PPP loans offered to businesses with up to 20 employees starting Feb. 24

The Biden Administration announced changes Monday to the Paycheck Protection Program, an effort to reach smaller and minority-owned businesses left behind in previous rounds of coronavirus aid.

For nearly eight years, Studio 28 has been bringing the love to dance to youths in Tampa Bay.

"We do hip hop, jazz, contemporary, tap, we have competition teams," explained owner Janice Toussaint.

This time last year, the Christian dance studio was flourishing, growing to seven employees and more than 65 students.

"Once the pandemic hit we were definitely hit very hard, we lost over 60% of our enrollment," Toussaint said.

It is still painful for Toussaint to talk about. She has worked harder than ever to keep her business afloat, even dipping into personal savings to cover bills and payroll.

Toussaint says she applied for a forgiveness loan through the Paycheck Protection Program back in April, but was told her business was not eligible for the assistance.

"We’re still trying to recover, and just not receiving any help especially during the time that we desperately needed it just affects us still, still today," said Toussaint.

Now, a new round of PPP loans is targeting small businesses like hers. The government wants to fast-track money to mom-and-pop operations, minority-owned businesses, and those with no employees that previously did not qualify, or were crowded out by larger firms.

"On Wednesday the Small Businesses Administration is going to establish a 14-day exclusive PPP loan application period for businesses and non-profits with fewer than 20 employees," President Joe Biden announced Monday.

Starting the first week of March, some eligibility rules are also changing. The self-employed, sole proprietors and independent contractors can now qualify for more money. They previously were excluded altogether because the loan amounts were calculated based on the number of employees.

The loan program will also open up to small business owners with non-fraud-related felonies, those delinquent on their federal student loans and some non-citizen residents, such as green card holders or those in the country on visas, all of who were excluded earlier.

For Toussaint, this relief could be just what her business needs to finally start to bounce back.

"I’m very hopeful and I think my husband really convinced me, just give it a shot, you’ll never know unless you give it a shot," she said.  "So I’m gonna give it a shot and I’m praying that it works out well this time around."

The exclusive window for businesses with fewer than 20 employees opens February 24 and runs through March 10.  The current round of PPP funding expires at the end of March.