Businesses hopeful second round of PPP loans will keep them afloat

The new coronavirus relief package comes with a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans for small business owners, who hope they can stay afloat with and end to the pandemic in view as vaccines are distributed. 

Many Tampa Bay area small businesses needed a hand up in 2020 to keep their lights on and paychecks going out.

"This year has been challenging to put it very nicely," said Jeff Gigante, the owner of Forbici Modern Italian in Tampa.

Gigante said they’re trying to make up losses in the spring when business dropped 50% and they cut half their staff. But a PPP loan from the Small Business Administration at the time helped them bring everyone back.

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"The PPP loan was the savior to allow us to maintain losses each month and still stay open and provide jobs to our employees and keep fighting to save our business," said Gigante. "That helped us with our rents, our utilities. It helped us bring our staff back to work early."

That first PPP loan only lasted a few months, but small businesses are getting another shot at survival.

Under the new COVID relief bill, a second round of PPP loans are coming along with some new rules. There is a cap of $2 million, and businesses applying for assistance must have under 300 employees. There is also information on loan forgiveness for the first loan, businesses that received a loan the first time can apply for a second loan as long as they meet the qualifications.

"I feel that this next wave of PPP funding is going to help the businesses that are hanging by a thread to be able to have a little bit more substantial footing in order to get through this," said Gigante.

He said the restaurant is in a better spot now thanks to the first loan, and he hopes to qualify for a second one. Forbici has 89 employees on payroll.

"It’s really been a lifeline for us as well as many other small businesses that were able to apply and get the loan," said Gigante.

Restaurant owners said they feel the vaccine will also help speed up recovery.

"Hopefully people will be more confident with those being out and just start to get back to their everyday life and treating small businesses the way they did before the pandemic came," said Gigante.

Small business owners said they still have a long way to go to get back to where they were.

The deadline to apply for the second round of PPP loans is March 31.