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South Florida small businesses work to survive, voice loan frustrations

Some say loans creating unfair advantage
Posted at 3:49 PM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-21 20:42:00-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Small business owners across the state are frustrated after learning big corporations received loans from the Paycheck Protection Program instead of small businesses.

A downtown West Palm Beach business known for its crowds and nightlife is currently at a standstill.

Cleve Mash, the owner of The Pawn Shop nightclub, says he hasn't received any help from the state or federal government.

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“My belief is the banks were basically holding onto these loans and using that time to kind of strategically figure out how they best can incorporate, take care of, the right customers and generate more proceeds,” said Mash.

Miami small business owner Michael Dolatowski runs a design building company. He says had to lay off his staff of eight people and has seen no money after applying for the payment protection program. But has learned of big corporations like Shake Shack and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse receiving funds.

"The banks took care of their biggest clients. It’s very much what it seems like,” said Dolatowski.

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Mash and Dolatowski are two of nearly 38,000 small business owners in Florida who also applied for the Florida small business emergency bridge loan.

“We’re seeing employees taking jobs at other restaurants, and so all that training and all that work that we put into having the time with that employee, now we’re losing them all to other restaurants that received the money and are able to pay,” said Mash.

He believes granting big corporations and restaurants Paycheck Protection Program loans over small businesses has created an unfair advantage.

“If you’re getting the money first, and you can hire employees, it’s like a free agency right now,” said Mash.

Small business owners who also applied for the Emergency Bridge Loan program in Florida say the program ran out of money. Out of nearly 38,000 applicants, only 1,000 businesses were granted loans of up to $50,000. Gov. Ron DeSantis has allocated $50 million for the program.

“It becomes even more frustrating to see the same business owner receive multiple loans even $100,000 loans when that money could have been more evenly shared,” said State Rep. Anna Eskamani of District 47 in Orlando.

Mash said even getting certain loans at this point might hurt more than help.

“Right now there is no end in sight for us because the loan program was going to be forgivable till June,” said Mash.

“The wealth is not shared, in my opinion, the way it could have been in order to help more than 1,000 businesses across the state. One-thousand businesses across the state is a drop in the bucket, and the more we could have increased the spread that’s what brings our economy back,” said State Sen. Audrey Gibson of Florida's 6th District.

“We have, I want to say, 40 employees. We are completely shut down. We don’t have food. No one is even discussing what’s going to happen to bars and nightclubs,” said Mash.