Michigan small businesses rocked by coronavirus turn to Congress for help

Congressional leaders said they are exploring a $250 billion expansion of the PPP program, which offers forgivable loans if the money is used for payroll and an interest rate of 1 percent on the rest.

The lights are off at Sun and Snow Sports in Plymouth. So is the heat. Orders for summer inventory are canceled.

But none of that changes the math for co-owner Rob Parent.

With $25,000 per month owed in rent and no sales since Michigan’s March 24 stay-home order, the swim and ski retailer can’t pay its bills.

“The really difficult things are the fixed costs,” said Parent, who also operates a store in Ann Arbor and a warehouse.  “You can’t scale that back, and we have zero revenue coming in right now.”

Parent is among the thousands of Michigan business owners who hoped two federal stimulus loan programs would help bridge the time between their temporary shutdown and a return to generating revenue.

Instead, the programs ran out of money. Now business leaders and small business owners like Parent are turning to Congress, asking for more funding for both the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the $380 billion Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. The federal efforts were announced after the coronavirus prompted closures of non-essential businesses nationwide. However, by April 16, PPP was depleted, and applications were halted for the loan program.

Restoring the Paycheck Protection Program is now a priority for dozens of groups that represent small businesses in Michigan. In all, Michigan had  873,722 small businesses in 2019 that employed 1.9 million, according to data from the federal government.

“This matter cannot wait,” according to a letter sent April 16 to Michigan’s congressional delegation from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and 33 other state business associations. 

“We urge swift congressional action,” the letter continues, “including program enhancements and additional funding so the business community and financial institutions can continue to distribute these desperately needed dollars to small businesses, which form the economic core of our communities. “

Congressional leaders said they are exploring a $250 billion expansion of the PPP program, which offers forgivable loans if the money is used for payroll and an interest rate of 1 percent on the rest. Employers with fewer than 500 employers were eligible.

Congress will be back in session on May 4, prompting the requests for immediate help. However, bipartisan negotiations will take place this weekend.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, said during a televised town hall on April 16 that adding new funding to the program is a priority. 

“I’m confident that we will be able to get that done,” she said. “We want to make sure everyone in Michigan is being supported with this.

Emergency federal stimulus funding seemed like a lifeline for the nation’s struggling small businesses when it launched April 3. According to the Small Business Administration, 1.66 million applications for PPP were approved, and a total of $349 billion in loans have been made by 4,975 lending institutions.

In Michigan, over 25,000 loans were approved with at least $8.5 billion in approved dollars, according to the Michigan Chamber. 

Interest in the program was immediate among University Bank customers, said Stephen Lange Ranzini, president of the Ann Arbor-based bank. Loan officers there wrote $9.2 million in applications, Ranzini said, with $7.75 million approved. Another $1.4 million were in process when the funding ran dry.

Fourteen businesses had been approved by the bank, but couldn’t get into the SBA system in time to get funding, Ranzini said.

Our staff literally were trying to log into [the system] around the clock including at 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. in the middle of the night to see if we could get through the SBA’s overloaded system when demand was lower, and still had a tough time doing so,” Ranzini said.

That situation played out at other banks in Michigan as customers hoped their applications would lead to funding. Among the University Bank customers seeking help: restaurants, a fitness center and high-tech research and development. 

Meegan Holland, spokesperson of the Michigan Retailers Association, said the situation is frustrating for retailers, many of whom face paying both fixed costs and covering bills for inventory, ordered to fill stores considered non-essential under the stay-at-home order.

One store owner, Holland said, told her she is using a credit card “to pay for inventory that she ordered for spring/summer and can’t sell to pay the bills.”

Parent said he and Heidi Parent, his wife and Sun and Snow co-owner, now qualify for unemployment under broadened guidelines that allow self-employed people to apply. That, he said, will help.


    The couple is preparing for an 18-month shutdown, and hoping that’s not the case. So far, their summer swim business is looking questionable as clubs cancel their competitive seasons. Looking ahead to winter sports makes him more optimistic, but that means several  months during which regular customers won’t need skis or boots. 

    Getting stimulus funds remains a hope, he said. Learning that his application didn’t make it through the system, Parent said, “rocked me pretty hard.”

    He continued: “It brought us peace of mind, knowing we were doing the steps necessary.We were told to sit and wait. So we did.”

