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St. Louis banks work overtime to keep up with federal loan applications

"My business plan has changed 180° in the last four weeks," she said. "I don't even really know that I have absorbed what is happening yet just yet."

CLAYTON, Mo. — When Jackie Huebbe bought the building that she would turn into her teal-painted St. Charles business, SugarBot Sweet Shop, she did so with a small business loan. It was a process she hoped to never repeat.

"It was a terrible process to go through, and this is much more terrible," Huebbe said of applying for loans to get her through this lean time.

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The open sign at SugarBot is dim. Next to it, a message in the window reads "curbside only."

Huebbe is one of the countless small business owners now suddenly searching for funds after closing during the coronavirus pandemic. Her savings weren't supposed to keep her afloat for months on end, so she's trying any stream of assistance possible.

"It is built up to have a bad week, to have maybe two bad weeks," she said of her rainy day fund. "It’s not built up to have, you know, three bad months in the peak of wedding season and festivals."

Applications like Huebbe's have inundated local bank branches.

"It's the strangest [time] I've ever experienced, " Central Bank of St. Louis President Rick Bagy said. "I went from worrying about the market a few weeks ago, to worrying about the virus. And now we're worried about this PPP program and all the twists and turns it has taken."

The Paycheck Protection Program is a Small Business Administration loan that would turn into grant money if business owners don't lay anyone off during the coronavirus crisis.

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Central Bank's Rick Bagy said the program's constantly evolving which complicates the process for bank employees trying to navigate a record number of applications.

Huebbe said she's already received money for one grant, though she is waiting on the results of her federal application. 

"My business plan has changed 180° in the last four weeks," she said. "I don't even really know that I have absorbed what is happening yet just yet."

Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told CNBC he wants a vote on more SBA funding on Thursday.

Bagy says he advises customers not to plan on additional federal help. He urges business owners to get their applications in as soon as possible, so they don't miss out if the PPP runs out of money.

Contact reporter Sara Machi on Facebook and Twitter.

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