Underserved communities hopeful new program will save their businesses

PITTSBURGH — A new program established by the Paycheck Protection Program is focused on reestablishing small minority-owned businesses that have struggled financially due to the pandemic.

Joana Vaz, who owns a food delivery service in Pittsburgh’s Point Breeze North neighborhood, is calling this program a lifesaver.

Vaz went from making $20,000 a month to $300.

Her healthy food delivery service had more than 40 accounts, including several technology companies.

Now, Vaz is down to one client.

“That’s where I had my warehouse. I don’t know if I can keep going,” said Vaz.Only small and minority-owned businesses can apply for the loan. Larger corporations will be forbidden.

“We all have payments and bills to pay and then everything stopped so then we accumulated all those bills. So technically you aren’t out of the red. You are still struggling,” said Vaz.

“Don’t be afraid to do what you need to save your business,” said Melanie Marie Boyer with the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Boyer tells Channel 11 that during the last round of PPP loans, Hispanic owned businesses were intimidated by the process.”

People are still hurting. They feel like they don’t have access to the resources. They just don’t know,” said Boyer.

The chamber has partnered with Customers Bank to offer a streamlined platform that will help minority-owned businesses navigate the application process.

The service is even offered in Spanish.

“The portal is something that is simple to walk through. It gives you every step. People have anxiety getting loans. It’s one of the most stressful things in life, we really wanted to break that barrier,” said Boyer.