    As a seasonal business, Sun and Snow employs 15 to 25 people. So far, all qualify for unemployment, Parent said. But if federal emergency funding reaches him, he’ll hire a few back to work on the store’s website. And he’ll pay the rent.

    “I just hope they can come up with a solution soon enough,” he said.


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    Nepotism/Donors rule
    Fri, 04/17/2020 - 8:13pm

    Our small business tried to apply to our bank for the small business loan, but no luck with the website. Reminds me of when Obamacare enrollment started and the website crashed with glitches, but we've been trying now for well over a week. I hear big banks favored by Trump had no problems rolling out the program and distributing funds. Also companies with over 500 employees got hundreds of millions of dollars and they were not supposed to even qualify. The system is always rigged so the rich get richer and working class gets stiffed.

    Fri, 04/17/2020 - 10:31pm

    You could have mentioned the two legislative drama queens who prevented the PPP from being replenished last week with $ 250 billion in a clean bill.

    middle of the mit
    Fri, 04/17/2020 - 11:07pm

    I am done, I say OPEN THINGS UP. This lib has been triggered!

    Give the cons EVERYTHING THEY WANT! Open it ALL UP! Let them find out what reality really is. If they believe like duane/obtuse believes, THEN THEY CAN AND SHOULD AND HOPEFULLY WILL TAKE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE OPENING.

    The lawsuits, the deaths ALL OF IT! It's on YOUR hands now. Even after the Governor opens up the economy. It. Is. On. You. With freedom comes responsibility. And NOT just for yourself. When you run a State, you do it for every citizen of said State.

    Do you all remember when conservatives complained that Obama was leading from behind? This President has literally said that he has NO RESPONSIBILITY, and then said HE HAD ULTIMATE AUTHORITY, and then walked that back and put RESPONSIBILITY on the Governors. And then beat them up or diminished what they were doing.

    Can you imagine the apoplectic outrage the conservatives would have managed to rage with? They beat him up for wearing a tan suit for crine in the night.

    They had more to say about his handling of the Ebola crisis that caused 2, Two, I say again, two deaths in America.......and yet nothing about this President.

    They told us that Obama was leading from behind. If Obama was leading from behind, this President is absent.

    How do you lead when you aren't there or if you are, you are more worried about your ratings? Not to mention the fact that the feds are stealing PPE from the States that the Feds say the States have to acquire on their own. My question? Are the States reimbursed for the money they paid for PPE that was confiscated?

    Again, If Obama had acted like this? You can't even imagine what would've happened. If I can't imagine, you can't either. I live among and am related and talk to them on a weekly basis. And I promise you......I never would have guessed they would have a coronary over a tan suit.

    This is the problem with the republican party. They have what I am now going to coin the duane/obtuse/republican perception paradox.

    They don't think that they have to believe anyone who knows anything or is educated in anything or is an expert in anything. They know it all, because they perceive they do know it all. And that is the only perception they need.

    And until it hits them or the ones they love, they won't believe, they won't perceive and they won't care.

    That is the duane/obtuse/republican perception paradox that the rest have to live with.

    The problem?

    They better hope this virus is a fake and it doesn't hit rural America. Because if it does?

    The paradox will be in trouble.

    Sat, 04/18/2020 - 12:27pm

    Your paradox fails before it can be applied. The most glaring proof of its failure we see every day when President Trump takes the podium to open the status report on the battle against the 'Wuhan China virus'. He brings the experts to the reporting, he has had them involve since the very beginning of this battle, he brings them to the podium and they describe what is being done and why it is being done, they unrestrictedly answer questions from the media, they even describe the interchanges during meetings with the President and how they are ask for their advice and how he has made that advice into policy, even how they have been integral in the establishment of criteria for states to address as they will phase in their opening up local economies.
    President Trump obviously perceives great value in the knowledge and skills and thinking of the experts because he ensures they are integral to his decisions. My perception of President Trump as taking the 'Wuhan China virus' a real and severe threat to the whole of America, he has mobilized the whole of federal government to fight this scourge, he had disrupted the whole of the American economy [record growth that he has taken great pride in] to disrupt the spread, he began looking to the future past the imminent conditions and began efforts to create the steps to the future [while so many governors were still looking at where we had been].

