Tonawanda restaurant misses requirement for loan forgiveness by 1%

Coronavirus

TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Vince Karam fought to keep his restaurant, Greek to Me, afloat during the pandemic. Now, he’s being told he didn’t struggle enough to get his second Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiven.

Karam said he was off by 1% to get this loan forgiven. He was only able to show a 24% reduction in business between 2019 and 2020, whereas the requirement is at least 25%.

Karam retained all nine of his employees through the entire pandemic. He said they received the same pay, even if it had to come out of his pocket.

He applied for both rounds of the PPP loans. The first one was forgiven no problem but he came up just shy for the second one.

“It’s a congressional law and it was passed and that’s the limit, there was no slide 20-25%, there isn’t even partial forgiveness it’s all or none and it all hinges on 1% of your sales,” said Karam.

Karam said the bank approved his second loan without requiring him to re-apply. He wouldn’t have qualified at all the second time around.

The loan was $67,000 which he’ll have to pay back.

“I saved it, I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t spend it so ill be giving it back to them but I just think it’s a really raw deal. I mean, how does it hurt to struggle 25% but not 24%?”

He said he isn’t the only restaurant owner dealing with a small margin like this and worries there could be some not even aware of it.

“Why should you lose when you didn’t close, you didn’t let anybody collect unemployment and you paid them for what they’re accustomed to making so you could retain them for when this thing is over with?”

He also said he has three years left on his lease and he’s not sure he’ll stay in the restaurant business once it’s up.

Karam’s accountant told him to reach out to Congressman Brian Higgins to see if anything could be done about the law.

News 4 received this statement from a Higgins spokesperson:

“Mr. Karam reached out to our office last week. We submitted an inquiry to the U.S. Small Business Administration on his behalf.

Congressman Higgins recognizes the hardships felt by local restaurants, led efforts to include restaurant-specific relief in the American Rescue Plan and is co-sponsoring new legislation which would provide $60 billion in federal funding to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.”

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