Small Business Administration holding biweekly workshops on government aid

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Small business owners may feel awash in a sea of paperwork when trying to obtain government aid, but the U.S. Small Business Administration is throwing them a life preserver.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3 p.m., the SBA is holding virtual seminars on how to navigate the Economic Aid Act’s small business support programs.

“We really just wanted to make the ... relief package more accessible and understandable for small businesses,” said Jennifer Pilcher, a public affairs specialist with SBA. “It’s the nation’s largest economic-relief act ever. There’s a lot to it.”

She said the sessions will cover topics like the Paycheck Protection Program relaunch, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant.

Ms. Pilcher was particularly focused on the PPP and took the opportunity to answer one frequently asked question about the program.

“This is a relaunch of the Paycheck Protection Program, and some folks are wondering if they have to have applied for forgiveness from their first Paycheck Protection loan to apply for a new one,” she said. “The answer is that they do need to have an application in for forgiveness in order to apply for the new PPP loan.”

The deadline for enrolling in that program is March 31, which is also when the seminars will end.

Jo Schmeiser, executive director of the Greater Milford Chamber of Commerce, thinks these seminars are a great idea.

“Anything that can be educational or informative is always a plus,” she said. “It can be overwhelming,” Ms. Schmeiser said of the process of applying for aid. “A lot of people that run businesses aren’t accountants or lawyers. They do need help or assistance with how to read contracts or how to fill out paperwork.”

She is also a fan of the SBA.

“We have worked with them in the past and would like to in the future, as well,” she said.

“We do a lot of referrals to the SBA,” Ms. Schmeiser said. “If I do get questions from members or we need any information or if there’s a new member that needs assistance, we’ll refer them.”

She added that her organization has put on workshops and events with government agencies in the past, including SBA.

On Tuesday, she’s hosting a lunchtime Zoom call with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration about the top 10 citations businesses received in 2020.

That event is for members and those seriously interested in joining only. To get access to the call, contact the chamber’s office at 422-3344.

Ms. Pilcher said opportunities like these, where business owners can get information from actual human beings, are a breath of fresh air in the midst of the pandemic.

“It’s helpful to folks to feel like there’s a human connection, that someone’s breaking down this giant website in understandable terms,” she said.

“I think the biggest value is that there’s a question-and-answer section at the end,” Ms. Pilcher said. “You get to ask your question from one human being to another. You also get to hear what other people’s questions are.”

Ms. Schmeiser sees the kind of support the SBA began providing through the Economic Aid Act in January as a lifeline.

“I believe it was necessary that they were helped,” she said of the nation’s small businesses struggling through the pandemic.

Business owners can also keep up to date with the latest information about COVID-19 relief in the Coronavirus Relief Options section of the SBA's website.

Visit SBA's Delaware branch for a calendar with more information about each of these biweekly seminars, including links to register.

Those interested can also gain access by emailing john.banks@sba.gov for a link to the virtual session.