    Sat, 04/18/2020 - 4:56pm

    I bet you're a blast at parties. I crack up when you liberals use 'triggered'. It's a dead give away to what comes after. Your party screwed many people and at late, more small business owners. Hope you're proud.

    middle of the mit
    Sat, 04/18/2020 - 12:19am

    So Bridge,

    You post 10X25MM post at 10:31pm but you won't post mine that was before that time?

    And the conservatives think you are a liberal organization.





    This is what conservative Federal government gets the country.

    If you are unwilling to do the research, I will gladly do it for you. For free. Or, you can just ignore it and think you are informing the citizens of MI.

    I was and still am a defender of Bridge. Heck, you wouldn't even post my defense of you to your board. But when you wouldn't post the FACT that the former Governor is a liar?

    You are making me question why I think you are a non- partisan outlet. Don't let the conservatives tell you what to post or not.

    Keep up with duane/obtuse/republican perception paradox.

    The State and the nation will be beholden to the wealthy because of what you and every other new outlet allows to be printed.

    Joel Kurth
    Sat, 04/18/2020 - 9:02am

    Hi there. Thanks for your comment and readership!

    A note about the comments: Unlike most news outlets, we try to screen them to ensure they meet  our rules of conduct (no profanity etc.) The way our system works, it is easier to do them in batches every few hours so it can take a while to see comments.

    There is no priority given to one viewpoint or another. It's just that we get to them when we get to them. And lately we've been a little overworked.

    Is it the best system? Maybe not. But it's the fairest one we know of. We appreciate everyone's readership and support during this time.

    Joel Kurth

    middle of the mit
    Wed, 04/22/2020 - 11:35pm

    I understand that you have been receiving a lot of comments lately. I am sorry for being provocative or overly assertive. I just saw a whole bunch of posts that were being posted and mine weren't being posted in reply.

    I understand and I am not complaining because of the situation WE are ALL in, there will be more posts.

    But don't let the minority be the majority.

    That is the problem we are having.

    Kevin Grand
    Sat, 04/18/2020 - 9:53am

    Your posts probably get flagged because your "research" is hilariously lacking.




    And, oh yeah, I cannot forget to include this!


    On second thought, Mr. Kurth should just flag all of your posts since you fail to include the rest of the story.

    middle of the mit
    Thu, 04/23/2020 - 12:00am


    What you just showed me is that the Free Market CAN NOT BE TRUSTED.

    Do you understand that?

    I said the Feds were taking from the States what the Feds were telling the States it was THEIR RESPONSIBILITY to acquire.

    Do you understand?

    Just some links.






    What was it that you were saying about what???



    That's what I thought.

    Oh no! I just saw something that will further prove your position Positive!


    George Hagenauer
    Sat, 04/18/2020 - 10:21am

    A question I haven't seen addressed anywhere. First it is obvious it was underfunded but a key question is were businesses that had loans or credit lines moved to the front of the line because their key data was already on file or because that was insuring maintenance of loans/credit already owed to the bank. A major problem I saw in 25 years of helping small child care businesses in another state was that many of these businesses the folks you think of as real small businesses were too small to be efficiently helped by the Small Business Administration thus my job at a child care R&R . In doing the legislation they should have cut the employee numbers far lower because a lot of those businesses quite often operate without loans and thus have no access to easy capital in a crisis. Those are the real mom and pops and often if they have loans the collateral is their house.

    Sat, 04/18/2020 - 1:13pm

    Reuters posted an extensive analysis of PPP fulfillment across the states and the different types of small businesses last night: "Main Street bailout rewards U.S. restaurant chains, firms in rural states". It appears that smaller banks were far more adept at getting the SBA to approve loans for their customers and also launched their programs earlier.

    Sat, 04/18/2020 - 4:54pm

    Big stores hogged it all and there were even a few bank presidents that put them to the top of the list before applications were even being taken. It's all just so corrupt. I know for a fact that Chili's is one of them.

    Tammy Sue
    Mon, 04/20/2020 - 10:34pm

    Todd is right- when the government doles out money, it inevitably gets collected by those with the most political connections first. It doesn't matter who is doling out the money, Republican or Democrat or Communist or whatever, the more government gets involved in something the more corrupt that thing gets. Power corrupts. We can only hope that there is some sort of backlast against this government overreach and the people gain at least some of their lives, liberties, and property back soon.

    No More Corp Welfare
    Sat, 04/18/2020 - 5:02pm

    I like Andrew Yang's approach better. What a fresh approach! Then consumers would direct the economy with real supply and demand.