Hutchinson Photo c / o Tampa Shuffle
Jennifer Evanchyk, co-owner of Shuffle Tampa, was ready to breathe a sigh of relief after the difficulties her business faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was a “life changing” feeling, she says. Shuffle had waited so long for relief.
Funds had to be deposited into their business account within seven days. Evanchyk and his business partner Danielle O’Connor checked their bank accounts every day, eagerly awaiting the money. Shuffle could improve his air conditioning for the brutal summer heat, Evanchyk thought. It could fix the company’s backyard and make other crucial improvements. She and O’Connor could finally emerge from the turbulent pandemic year.
But day after day, the money was not there. The anticipation became more terrible and their anxiety intensified. She was constantly logging into an online portal to check the status of their loan.
She checked over and over again, until one day, towards the end of June, she logged in to see a devastating word: “rejected”.
“It was pure shock,” Evanchyk told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.
The official rejection letter gave three reasons why Shuffle could have been refused the loan, after being approved.
- You have applied for the SVOG (Shuttered Venue Program) and are therefore not eligible for the RRF.
- You have already defaulted on an SBA loan.
- After reviewing your award request, the SBA has decided that your award cannot be approved due to an ineligible business type or other related reasons. The SBA will take no further action on your request.
But neither of the first two applied to Shuffle, Evanchyk said, and the last potential reason was vague.
She looked for answers. She made calls and texted, but no one answered. Finally, she thought to herself: how could they approve us, then suddenly deny us?
Around this time, Evanchyk saw a June 24 article published by FSR Magazine: “SBA Cancels More Restaurant Revitalization Fund Grants. “
“Another twist in the distribution of Restaurant Revitalization Fund grants by the Small Business Association (SBA) took place at noon on Wednesday as an unknown number of previously approved applicants received rejection notices,” the article.
In March, when Congress created the $ 75 billion restoration fund as part of the Biden administration’s $ 1.9 trillion US bailout, it included language that the SBA should give the priority for funding businesses owned by women, people of color and veterans.
In June, a conservative legal group founded by Stephen Miller and Mark Meadows, close associates of former President Donald Trump, filed a complaint in Texas on behalf of the owners of the restaurant “Blessed Cajuns”, arguing that the prioritization of candidates on the basis of race and gender is unconstitutional.
Next month, the New York Times reported that the federal judges said it was evident that the program’s policy violated the Equal protection clause of the Constitution. The SBA suddenly ended the policy and revoked the awards of nearly 3,000 priority applicants who had been approved for grants. A total of 265,000 business owners have been denied funding from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, while more than 100,000 have been approved.
Since the story broke, it has reached the national media, while affecting the livelihoods of people across the country.
It leaves people like Evanchyk and O’Connor to suffer.
“Having gone through the last 15 months of this pandemic and being told that help is on the way, just pulling everything out from under you is a blow to the bottom,” she says.
It’s one thing to simply be denied, says Evanchyk. But having the funds secured and then having them revoked is disastrous for their livelihood and for the efforts that Shuffle has put into the Tampa Heights community.
Shuffle opened in March 2018 and was famous front vagina since. It offers community shuffleboard league nights, corporate team building and recreational therapy for local veterans. The building has four indoor shuffleboard courts, a full bar, and a kitchen. Maintaining such a business is expensive and the last year has been the biggest challenge in Shuffle’s existence.
“I feel like these SBA funds died in the water,” Evanchyk says.
But she and O’Connor aren’t giving up.
They have contacted state officials and are asking community members to do the same. At the top of the home page on the Shuffle website is a link to the congress petition to top up the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. It literally takes 15 seconds to complete, says Evanchyk.
With enough people making their voices heard on the situation, there is a possibility for a better future.
“We hope that new funds will open,” says Evanchyk. “And that would mean so much to us.”
CL has contacted the local SBA office to inquire as to why Shuffle was approved and then denied his loan, but has yet to receive a response. Has your business been denied an SBA loan after it was initially approved? Email me ([email protected]) or CL’s anonymous inbox ([email protected])
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