The new bill would extend the current deadline for small businesses to apply for a PPP loan from March 31 to May 31, as well as give 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 bill into law in the coming days.
“We hear from people all the time that they are operating at a fraction of their capacity, and what the pandemic did was it affected businesses who are in the business of bringing people together,” Bourdeaux said. “The idea is to try to keep them afloat until we can get to the other side of the pandemic, get opened up again and get them off to a good start in a post-pandemic world.”
The program, created in March 2020 as part of the CARES Act, has awarded 7.5 million loans totaling $687 billion to small businesses during the last year, according to data from the Small Business Administration. After speaking with Gwinnett County businesses in her district, including the Aurora Theatre, Bourdeaux learned that some needed a longer window to apply for these funds.
“We’ve done what we could to engage our patrons with online work and some limited in-person events, but the size of the audience that we can have with social-distancing requirements makes it very difficult to do that in any tangible economic fashion,” Rodriguez said.
In addition to applying for another PPP loan, Rodriguez’ organization will apply for a SBA Shuttered Venue Operator Grant. Before the American Rescue Plan changed aid guidelines, Rodriguez could only apply for one funding source at a time, with the original loan application deadline expiring before he’d learn if his company received the grant.
Rodriguez alerted Bourdeaux of his need, prompting her to speak to more businesses and meet with members of U.S. Congress on both sides of the aisle. Her bill passed the U.S. House on March 16 in a 415-3 vote. “Washington, D.C. after January 6 has become very bitterly divided, and it was such a refreshing moment to have this be a bill that was supported by both sides at such large numbers,” Bourdeaux said.
Located in the heart of Lawrenceville, the Aurora Theatre, which is in the process of a $35-million expansion of its facilities partly funded by the city and Gwinnett County, received approximately $150,000 from its first PPP loan. That went toward the $3 million it takes to operate its facilities and pay 15 employees and more than 150 performers each year.
The organization hopes to receive about $900,000 between its next PPP loan and a Shuttered Venue Operator Grant. It has already applied for the second PPP loan of about $150,000, and it will apply for the $900,000 grant when applications open in April. If both are received, the grant would be deducted by the loan amount.
Rodriguez and Pence fell confident the financial help would allow them to sustain the theater until they can open again for full-capacity performances.
“It means a lot for us to be able to advocate for the arts as a small business and an economic development engine and help other organizations in the process,” Rodriguez said. “If we can lift up the entire art sector, I’m happy to be a part of that.”