So much of the focus of the media covering the Paycheck Protection program has been about the awful pace and communication about application processes and approvals. However, what has been less covered is just how difficult the application process itself is. At COVID Loan Tracker, we have gotten a rare insight into the difficulties everyday small business owners are having with the application process because of the thousands of emails we are getting from CLT community members.
Those general struggles are a story for a separate article, but today we want to focus on the challenges the application process poses for immigrants and those for whom English is a second language. IRS forms in particular, which are a crucial and obligatory part of the application for every lender, are made for professional accountants, not genuine small business owners. Terms and terminology are difficult even if you are a native English speaker. If you are not one, they are nearly impossible.
The IRS does offer forms in a few languages, but not all lenders are equipped to process such forms with an expediency, which means the default language is inevitably English. Amplifying this issue is the fact that immigrants become entrepreneurs and small business owners at almost 4x the rate of native born Americans*. This means that per capita, immigrants are much more likely to deal with PPP applications issues than native-born Americans. Furthermore, the types of business that immigrants own**—gas stations, drycleaners, nail salons, hotels & motels, and specialty food stores—have been particularly hard hit by the shutdown. Therefore, in many ways the Paycheck Program excludes immigrants almost by design, and resultantly, the COVID-19 lockdown poses a much larger threat to the livelihood of immigrants than it does to native-born Americans.
COVID Loan Tracker was started by small business owners Duncan and Rita MacDonald-Korth to help their fellow small business owners understand where PPP and EIDL money is flowing. We are empowering the business community and journalists with the data they need to keep the government accountable.