Española Fitness Studio Owner Tana Beverwyk-Abouda was washing dishes the afternoon of April 8 when a friend texted her and told her to immediately visit the New Mexico Workforce Connections website.
The state was offering $750 to the first 2,000 self-employed people who applied on the website. Thousands of applicants flooded the site, which crashed.
“I went in and it was a quagmire,” said Beverwyk-Abouda, who is doing everything she can to keep her fitness studio open. “It was like getting lost down a rabbit hole for layers of the website.”
She tried to navigate the site for a couple hours and for another couple hours tried calling the Department of Workforce Solutions. The man she spoke to had no idea what was happening–he had not heard about the grants. He was being bombarded with calls.
When she finally returned to the dishes, the dishwater had grown cold.
On April 10 she learned that the grants were already assigned to 2,000 applicants and that she had not applied quickly enough to receive one. A week later, the website sent her an automatic notification that her application had never been completed due to technical issues.
She has not had much better luck at the federal level, either. She is one of several small business owners throughout Northern New Mexico who are having trouble receiving government loans.
Kathy Stockton, a bookkeeper who works with small business owners in Española, Santa Fe and Abiquiú, and the friend who notified Beverwyk-Abouda about the state funds, said no local banks or lenders were ready to deal with the loan applications and inquiries that poured in after the federal government created and expanded loan funds for small businesses with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“I have found that the banks and the small business loan people were horribly unprepared for what was to descend upon them when the CARES act passed Congress,” she said.
One of her clients received a notice that her application for one of the federal loans was approved, but she has not seen any money yet. Others have heard nothing about their applications. Still others tried to apply and were informed that the programs are no longer accepting applications.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which is administering the loans, currently states on its website that it is unable to accept new applications at this time for the two main loan programs that were offered to small business owners.
The funding was supposed to go to businesses with 500 or fewer employees, but the Associated Press reported Tuesday that large publicly-traded companies with thousands of employees were among the businesses that used up the funding.
Stockton said that small business owners who applied are left wondering, “‘Do I have the money? Do I have the loans? Did I get approved?’ Nobody knows.”
Beverwyk-Abouda applied for three different federal loans, two around March 31 and one on April 15. When applying for one of the loans, she called the SBA for assistance, and was placed on hold. She was informed that she was 19,761st in line.
When she finally got through, the person on the other end of the line said one of her applications had been received and walked her through filling out another.
But as of April 16, she had not yet heard back about the status of any of her applications.
A U.S. Senate guide states that if small business owners applied for one loan, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, they would receive a grant of up to $10,000 within three days of applying.
That was one of the loans Beverwyk-Abouda applied for, at the end of March or beginning of April (she did not remember the exact date). She was still waiting to receive the grant as of April 16.
That day, banks began announcing that loan funds had dried up.
“On a day where it was announced that 19,000 New Mexicans have filed unemployment, how do small business owners deal with this?” Stockton said. “They tell their employees that help is on the way, and yet two weeks later find that there is no help.”