Congressman Lee Zeldin appeared on a webinar hosted by Discover Long Island April 25, and said that just a day earlier Congress approved additional funds that will be made available to small businesses ravished by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kristen Jarnagin, the president and CEO of the tourism promotion company, noted 80 percent of its members fall into the small business category, and more than a few couldn’t secure U.S. Small Business Administration loans through the first round of federal funding.
Some guests in the webinar spoke of their frustrations during the public portion. Zeldin acknowledged there were many problems during the initial rollout, but also noted the daunting task of trying to stabilize an economy in freefall. For example, 25 million jobs were lost in the last month.
“Nothing was going to restart this economy,” Zeldin told those gathered on Zoom. “Some of the lenders did a tremendous job, while others fell down. This is not a time for profit. It’s life and death.”
With some institutions, “there was a lack of transparency and oversight,” the congressman said, adding several hedge funds even applied for money. Zeldin said the program was still able to disperse all the allocated funds.
“Some of the smaller institutions did a tremendous job,” processing applications for emergency funding, he said, and banks were successful dispensing 74 percent of loans for under $1 million and 90 percent for loans under $150,000.
The Paycheck Protection Program also worked well for the most part, the congressman said. The program was under fire for granting Shake Shack $10 million in stimulus funds, but the chain quickly repaid the money.
In one local case, a spokesman from Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead said although the company was given money to rehire workers, the amount made it unworkable.
“I would have to bring back 103 workers and use the money in eight weeks,” he said, saying he wanted the money to pay workers who feed and care for the fish, jobs that must be done year-round even if the aquarium is closed.
Zeldin urged small business owners who are having trouble accessing funds to call his office at 631-289-1097 and ask for assistance and apply for the second round of funding.