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Many banks weren't ready for the crush of applications, hampered in part by the 11th hour release of rules.

COURTESY PHOTO: BRADLEY W. PARKS/OPB - Double Mountain Brewery owner and brewmaster Matt Swihart sits for a portrait in his office in Hood River.Last week, Matt Swihart sounded optimistic.

The coronavirus pandemic had forced him to lay off about 90 employees from Double Mountain Brewery in Hood River and Portland. But the brewmaster had a plan. First thing Friday morning — as soon a new small-business lending program opened — he would apply for a government-backed stimulus loan and rehire as many people as possible.

By Monday morning, he was alarmed.

"It's so frustrating," he said. "I can't sleep. It's awful."

So far, his application had gone nowhere.

The launch of the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program set off a race among business owners desperate to apply for forgivable loans that would allow them to temporarily retain or rehire workers. But many banks weren't ready for the crush of applications, hampered in part by the administration's 11th hour release of its final rules.

Swihart said his bank informed him on Saturday that it was only taking loan applications from single-owner entities. Swihart is Double Mountain's primary owner, but the brewery was started by a group of family, friends and other investors. He'd have to wait up to a week for a different application.

That was a startling notion. Swihart knew that many of the 30 million small businesses around the country were also vying for help. He started contacting other lenders.

"I'm reading things in the news that suggest that the funds will be evaporating quickly and may not be available," he said. "So, I'm panicking a bit that we might get shut out of the system."

This OPB story is shared as part of a local media project to increase COVID-19 news coverage.

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