TAMPA, Fla. - Lauren O’Quinn is a small business owner who is wrestling to decide which bills to pay this month.
“Do I pay my mortgage or do I pay for this commercial lease or do I pay my car payment?” O’Quinn asked.
The mother of two owns Wishing Well Productions, an entertainment business and acting studio that has thrived for years, but then the coronavirus pandemic hit and everything changed.
With her business now struggling, O’Quinn said she was one of the first to sign up for the Payment Protection Program, a federal loan now offered to rescue small businesses.
“OK, I can relax a little bit. It’s going to get a little help,” thought O’Quinn.
But that help never came. O’Quinn’s hope quickly faded into disappointment after one bank after the next said no.
“I think the most frustrating and upsetting part for me is that it doesn’t look like there was any semblance of first-come-first-served,” O’Quinn said. “I believe that I was absolutely skipped over in favor of big companies.”
In some cases, O’Quinn was rejected because her business was too small and they were offering loans to businesses that had nearly 500 employees. That didn’t sound like a small business to her.
Other times she was punished for not having an original loan with the bank.
But nothing stung more than watching million-dollar food chains scoop up loans while she is pushed aside.
“It’s just been brick wall after brick wall after brick wall,” she said.
Then her worst fear came true. On Thursday, the $349-billion emergency lending program was out of money.
Congress is now looking to pour more money into the Paycheck Protection Program, but that doesn’t help the countless small businesses today that are still waiting for that lifeline.
“It seems like the banks have been favoring the big guys over the little guys,” said O’Quinn.
Recently, Bank of America allowed her to reapply for the emergency federal loan, but there are no guarantees she’ll get it.
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