Apr 3, 2020

Axios PM

Good afternoon: Today's PM — edited by Justin Green — is 514 words, a 2-minute read.

1 big thing: Small business bailout woes

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Websites crashed, phones jammed and confusion reigned as small businesses rushed at today's kickoff to get their chunk of the $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program.

  • Why it matters: This is a race to save jobs in the present and the future, and to ensure that as many workers as possible keep their benefits and paychecks during the coronavirus lockdown.
  • By the numbers: Thus far today, the program has resulted in 6,820 loans totaling $2.2 billion, the Small Business Administration's head tweeted this afternoon.

"Borrowers are waiting for their money, but the banks' hands are tied because they can't get into the SBA's portal," Paul Merski, who heads up government relations for one of the biggest community bank advocacy groups, told Axios' Courtenay Brown.

  • 60% of banks have not previously participated in SBA lending programs, he notes.
  • Some banks and lenders, like Wells Fargo, said they wouldn’t be ready to take applications today.
  • Others, like Bank of America, initially said they made the decision to only take customers who had previously taken out a loan with them to speed up the process. After a slew of outrage, it subsequently said small businesses that did not meet this requirement could deal directly with bankers to submit an application.

Between the lines: Because many banks are only accepting existing business clients, and some other banks aren't processing PPP loans at all, it's likely that many small businesses will get left out because they picked the "wrong" bank years ago.

Axios' Dan Primack and Alayna Treene made an open call to Axios readers, asking them to share their experience this morning.

  • Nick B: “Commercial lender here. We worked late hours trying to internally review applications only to find out they would no longer accept the prior application. Desperate businesses are redoing applications. Underwriting is not well defined, banks are asking for varying, different supporting documentation. E-Tran applications are backlogged. Billion-dollar banks are left with one or two individuals that even have access to process into the SBA. 1000s of apps.”

Go deeper: More anecdotes from the front lines

Bonus: Pics du jour
Photo: Elaine Thompson/AP

Above: A carpenter cuts plywood to cover a closed store in downtown Seattle.

Below: School buses sit parked in a lot as schools remain closed in Providence, R.I.

Photo: David Goldman/AP
2. Catch up quick
  1. Business latest: Mark Cuban criticizes "arrogant" 3M on respirator production. (Bonus: Cuban opens the door to 2020 bid.) — Wartime mobilization effort on ventilators and medical supplies started too late.
  2. Oil latest: The amount of gasoline American drivers are consuming dropped to levels not seen in more than 25 years.
  3. Politics latest: The national stockpile description changed on the government website to match Jared Kushner's comments.
  4. Jobs update: The U.S. lost 701,000 jobs in March, but the new report doesn't reflect the height of the virus' impact on the economy.
3. 1 hopeful thing
Photo: National Orchestra of France/AP

The National Orchestra of France is here to please, with a social media-friendly version of French composer Maurice Ravel's "Bolero," AP reports.

  • The performance starts with three musicians: a cellist, a violinist and a percussionist with "Stay home" written on his red drum. More and more join, until they are an orchestra of 50.

Behind the scenes: The musicians got their scores by email. They also got an audio track to listen to through headphones as they played.

  • The musicians filmed themselves over four days in the final week of March. No black tie. The clothes were casual, with open shirts, T-shirts, jeans.

Worthy of your ears.