Small business owners say applying for emergency funds has been anything but easy

Opening the Mom's The Word maternity store on Sacramento Street in San Francisco 23 years ago wasn't easy, say the owners.

But it was nothng compared to applying for federal relief for small businesses.  

"The hardest thing I've done in 23 years by a long a shot," says co-owner Sarah Pollak.

The owners have applied for about $96,000 through the paycheck protection program, or PPP, for their seven employees. That took eight days. 

They' re still waiting for the money.

"I want to pay my staff. They need money. They need it today. They haven't had a paycheck in three weeks. That's not okay," she says.

The PPP is a $349 billion life raft designed to get cash into the hands of small business owners, (those with fewer than 500 employees), who are being crushed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Businesses are directed to apply for the money through banks who get the funds from the Small Business Administration. But business owners say the process is moving too slowly. 

"Zero. Zero money. No word. Nothing," says Paul Miller.

Miller owns the Royal Cuckoo Organ Lounge in the Mission District. He's trying to get money to pay his nine employees at the the bar and at a small market he also owns.

"Just confusing. We go around to a network of bar owners and small business owners. Everyone is talking. Where is this money? How do we get it? There's a lot of confusion. Nobody seems to know," says Miller.

The SBA says as of Monday 941,000 PPP applications have been approved nationwide totaling $228 billion. There's still no word on when businesses will see that money.

"Our top priority is making sure these programs are up and running as fast as possible to provide relief to American workers and businesses," the SBA said in a statement. 

Small business advocacy groups say the SBA is being overhwelmed and that it is severely understaffed.

"Not enough money. Not enough infrastructure. You are not going to get money to small businesses quick enough," says Lloyd Chapman, who heads the American Small Business League, based in the Bay Area. Time is crucial.

"At first I thought i was going to be all right. Now I'm really crunching numbers. I'm getting worried," said Miller.