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Small-business owners across region await lifeline from Congress

More funds could be approved in Washington for oversubscribed stimulus loan program.

The fierce race for Paycheck Protection Program funds has been on hold, but small-business owners and their bankers are lining up for a second round. Negotiators in Congress are reportedly close to a deal that would add about $300 billion to the program. The initial allocation ran out last Thursday — nearly $350 billion spoken for, in less than two weeks.

For small businesses struggling with pandemic-related shutdowns, this program represents an important lifeline. The aid comes in the form of 1 percent interest loans, of up to $10 million, but most or all can be forgiven if certain employment goals are met.

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The Small Business Administration approved about 1.7 million loans through PPP so far, including nearly 47,000 loans totaling about $10.4 billion in Massachusetts. Many banks now have long waiting lists, with the assumption that Congress will replenish the program, possibly as soon as this week. Given the demand, it’s entirely likely the next allocation won’t be enough, either.

Here are five examples of small-business owners who are anxiously waiting on Washington — and five good reasons why Congress needs to act quickly.

Dana Strayton: For Strayton and her husband, Rob, this was supposed to be a time of expansion for Prince Street Café & Bakery, with plans to build a new location in Bedford alongside their shop in Lexington. Now, they face an uncertain future and may be forced to wind down a business that dates back nearly a century to a bakery her grandfather started in Boston’s North End. They laid off their four employees a month ago, and had been hoping the PPP money would keep their business afloat, potentially allowing them to hire their workers back. Strayton says she applied to Middlesex Savings Bank and Salem Five for PPP loans; she has yet to receive updates from either but expects the worst. They are frustrated that larger businesses seemed to have an advantage in the race for funds.

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Bill Greenberg: At the Light ‘N Leisure group of lighting stores, Greenberg is struggling just to keep the you-know-whats on. He had to lay off 18 of his 22 employees when the pandemic shutdown hit, though he keeps a skeletal operation at his Danvers, Milford, and Kingston stores. (They are closed to the public, but he can still fulfill orders.) He said he was locked out of Bank of America, his company’s longtime bank, on April 3, the PPP’s opening day, because his business didn’t have a borrowing relationship with the bank. (Bank of America quickly relaxed this restriction.) He then turned to Webster Bank but ended up in a long line, and was eventually shut out of the first round. Should he land PPP funds in round 2, he would bring back at least some of his workers, but much will depend on a broader economic recovery.

Larisa Stein: A dentist for three decades, Stein worries her Norwood practice could close completely without federal assistance. Stein sought a PPP loan for at least $15,000 through Bank of America but never heard back; she assumes she didn’t get funds in round 1. She continues to pay two employees, but is only allowed to do emergency procedures, and booked just three of those last week. She is unsure how much longer her practice can last. Even when the economy does reopen, she expects to see far fewer patients each day, to minimize crowds in the waiting room. She is at a loss for words: “I feel like, I don’t know, hopeless?”

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Gregory Kelliher: As chief executive of a medical billing firm in Lakeville, Kelliher helped several medical practice clients navigate the confusing world of PPP. But for Kelliher’s own business, the 35-person MD Pro Solutions, he was out of luck. He submitted an expression of interest to his bank, Santander, the morning of April 3, for a $259,000 request — enough to cover 2.5 months of his payroll. He learned Thursday that the PPP money had run out. (A Santander spokeswoman said the bank apologizes; it was unable to process loans for all interested customers, although it did process “hundreds of millions of dollars” before the PPP ran out, and has a “significant pipeline” of clients with applications ready to be submitted for round 2.) In anticipation of round 2, Kelliher is setting up a new account at Chase Bank. He said he will have to cut about half of his staff, and reduce the pay for everyone else, because his volume is roughly 15 percent of what it was a year ago. “There’s only so much I can try to do,” he said.

Sally Forbes: At Ferraro & Forbes, a Hingham firm that sells medical devices to orthopedic practices, Forbes had been counting on her PPP request through Santander. Revenue has plunged due to the stoppage of many medical appointments and procedures. Forbes said she had to lay off one of her three employees on Friday after she learned her request did not go through. She opened an account at a nearby local bank in preparation for round 2. “If you’re a small business,” she said, “you would have more success with a small community bank.”

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Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.