The Philadelphia Inquirer | Finally, there’s help for Pa.’s small businesses that doesn’t involve a lot of red tape | Jenice Armstrong
Without one of those seemingly elusive Paycheck Protection Program loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration or a grant from the city, many small businesses are hurting.
Take D&J Entertainment in the 7500 block of Frankford Avenue in the Northeast. The only incoming calls it has been getting are from customers canceling moonbounces and other items for children’s parties. Derek Lee, the company’s owner, has resorted to rideshare driving.
“They gave Ruth’s Chris’ $20 million,” he complained. “Can somebody give me $20,000?″
I thought of him and of others in similar straits when I learned of a new program on Tuesday designed to quickly put cash in entrepreneurs’ hands.
Called the Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund, it’s modeled after a similar effort in Virginia that distributes money in the form of $3,000 in forgivable loans.
For people like Lee who need cash now, it’s a godsend, because there’s not a lot of bureaucratic red tape to go through.
“The idea was born about 2½ weeks ago when I got a call from a childhood friend of mine who grew up with me in the Reading-Lancaster area, and who moved to Virginia for college in 1990,” said Jeffrey A. Bartos, a real estate developer from Lower Merion.
“He said to me, ‘Jeff, this has been the most profound three weeks of my life, talking to small-business people in urban areas, rural areas, suburban areas.… It has been overwhelmingly emotional and gratifying for me in a way that I never would have thought,'” Bartos added. “He said, ‘You need to do this in Pennsylvania.’”
Bartos, who campaigned for lieutenant governor in 2018, quickly decided that his boyhood friend was onto something.
“So here we are 2½ weeks later, ready to launch,” he told me. “If you have a small restaurant at 51st and Baltimore or at 27th and Girard or 18th and Walnut, and you have not been able to access federal funds or you are trying to access federal funds but you’re struggling, you can go on our website, fill out a very simple application. It will take you less than 10 minutes. You verify that you are a Pennsylvania-based business.
“You verify that you’ve been in operation for more than a year. You verify that you have between three and 30 employees, and you verify that you need funds to help you get through the next month until either you get back to work, or you can access some of these larger programs that are out there. And then you upload up to a three-minute video telling us about your business,” he continued. “We are committing that we will make a funding decision in as few as three days.”
Already, the fund has raised about $60,000. The website is pa30dayfund.com.
“If a small amount of money can get them back open, then we need to do that,” said Jeff Brown, president and CEO of Brown’s Superstores Inc., who has signed on as a board member of the Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund.
Mustafa Rashed, CEO of Bellevue Strategies, is among the prominent business people who have joined the effort.
“I was able to get a PPP loan. It’s because I had a relationship with my banker, and that’s something that most small minority-owned businesses don’t have,” he said. “A lot of the paperwork that is being asked of these programs, they just don’t have.”
It’s not a lot of money, but it gives many small business owners hope. That’s something that has been in short supply lately.
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