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Coronavirus financial relief: Millions of dollars go to big chains, as small businesses are left still needing help

"If we don't get funding, many many restaurants are going to shut down... This is the life of waiting, the uncertainty is frightening."

ST. LOUIS — Small businesses were ready to get a helping hand from the Paycheck Protection Program, known as PPP.

RELATED: How much and how many PPP loans are going to small businesses in Missouri, Illinois

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It's a part of the federal stimulus package designed to help small restaurants pay utilities, employees, rent and overhead expenses, as the COVID-19 crisis continues.

"We are the small business that need the money." owner of the Shaved Duck and Scottish Arms, Ally Nisbit said.

PPP applies to businesses that don't hire more than 500 people in one location.

But Thursday, the loan program hit its $349 billion limit and ran out of money.

Robb Wiesen, owner of Ferguson Brewery says, they didn't get the loan this time around. 

"We’ve been through a lot. We had a fire, we had civil unrest, we never asked for any kind of help from government. To finally get some help and then be denied or not accepted, it's frustrating," Wiesen said.

But big corporations were able to get their hands on some funds.

Ruth's Chris Steakhouse received $20 million through PPP. Shake Shack got $10 million. Potbelly's also got $10 million. 

"The entire restaurant industry is hurting because of this, but I think a lot of the corporate places can weather the storm a little bit better. They have a lot more financial means than us local people," Wiesen said.

Aaron Teitelbaum, the owner of Kingside Diner and Herbie's said the program was specifically targeting small restaurants.

"The loophole is the number of employees at location," Teitelbaum said.

For example, these big chains can have over 6,000 employees, but these companies could apply as long as they had no more than 500 workers at any single location. 

Mehrsa Baradaran, a professor specializing in banking law at the University of California told NBC News, "Any time you create a big program and give banks the ability to choose which customers to prioritize, you're going to have disparities. Banks are incentivized to choose the customers that make them the most money."

"These large restaurants got a large amount of funds and that doesn’t seem like it was meant for," Teitelbaum said. "The money is essential for us to survive."

Teitelbaum explains there's also a lot of ambiguity when it comes to using the funds, once you receive them. 

HOW MUCH MONEY RECEIVED

We are told the application process is easy and the math equation on how much money is given to each business is simple.

"It’s two and half times your average monthly payroll for 2019," Teitelbaum told 5 On Your Side.

You can include add-ins, like health insurance. 

STRICT GUIDELINES

Even if you get the money, there are strict guidelines.

For the money to be forgivable, 75% has to be for payroll, 25% can used on rent and utilities. 

If you don’t use the money, it becomes a two-year loan, with a 1% interest. But most people may not be able to pay back the loan in that time.

Teitelbaum says they're hoping for government action. 

WHAT NEXT?

PPP ran out of its funds less than two weeks after it was announced.

Congress is hoping to fund another 250 billion dollars, but the date for that is unknown.

Nisbit explains why this loan is crucial, "We need this, so my employees, which are my family, are taken are of."

"If we don't get funding, many many restaurants are going to shut down," Teitelbaum said. "This is the life of waiting, the uncertainty is frightening."

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