Photographer Shares Her Struggle to Access Coronavirus Relief Funds

In the US, small businesses have been struggling to access the COVID relief funds set aside for them in the original coronavirus stimulus package. And while additional funding is on the way, one Alabama photographer says that “hope is dwindling” she’ll receive anything at all.

When the US Government passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, it set aside nearly $350 billion to be used on low-interest “Paycheck Protection Program” loans for small businesses. The loan money is mean to provide 8 weeks worth of revenue for qualifying small businesses; money that doesn’t need to be paid back if it is used on expenses like payroll, rent and utilities.

Unfortunately, the program quickly ran out of money, and as we’ve been finding out over the past few days, many of the businesses that were approved for these ‘loans’ were anything but small—businesses like Shake Shack and Ruth’s Chris.

Meanwhile, small businesses who did not receive that money include people like Allison Hall, of Allison Jansen Photography in Huntsville, AL.

Hall recently shared her story to the local ABC News affiliate, explaining how she had applied for a PPP loan right away, thinking “okay this is going to be fine, we’re going to survive this” only to receive an email from her bank saying that the program had run out of money before her application could be considered.

“Now we’re back into the major worry-zone,” she told ABC 31. “It doesn’t look like we’re really going to get any help, so yeah it’s frustrating.”

Some of the big businesses who received the loans have either returned the money already (Shake Shack) or may be asked to. The Senate also passed an additional round of funding for the PPP, to the tune of $321 billion, just yesterday. That bill is expected to pass the House of Representatives tomorrow, after which President Trump has confirmed that he will sign it into law.

Sadly, when we caught up with Hall over email, she wasn’t holding out much hope that any of the aforementioned funds would make their way to her or other very small businesses like hers. She points to an email sent out by her bank earlier today, in which the branch cautioned applicants that “given the unprecedented demand for funds and the significant volume of applications that remain in process […] requests for PPP funds will likely exceed even the anticipated additional funding.”

“I know I am not alone. There are so many of us struggling to keep our heads above water,” she tells PetaPixel. “It’s very disappointing when you’re expecting funding only to find out the larger companies were prioritized over us smaller businesses.”

“Hope,” says Hall, “is dwindling at this point.”

Photo by Heather Edstrom Photography

With major industry news dropping almost daily, we often focus on the big names or the industry as a whole. After all, camera sales are down 64% in the US, and each day brings another announcement of some closure or delay. But in all of this, it’s easy to overlook the many, many thousands of individual photographers and small camera shops who are the most economically vulnerable.

Hopefully this most recent bit of stimulus will help ensure that at least some of them will be able to weather the economic storm.

Image credits: Header photo by Sharon McCutcheon, CC0

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