Gresham business ‘hits brick wall’ with SBA loan program


Many small businesses are having trouble accessing the federal government's Paycheck Protection Program

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Like many small business owners across Oregon, Terri and Todd Johnson are struggling to keep their company alive. 

They own Countryside Pet Resort and Spa in Gresham—providing boarding and daycare services to pet owners. Under normal circumstances, they would be caring for dozens of dogs as owners leave for vacations. But the coronavirus pandemic has brought their business to a grinding halt. 

The Johnsons have tried to apply for the federal government’s $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program. It’s part of the emergency stimulus bill approved by Congress last month and is designed to help small businesses keep their workers on the payroll. If all employees are kept on a business’s payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities, then the SBA will forgive the loan. 

It’s a popular safety net for obvious reasons and one the Johnsons leaped at after furloughing six of their nine employees.

“To have our staff come back—that would be amazing—and help pay the mortgage to stay open,” Terri Johnson mused. 

Terri Johnson owns Countryside Pet Resort and Spa in Gresham with her husband, April 10, 2020. (KOIN)

But the family, like many other small business owners, have hit roadblocks in trying to access the program. 

Despite being debt-free and having never taken out a business loan in the past, the Johnsons said their bank hasn’t been able to get them the SBA loan. 

“They’re now approved to give loans but they can’t get access to the SBA website so we hit a brick wall there. We’ve gone to national banks to try and get a loan through them and there’s always a reason why,” said Terri Johnson. “All these things are happening outside your control.”

Countryside Pet Resort and Spa remains open… for now. The owners have been brainstorming ways to stay in business, such as offering online dog training classes. They are also asking pet owners to consider dropping off their animals at daycare if they need help concentrating on running a home office. Essential workers may also want to take advantage of the service. 

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