STUART, Fla. — Some Florida businesses feel short-changed by the Paycheck Protection Program, intended to help keep companies afloat and staff on payrolls during the COVID-19 pandemic, after only receiving a few hundred dollars in relief funds.
Contact 5 reviewed data from the Small Business Administration, or SBA, the agency that oversaw billions of dollars nationwide in PPP funds.
Records show 860 businesses in Florida received $500 or less. More than 3,500 companies throughout the state received less than $1,000 in PPP funds.
Mike Canales and his pressure washing business, No Pressure, Pressure Wash, is one of those 860 companies.
"My business received $205," Canales told Contact 5. "I'm not going to lie, it was very difficult."
As the virus spread last spring, Canales' pressure washing business took a hit as his customers stopped calling.
"They were concerned about the virus and they were concerned about their own income that was going to be affected by this," Canales explained. "They would push off any work that needed to be done on their property because of the need for that money possible down the road."
The Gentleman's Barber in Stuart closed its doors for seven weeks at the outset of the pandemic, as the state shut down and barbers weren't considered essential workers.
"At the time, my wife was pregnant, so it was a little scary," Jay Cruz, owner of the Gentleman's Barber, said in an interview.
Cruz, like Canales, applied for a forgivable PPP loan. His shop has four full-time barbers, and Cruz expected to get between $5,000 and $10,000.
"I ended up getting $331," Cruz said. "I wasn't going to take it. One, I felt a little insulted."
Some area businesses received even less. A plumbing business in Palm Beach Gardens got $193. A now-closed restaurant in Delray Beach received $110. And a boat engine business in Lake Worth got $58 in PPP funds.
Contact 5 asked the SBA for a comment and is awaiting a response.
Back at the Gentleman's Barber, customers speculated how much help $331 would provide.
"I'm thinking that might pay his electric bill and his water bill for a month," one customer told Contact 5.
"It's like a slap in the face almost, I would say," another customer said. "It really doesn't do anything."
Other businesses that received PPP funding and didn't lay off employees had their loans forgiven, but Cruz is still waiting to hear if he will need to repay all $331 in PPP funds his barbershop received.
"You have to prove you used it for the business, which obviously, it's $331, it's not that hard," Cruz said.
With a new round of PPP funds available, U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., told Contact 5 in a statement that "changes are being made to rescue programs to help sole proprietors, independent contractors and self-employed individuals access relief like increasing the amount of funds they are able to request."
Businesses that want to apply in time for the March 31 deadline can get free financial consulting from several non-profit groups. CLICK HERE TO FIND LOCAL ASSISTANCE.
Neither Canales nor Cruz expressed interest in applying for another round of PPP funding. Cruz told Contact 5 that his business is now returning to pre-pandemic levels, and he won't need more assistance.
Canales, meanwhile, said that "receiving $205 doesn't seem like it's worth to go through it all over again."
Instead, Canales is taking a different approach.
"You have to stay positive and hopeful that things will get better," he said. "There's light at the end of the tunnel."