone had access to this funding."

Armstrong says minority businesses are less likely to have an accountant on retainer or have connections in the banking world. This can make it hard to navigate a brand new loan process.

"Unless you have some type of accountant or somebody helping you with your books on a monthly basis, it's hard to understand the paperwork," Allen Speller said, who has run Spellers True Value hardware store with his dad for the last three years.

The spellers were fortunate enough to be named an essential business when the pandemic started but they still applied for a loan, thinking they would see less customers.

Armstrong helped Allen Speller through the loan process and they were able to get approved. But as a 59-year Waterloo resident, his dad says this should be a sign of the barriers for minority businesses in Iowa and across the country.

"That start up period -you see a lot of businesses open and then two or three months later they're gone," Wendell Speller said.

The PPP program was supposed to end July 30 but Armstrong says there's as much as 130 billion dollars left in the federal program right now; so, it's been extended to August 8.

She plans to aggressively reach out to minority business owners in the final month.

Travis Breese

Reporter, Iowa City

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