Rejected, Dejected

Bike races often start with a “neutral zone” — yes, just like the Federation and Romulans in Star Trek — a few kilometers where the peloton rolls out gradually, sort of a parade through the starting town. It’s a neutral place where nothing of note generally happens.

Except in this year’s Giro d’Italia, when in a very early stage, one of the pre-race favorites rolled his tire over someone’s discarded water bottle, fell and broke his collarbone. Race and season over before it barely started.

That is how my week feels like it is going.

Yesterday I told Kara I never did much freelance writing because I wasn’t fond of all the rejection that comes with it. So instead I’m conducting business during a pandemic, which has brought a huge amount of rejection my way.

I have applied here, there and probably not everywhere, but any place I can find, for financial assistance, both governmental and private. Mostly what this has brought is rejection.

Some of them, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s offer of assistance, I’m quite sure it’s not me, since that website crashed and burned within 15 minutes of opening, before I could get my application in. Money gone before the peloton cleared the neutral zone.

Some of it was general incompetence, perhaps some portion of it mine, mostly that of others. My initial plan, since I couldn’t find a bank willing to countenance my application for the Paycheck Protection Program, was to go with the Employee Retention Credit, but I couldn’t find a single person able to help me with it. Not my accountant, not a regional business assistance office, not the IRS . . . I got what I thought at the time was some assistance from Senator Michael Bennet’s office, but it wasn’t enough to actually be helpful.

The most helpful advice I got was from an accountant not my own, who told me to instead apply for the PPP. By now it was later in the pandemic game and more entities were offering to facilitate PPP loans. I ended up going through Paypal, and the application process was easy enough, but finding interested people to assist in follow-up has been about like you would imagine it would be from a giant company not actually run by human beings.

The PPP loan is supposed to be forgiven if you adhere to a very complex set of rules that kept changing (and are still changing months later). I out-smarted myself: I asked for the amount I figured I could spend appropriately during the eight-week window of forgiveness, and it turns out I estimated very well. However, shortly after the money arrived in my bank account, congress decided eight weeks wasn’t addressing on-going Pandemia well enough and extended the use period to 24 weeks — enough time that I could have appropriately spent the full amount I was eligible but didn’t apply for. All I got for thinking it through was to short myself over $5,000.

In the meantime, if there was a grant we seemed remotely eligible for, I submitted an application. And have routinely been rejected.

I don’t know if my applications aren’t supplicating enough. I do know we’re not minority enough, not veteran enough and, despite Kara’s ownership, not woman enough. I tried to apply for one, which wanted a huge amount of information for $5,000, that said “majority woman owned or managed,” and since Kara is now managing about 90 percent of the day-to-day operation, I figured we qualified.

But they sent a rejection to my query, saying, “Sorry, but you need to be majority woman-owned or managed.” Their application had no place to address woman management.

There’s the monthly grant that says it’s for businesses operating in rural areas — but nowhere in the formulaic application does it address ruralness. That one offers the kindest rejection, however: when you apply they tell you if you haven’t heard from them by the middle of the month, you didn’t make the cut. And I haven’t heard from them in all my months of applying.

This is as opposed to the mentoring organization that I’m sure feels it’s being helpful and sympathetic when it sends, every month, a rejection e-mail but then assures you your application has been automatically moved to the following month’s consideration. Only to get another rejection e-mail that moves you to the next month to get another rejection e-mail . . . Several times I considered asking to be removed from their treadmill, because I just don’t need the rejection, but then, like any good lottery player, I figure there might be some small chance. There never is.

This week has been super special, however. Right after I compiled gross sales showing that we are operating off the revenue we were collecting a full decade ago, we finally heard from the State of Colorado, which has turned its offer of assistance into a stretched-out beauty pageant. Rejected, of course.

The state seemed quite surprised to report that 5,500 businesses had requested over $135 million in assistance from a fund totalling $25 million. While we seem like a “worthwhile and deserving business,” we’re not worth their while and not deserving. Good news, though: we are being rolled into the second round for future rejection.

The best news of the week came during a Zoom on PPP forgiveness, the form recently changed from the form sent out a month ago. The county’s “recovery office,” staffed by a former Pat’s employee, dropped a bombshell when it announced the Economic Injury Disaster Loan advances that many of us received are no longer being considered grants, but loans.

Yes, money the feds glad-handed out to help people — here you go, yours to keep — is somehow now to be repaid.

That was not in my budget.

As the pandemic rages unabated, never actually dealt with in this country, ramping up elsewhere across the world, now that we have gone months without events, now that we are heading into the slow months of winter — now the feds have decided they are going to treat their advances as loans.

Yes, it’s in the name: Economic Impact Disaster LOAN, but Pat’s, of course, got rejected for the loan itself. “We’re sorry,” the letter said, but here’s $7,000 we hope will help.

The money materialized in our bank account without much information. I never signed a loan agreement; terms were never established. But I was told yesterday these advances are now “1% trailing loans,” whatever that means. And it appears to have been made part of the PPP forgiveness form, when it never was before.

And the PPP itself: one minute the feds are contemplating an across-the-board forgiveness for any loan under $250,000; now they’re offering a “simplified” form for loans under 50,000 that only requires about a ream of paper to prove you used the money properly. The Small Business Administration has yet to forgive a single loan, despite applications submitted by 96,000 businesses. Many banks don’t yet have a procedure to accept any forgiveness application, even though there was apparently an initial deadline of Oct. 31.

I get that all of us are figuring this out as we go, but when the rulemakers keep making up completely different rules and the senate leader announces summarily that he’s not interested in anything prior to the election . . . Once again it seems like People of Money don’t even understand that down below them is a sea of people drowning.

Pat’s is hanging in there, but winter is coming, as those Throne people used to say. Income is down one decade’s worth; most of my applications for assistance are rejected; I outsmarted myself on the PPP — and now I have to figure out how I’m going to repay $7,000 that I was told was a grant but suddenly is now a loan.

When you roll over a water bottle in the neutral zone and break your collarbone, on the eve what is anticipated could be a Grand Tour victory, it’s not just your collarbone that breaks. It’s your spirit, too, and this week I know just how that rider feels.

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