SBA administrator: More help is coming.

As she helped celebrate the potential of a newly opened women's business center at Benedict College, U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Jovita Carranza made a predictionto S.C. proprietors, incuding the minority small businesses owners disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic: Help is on the way.

Carranza said congressional negotiations over a second round of emergency coronavirus relief funding are focused on continuing to help small businesses 5.2 million of which have already received more than $500 billion in Paycheck Protection Program loans.

"We still have $130 billion remaining, and Congress is trying to negotiate how we will make the remainder of those funds available," Carranza told the Columbia Regional Business Report. "I've seen the language. It's very promising for small businesses."

Carranza said she assures the small business owners she talks to in her nationwide travels that PPP loans will continue to be forgiven. She also said current discussions include continuing to allow portions of the loan to be used for employee retention and wages, as well as factoring in operating cost flexibility as the pandemic stretches into its seventh month in the U.S.

"I'm hopeful that it'll turn around very quickly," she said. "The package will be another lifeline for small businesses, and they can rely on that."

A report released last month by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife found that minority-owned small businesses have been more likely to encounter difficulty obtaining loans and to express fears about permanently closing their doors. According to the poll, 66% of minority-owned small businesses are worried about permanently closing versus 57% of non-minority small businesses.

Thirteen percent of minority-owned businesses reported trying and failing to secure a loan, compared to 8% of non-minority businesses. And more minority-owned businesses (19%) planned on applying for a loan than non-minority businesses (6%).

The SBA's Women's Business Center Program is one way the organization is trying to combat those disparities. Established in 1988, the program aims to encourage women's entrepreneurship in communities through one-on-one counseling, lender referrals and loan preparation assistance, seminars and networking, among other services.

In July, the SBA announced plans to add two S.C. centers to its national network of 100. A Greenville location will join the center at Benedict College, one of only two...

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