Tampa Bay’s small businesses struggle to get loan application help from big banks

Coronavirus

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Small businesses are counting on $310 billion to help them survive the coronavirus pandemic, but some Tampa Bay area business owners say they’re having trouble getting answers from their bank and they’re worried they’ll miss out on much-needed help.

Rebecca Zoumberos first contacted 8 On Your Side frustrated she wasn’t getting any information about a loan her photography business needs.

“I’ve spent over 55 hours on the phone since I began counting the hours,” said Zoumberos, who owns Limelight Photography with her husband.

She applied for the Paycheck Protection Program at Bank of America; a forgivable federal loan that would help pay her employees for 8 weeks.

“The one time we’re coming to them for help, they’re just not there,” said Zoumberos.

At Top Shelf Closets, they’re struggling to pay their employees as well. The owner applied at Bank of America before the first round of PPP money was released. She says she still doesn’t know the status of her application or if it’s even been accepted.

“What’s your status now with that application?” 8 On Your Side’s Marco Villarreal asked.

“Ha! That’s a great question cause there’s no answer to that question,” said Kelli Bowerfind, one of the owners of Top Shelf Clients.

There are no answers for several discouraged business owners contacting 8 On Your Side with the same problem.

Reaching out to Bank of America, we wanted to know why so many of their clients felt like they were left in the dark when it came to their PPP applications.

Bank of America released a statement saying:

“Bank of America has contacted applicants during many different points of the application process, including to those who didn’t respond to us, to let them know they needed to send us additional information or hadn’t completed their application. We continue to process thousands of loan applications every day so that we are ready as soon as the SBA begins accepting applications again. Our clients who have already submitted an application do not need to re-file a new application with us. We are committed to doing this work right, for our clients and for American taxpayers, carefully adhering to Treasury Department guidelines for the program.”

A bank spokesperson tells 8 On Your Side that applicants should check their spam or junk folders for communication from Bank of America. The lending institution says they have sent out millions of emails and reached out to clients by phone. They will reach out to customers through various steps of the process including asking them to upload documents required according to Small Business Administration process and rules, follow up if they need additional information, notifications when the loan will be submitted to the SBA and with alerts about SBA’s final decision on the loan application.

Many of the small business owners are going to smaller banks and trying to get in line for the loans there, but they’re afraid they may have missed out on the opportunity for this second round of stimulus money.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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