Photo: Office desk table with notebook, calculator and PPP Loan text by Marco Verch under Creative Commons 2.0

Sponsored By Cross River Bank

Lindsey Holmes

Like most small business owners, the pandemic created anxiety about my health and the future of my business. When I heard about the CARES Act and the chance for a Paycheck Protection Program loan, I was eager to apply as it was the lifeline I so desperately needed. The program began on April 3rd, 2020. I worked around the clock with little success at many banks that did not have the time for someone like me. My heart sank when on April 16th, 2020, I saw a message on the Small Business Administration (SBA) website that read: “Currently unable to accept new applications.” 

The program is designed to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the program had limitations that made it impossible for minority and women-owned business enterprises (M/WBE’s) to succeed from day one. Since the launch of PPP, I’ve noticed the blatant and unfair treatment of M/WBE’s in accessing the funds. For example, many big banks I attempted to work with created additional criteria that prohibited my application. They mandated that small businesses needed to have at least one and sometimes two product relationships. One notable bank required a Small Business Checking, Savings, and Credit Card to apply for a PPP loan. The requirement all but excluded the mom-and-pop shops built by doers, dreamers, and dedicated community members. It also dismissed entrepreneurs in rural or urban-based communities without convenient access to nearby major banks.

Weeks later, when Congress replenished the program, I tried again to get the vital funds I needed to keep my business going. PPP was still in high demand, and vast groups of business owners—especially M/WBE’s–

—were hanging on by a thread. Eventually, I found a savior not only for myself, through a small community bank in Fort Lee, New Jersey—Cross River Bank. I had never heard of Cross River; they didn’t even sound like a bank to me. I was vocal about my experiences at other banks on social media and frustrated with the entire ordeal when an executive from Cross River proactively reached out and asked if he could help. I found their application process thorough, which left me skeptical about whether my loan would be approved. Shortly, as promised, the funds were deposited into my account. The anxiety and stress I had been experiencing for months ended. 

After receiving my own PPP loan with Cross River, I embarked on a campaign to pay this forward and get others the relief they desperately needed. Cross River not only helped me get my loan, but they empowered me to facilitate loans for friends, neighbors, and other small businesses across the community. It was an open door for every small business that needed a loan—it didn’t matter the size, amount, or whether or not the owner had a previous relationship. They reached out to me personally and asked that I help fulfill the bank’s commitment to equality and inclusion and join them in their fight to get the economy back and running. Cross River provided me with more than an opportunity— they gave me the chance to get involved. I was able to help others pick themselves up, and more importantly, find hope again in financial institutions. Together, we helped bring more than 1,000 small business owners into the economy, enabling them to dust off and get up after months of being neglected. I took a chance on Cross River, and they took a chance on me. Cross River’s initiative emanated from its core and its sole purpose: to provide access to financial services to those in need. Ultimately, together with their dedicated team, I was able to bring hundreds of MWBE’s through the doors of Cross River.

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