Small business owners in need of help are having trouble getting it

House Seven Design and Build home store on East 49th Street. (WTHR)
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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Small business owners seeking emergency loans to stay afloat are facing challenges. The biggest one? Getting through to someone.

Brian Zajac and his wife Anissa own House Seven Design and Build. Their company renovates and designs home. A few weeks ago they expanded to retail, opening a home store on East 49th Street.

"We came out of the gate strong," Brian said.

But then the coronavirus struck.

"Everything came to a screeching halt. We're a self-funded retail store...you can image the financial pressure it's putting on us," he said.

Brian said he's since applied for "every source" of assistance out there including emergency loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Thing is, millions of other small business owners have been doing the same. It's overwhelmed the system.

Brian said when he called to check on his application Friday, he was number 540 in line. On another call, there were nearly 1,400 other callers ahead of him. When he went to check online, it was "down for maintenance."

His 14-year-old daughter took video as her father spent most of Monday trying to get through to someone.

Most times he was automatically put on hold, others times he was disconnected.

When he finally did reach someone, the person saw Brian's application was in but not accessible. He told Brian the system was "backlogged" and could only urge Brian "to be patient."

Brian asked what that means – a month or more? The man said it was impossible to know.

"Okay two hours and 50 minutes later ... I have no more answers than I had before," Brian said after the call ended.

He noted the SBA employee "kept emphasizing the word 'hopeful.' Hopeful seems to be the word of choice now...I'm cautiously optimistic."

Especially after receiving an email from the SBA late Monday night encouraging him to reapply for an amended program, allowing for quick loans of up $10,000.

He applied immediately. He also applied for a loan through the city of Indianapolis and Indy Chamber's new Rapid Response Loan program which he called a "very simple process."

"The uncertain thing now is knowing if and when we get the money and figuring out how you survive over the next few months," Brian said.