Chicago coronavirus closures leave small businesses in limbo waiting for SBA loans to stay afloat

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Small businesses in Chicago and Illinois have taken huge financial hits due to the stay-at-home order to combat the coronavirus pandemic, and many are still trying to find ways to pay their employees to stay afloat.

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Small business owners may be well-versed in problem solving, but with some big looming financial questions, there is no quick fix.

"You really need answers now," said Mike Miller, owner of Delilah's and Bottom Lounge. "Nobody has the answers. Even the people who pose the questions don't have the answers, and that's what's frustrating for everyone."

Miller was among thousands to apply for federal loans Friday.

"It's one thing to try and figure out your business, but it's another thing to try and advise your team," he said.

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Jessica Mayle with the Illinois District of the U.S. Small Business administration called the process "overwhelming," and said there is no timeline on loan processing.

"There really is no playbook," she said. "We appreciate the patience. We are training more lenders every day so we can provide these loans."

In the meantime, Miller is leaning on local bankers for more immediate help and found patrons willing to buy gift certificates that allows him to pay staff. He said in Chicago, everyone can look out for each other.

"Order food from your favorite restaurants, buy gift certificates from your favorite businesses," he advised.

The funding for federal loans is not unlimited; those interested are urged to apply soon. On Friday there were loan applications totaling more than $5 billion.
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