The new bill would extend the current deadline for small business applications for a PPP loan from March 31 to May 31, and would allow the U.S. Small Business Administration an additional 30 days to process loans submitted before the new deadline. President Joe Biden is expected to sign the law in the coming days.
“We keep hearing from people that they are working at a fraction of their capacity and the pandemic has hit companies wanting to bring people together,” said Bourdeaux. “The idea is to keep them afloat until we get to the other side of the pandemic, open up again and give them a good start in a post-pandemic world.”
Launched under the CARES Act in March 2020, the program made 7.5 million loans to small businesses last year, totaling $ 687 billion, according to the Small Business Administration. After speaking with Gwinnett County companies in their district, including the Aurora Theater, Bourdeaux found that some needed a longer window to apply for these funds.
“We have done everything we can to get our clients to work online and some limited in-person events, but the size of the audience we can have with socially distant demands makes it very difficult to do so in a tangible economic way,” Rodriguez said.
In addition to applying for another PPP loan, Rodriguez’s organization will apply for an SBA Shuttered Venue Operator Grant. Before the US bailout changed aid guidelines, Rodriguez could only apply for one source of funding at a time, with the original loan application deadline expiring before knowing if his company had received the grant.
Rodriguez made Bourdeaux aware of its need and urged them to speak to more companies and meet with members of the US Congress on both sides of the aisle. Their bill was passed in the US House on March 16 by 415-3 votes. “Washington, DC is very bitterly divided after January 6th, and it was such a refreshing moment that this was a bill that was so supported by both sides,” said Bourdeaux.
Located in the heart of Lawrenceville, the Aurora Theater, which is currently expanding its facilities by $ 35 million, partially funded by the city and Gwinnett County, received approximately $ 150,000 from its first PPP loan. This went towards the $ 3 million required to run the facilities and pay 15 employees and 150+ performers each year.
The organization hopes to get around $ 900,000 between their next PPP loan and a Shuttered Venue Operator Grant. It has already applied for the second PPP loan of approximately $ 150,000 and will apply for the $ 900,000 grant when applications open in April. If both come in, the grant will be deducted from the loan amount.
Rodriguez and Pence were confident that the financial help would allow them to keep the theater going until it could be reopened for full capacity performances.
“It means a lot to us to be a small business and an engine of economic development for the arts and to help other organizations do it,” said Rodriguez. “If we can boost the entire arts sector, I’ll be happy to be a part of it.”