April 3, is the day virtually every small business and mid-size company in America has been waiting for.
The Small Business Association (SBA) rolled out its forgivable loan program - a near $350 billion relief effort. But local SBA lenders and shop owners say the disaster loan launch was itself a disaster.
Normally, the patio at Bantam's Roost Public House in Carlsbad would be full of customers, but like so many scenes across town, it's eerily dead.
"Every waking day you come in," says owner Alex Kleinman. "And you just get to the grind, and you hope you have a line out the door."
The doors are still open for takeout - but if they're going to stay open, the owner says he needs a disaster loan from the SBA - a loan program with a launch that was anything but seamless.
Like many restaurants, Kleinman encouraged his workers to file for unemployment.
"They depend on you every single day," says Kleinman. "And we depend on them to show up as well. You see them more than your actual family, so they become family."
To make sure that family has a job to come back to, Kleinman filed for a forgivable loan from the SBA on Friday – but he found more frustration than help.
"I tried to go on the SBA disaster loan site," said Kleinman. "Unfortunately, it kept crashing, so I wound up just printing it out and filling it out by hand."
He still hasn't received confirmation that his application went through.
"There's a misperception that this money is coming from the government," says Dan Yates, CEO of Endeavor Bank in Carlsbad, an SBA lender. "Actually, that's not the case."
Instead, he says banks are fronting the cash - banks that were flooded with applications.
"Everyone is looking for a loan turnaround in one day," says Yates. "And that's just not realistic at the sheer volume of the loans coming in."
He says much of the mess could have been avoided had federal officials not made unattainable promises – like when U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the SBA loans would be granted within one day.
Yates says the money will be there – it might just take several weeks to roll out the loans, not one day.
Days are long for Kleinman, who says the pandemic has left him sleepless most nights.
"We're a small business," says Kleinman. "We're a mom and pop, so we put everything we had into this. We're open every day, seven days a week, to make this work. We want to make sure we stay open, not only for our community but for our employees."
Bantam's Roost Public House has a GoFundMe account set up to help their workers.