‘It’s not frustrating, it’s scary’: Local business owner needs SBA loan money to survive

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — John Warren calls himself “the poster child for small business.” Like so many others right now, he’s on a financial edge, waiting for the small business loan program to get in gear.

Warren owns Hi-Tech Automotive in Virginia Beach. He says monthly revenue was about $60,000 — until COVID-19 slammed on the brakes.

“I was doing very, very well. In three months (before the outbreak) I almost doubled my payroll,” he said.

Now it’s down by 80 percent.

“I’ve never bounced a check in my life,” Warren said in a Wednesday morning interview.

But he had four checks bounce just this week.

Warren says he has maxed out credit lines with his parts suppliers and he barely made payroll last week.

“That took my son’s savings, I took money out of his account, and everything I had, just to make payroll,” Warren said.

He says he must have some loan money to survive.

“The bank president keeps calling me, saying we’re getting no information (from the Small Business Administration). It’s really killing us,” he said.

Warren was building the business for his 21-year-old son to take over. He’s already learned a lot about economic uncertainty.

“You never know what’s gonna walk through the door,” said John Warren Jr. “One day it’s 20 cars going in and out and the next day I’m pushing out maybe four or five.”

For Warren, word of another bailout in the works is little comfort.

“I haven’t seen the money from the first one. Frustrating isn’t the right word. It’s scary,” he said.

Warren says his biggest fear is not being able to pay employees who have children. He also says he doesn’t want to lay off technicians because they are “like gold and hard to find.”

10 On Your Side has reached out to the offices of Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Congresswoman Elaine Luria (D-Virginia Beach) for any updates on the small business loan program.

Warner gave us this response Wednesday afternoon: “I’m troubled by reports that small businesses are having trouble accessing the relief they may be eligible for in Hampton Roads and across the Commonwealth. With high demand for assistance, I continue to work with the Administration to ensure that they process these requests as expeditious as possible.”

Kaine’s office says “banks have started processing applications for the SBA loan program. The immense demand and rapid implementation have created bottlenecks, which our office is pushing the Trump Administration to work through.”

Luria’s office says “After talking to countless small businesses in our community, I understand the realities that so many are facing due to COVID-19. Coastal Virginia is dependent on small businesses, so rest assured that I will working with the Administration and Congressional leadership to provide the much needed relief.”

In a report published by the Washington Post, an SBA official says the major banks are to blame for not getting the approved funds into the hands of small business owners.

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