Pandemic loans bring success for some Jewish groups and confusion for many

Jewish institutions and organizations that hope to continue paying their staff during the coronavirus pandemic are once again in limbo as the federal government has exhausted the $ 350 billion set aside for wage relief.

The Paycheck Protection Program, which is administered by the Small Business Administration, distributed all the allowances included in the $ 2 trillion stimulus package adopted last month.

Some Jewish groups have already received grants under the program, others have had their applications rejected, and still others who have filed are still waiting to see if they were successful. Some groups may not have applied yet – applications only opened on April 3.

Now, umbrella groups working to guide the Jewish world through the financial crisis are urging loan seekers to remain calm even amid the lingering uncertainty – and wonder if nonprofits have been overlooked in the process. the first round of funding.

“The important thing is not to give up,” Eric Fingerhut, CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, said in a Facebook Friday. webcast. “If you haven’t got your loan yet, stay in the queue.”

Holocaust survivor Eva Brettler shares her story at the Yom HaShoah 2019 ceremony of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. Courtesy of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles

Even insiders don’t know how Jewish groups managed to take advantage of the funds, which covered two months’ salaries for applicants to keep employees on the payroll until the end of June. Jewish federations sent out a poll on Friday afternoon to assess the results.

But Doron Krakow, CEO of the JCC Association of North America, said that from what he heard anecdotally, more Jewish community centers were turned down than loans received.

Krakow said 12 to 15 Jewish community centers have reported receiving the money, and it expects that number to rise to 20 to 25 next week. But that’s about 150 TCGs in the country. Krakow said it did not know how many had applied for the loans, but said the number of recipients “is a small fraction of the field.”

The drafters of the stimulus bill said they expected banks to act impartially and treat applicants on a first come, first served basis.

This appears to have happened in some cases, such as Ramah of the Rockies, a Colorado-based Jewish camp who discovered his loan had been approved just days after working with the Bank of Colorado to submit his application.

But Mark Gurvis, executive vice president of the Jewish Federations, said a number of obstacles stood in the way of successful nominations for some groups, although he said he was already receiving thank-you notes from groups who logged on to the Umbrella webinars and subsequently obtained grants.

The main problem, he said, was that groups were better placed if they had a long-standing relationship with a lending institution.

“It wasn’t enough to have a checking account,” he says. “If the bank had no experience with you as a borrower, the banks needed some sort of filtering.”

“It was not enough to have a checking account. If the bank had no experience with you as a borrower, the banks needed some sort of filtering.

Yet another factor was that small banks in small communities were more agile and able to process loans faster than large institutions which were inundated with requests.

“While regional banks were able to move their customers much faster, for a highly concentrated Jewish community in urban areas, that was more of a problem for us,” Gurvis said.

Another difficulty, he said, was that the rush to get the program in place prevented clarity. The Small Business Administration, in conjunction with the US Treasury, released policy changes on April 2, the day before applications opened, and twice thereafter.

“As the Treasury tried to clarify the loans, they created new ambiguities,” Gurvis said. It was never exactly clear how much a company could charge and what should be included in the calculations, he said.

In the absence of this clarity, banks have established their own guidelines. Some were reluctant to lend to religious institutions until the Trump administration clarified that those institutions could receive the funds.

“At first the banks were like ‘We don’t think you are eligible,’” Gurvis said.

Additionally, some in the Jewish world and beyond have raised questions about whether nonprofit applicants have been cheated in favor of for-profit companies soliciting the funds.

Additionally, some in the Jewish world and beyond have raised questions about whether nonprofit candidates have been cheated in favor of for-profit companies soliciting the funds.

“We were competing with the private sector,” Krakow said.

An April 8 letter from the National Council of Nonprofits signed by the Krakow and Fingerhut groups suggested that nonprofits believed private sector companies and their allies in the Trump administration were hampering fair disbursement funds.

Nathan Diament, director of the Orthodox Union in Washington, said a number of affiliates in his group have been forced to turn to the big banks for help – and their demands have failed. necessarily been processed quickly.

“What we heard anecdotally, many banks were putting nonprofits at the back of the pack,” Diament said.

Congress is now considering a follow-through to the $ 2 trillion aid, relief and economic security law passed last month, and a key element will be more money for more small business loans. Fingerhut said in its post Friday that it plans to make an additional $ 250 billion available to small businesses.

Nonprofits are pushing again for the $ 60 billion dedicated funding they first asked for and didn’t get – and they want reassurance that groups providing aid during the pandemic will be placed on the front line.

From left to right: President of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Julie Platt; Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman; Jill Namm, president of the Jewish Federation Valley Alliance; and Federation CEO and President Jay Sanderson meet at “It Takes a Woman,” an event for Federation supporters.

“We continue to believe that Congress will likely pass additional money,” the Jewish Federations of North America said in an email Thursday to voters. “However, let’s not take this for granted. Please contact your members of Congress now.

Abba Cohen, who heads the Washington office of Orthodox Haredi organization Agudath Israel of America, said her group would also push for a clearer allocation of funds to nonprofits.

“These steps will hopefully resolve the main obstacles encountered: the slowness of the response from the banks, the preference of large organizations over smaller ones and loans being limited to already existing clients,” he said. declared in an e-mail.

Gurvis gave some advice to groups that have already applied for loans if they are considering a change in tactics.

“If you’re already in a process, you really want to understand where you stand with the bank, and will they move your request forward if there’s more money,” he said.

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