MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Across the country, America is looking to get back to business. In a moment, we will hear about governors in the west, the northeast and the southeast who are trying to strike the right balance between letting businesses open without risking big new waves of people getting sick.
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Many small businesses cannot wait for the green light to reopen. And today many of them are looking to send in applications to their banks, hoping to get federal loans. This is the second wave of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program. And already, there are problems. Today the online portal crashed. It wouldn't let banks enter loan application information.
KELLY: Well, Sarah Piepenburg is a small business owner who applied during the first round and was shut out. She owns Vinaigrette. That's an olive oil and vinegar shop in Minneapolis. And I asked her to tell me what happened last time around.
SARAH PIEPENBURG: So we applied, I think, two days after the funding became available. A week goes by. The banker says, well, right now we aren't processing any applications for businesses under 25 employees. And I have to say, it made my heart sink. But at the same time, I kind of understood. But he said, well, you know, I'll follow up with you in a week. I didn't hear from him. I followed back up, heard from somebody different at the bank and was told that they were not processing anything right now, at this moment, for under 10 employees. Then when we followed back up - yeah, all the money is gone.
KELLY: How did you get that news - on the phone?
PIEPENBURG: On the phone - we had to call. My hopes weren't set that high. But also, in the back of my mind, it just is - you know, I'm only asking for $25,000, right? - because this is supposed to just bridge us. And so to be turned down - it was a little hard.
KELLY: So what does not having that money mean for your business?
PIEPENBURG: To pay the rent...
KELLY: I'm sorry. Take your time. I imagine this is so, so hard. I'm sorry.
PIEPENBURG: Yeah. Truthfully, to pay our rent, to maintain our staff, if we don't have sales coming in - I need to be able to pay my employees.
KELLY: So now you're applying again because there's this second pot...
KELLY: ...Of PPP funding. Your application has gone in already.
PIEPENBURG: It has as of today.
KELLY: Are you hopeful?
PIEPENBURG: We switched banks, so yes but no. In talking to a few other business owners that had applied through Wells Fargo, they were also denied. And one business owner went and took his business to a teensy, tiny little bank and was able to get the PPP through them. So I took his recommendation, and we are applying through a small bank. And so I'm - I don't know. I'm scared. If I'm honest, I'm scared. It's hard to be hopeful.
KELLY: Would you tell me just a little bit more about your business? I heard you started it with your husband.
PIEPENBURG: We did, actually, like, in the heart of the recession (laughter). I was actually home with our son. My husband was in sales. And with the downturn in the economy, we were afraid that he was going to lose his job. And we thought, well, if we're not going to make any money, let's not make any money doing something that we love.
PIEPENBURG: So we kind of started kind of toying around with the idea and cashed out our 401(k)s. And here we are 10 years later.
KELLY: And has it been a success?
PIEPENBURG: It's sustained our family. There's been hard times, I'm not going to lie. We have an amazing customer base. So yeah, I feel successful in that regard.
KELLY: Sarah, thank you.
PIEPENBURG: Mmm hmm.
KELLY: That was Sarah Piepenburg, the owner of Vinaigrette in Minneapolis, one of many small business owners waiting to hear if they're going to get one of those checks from the Paycheck Protection Program. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.