(WSVN) - When the coronavirus crushed the economy, the federal government handed out billions to keep businesses afloat, and now, one South Florida contractor who got money is being told he has 10 days to repay it. Answers to his questions and others on tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
When the coronavirus swarmed in, almost everyone got slapped in the wallet. Some worse than others.
Eric Scarborough, EJD Construction Contractors: “When COVID started around March, we lost about $904,000 in new construction sales, so it really scared the crap out of me.”
Eric is a general contractor.
Eric Scarborough: “And I do home remodeling kitchens and baths and things like that, major home remodels.”
But as the virus crushed businesses, the federal government offered loans and grants to keep companies operating.
President Donald Trump: “We’ve now processed over $200 billion to small businesses to help retain their workers.”
Eric applied for a $300,000 loan.
Eric Scarborough: “I fill out the PPP loan, but because now it became two parts — the PPP loan and the EIDL loan, which is the grant.”
It sounds confusing, but while Eric didn’t get what he asked for, he did receive $24,000 and said he spent it the way he was supposed to spend it.
Eric Scarborough: “I use it for payroll, everything for employees. That money’s gone.”
Then, Eric got a letter from Bank of America.
Eric Scarborough: “So, in the letter, it said that I had to pay back that $10,000 and I had 10 days to do it.”
Ten days to return the $10,000 that Eric had already spent on his employees.
Eric then tried to straighten it out with the government and the bank.
Eric Scarborough: “And the SBA says, ‘No, that money is supposed to be eligible to you. You need to talk to Bank of America.’ I call Bank of America, and they say, ‘No, you have to talk to SBA.’”
A mess as a small businessman trying to survive gets sucked into the bureaucracy.
Eric Scarborough: “Someone made a mistake, and it wasn’t me, but I’m paying the consequences.”
Can a business be forced to return the money they got when the coronavirus hit, Howard?
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: “If the government can prove a mistake was made, even if it was by the government or the bank, they can force Eric to return the money.”
And if Eric doesn’t have the $10,000 to return within 10 days, then what?
Howard Finkelstein: “You cannot get blood from a turnip, as they say. If he can’t pay and they cannot work something out, the bank will have to take him to court when the courts reopen, eventually.”
Some other questions: a woman rents a room at a private home and has tested positive for the coronavirus. The landlord wants to throw her out. Can they?
Howard Finkelstein: “Right now there is a ban on evictions, and even if evictions were legal, you can’t throw someone out for being sick.”
A renter emailed that they are being charged a $100 COVID cleaning fee when they move out of their apartment. Is that legal?
Howard Finkelstein: “If it was not in the lease, no. You cannot charge a COVID cleaning fee.”
Eric Scarborough: “You guys did a lot.”
Good news for Eric. After we exchanged nearly 20 emails with Bank of America and the Small Business Administration, the bank agreed to lower the amount Eric owes from $10,000 to $5,000, and that big federal loan is now back on track, which would also help Eric pay back the $5,000.
Eric Scarborough: “Since you got involved, I now have an application that is being fast-tracked, so I should be getting a low-interest loan, which is good that I applied for anyways.”
The man knows how to build homes, but weaving your way through banks and the bureaucracy is a whole different hurdle for everyone.
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