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story.lead_photo.caption As small businesses in Callaway County are forced to shutter, make layoffs or switch business models, they're turning toward government resources for assistance. Some are finding the application process opaque. Photo by Helen Wilbers / Fulton Sun.

Local business owners are encountering difficulty and confusion while trying to access government resources.

State and federal government-run websites meant to help businesses during the COVID-19 crisis aren't able to keep up with the huge volume of visitors, and some business-people are finding the process of signing up for assistance programs opaque. Business owners shared their frustrations Monday during a conference call organized by the Callaway Chamber of Commerce.

"I know you business owners are kinda in survival mode right now," said CCOC Executive Director Tamara Tateosian as she opened the call.

Last week, Tateosian highlighted several resources available to local businesses, including Economic Injury Disaster Loans, the Shared Work Unemployment Compensation Program and mass unemployment claims. (See Sunday's story: bit.ly/2WCeHOP.)

"The Small Business Association's the disaster loan relief, that's getting kicked off, that's on the way," Tateosian said Monday. "A couple things we're already hearing is people getting kicked off website. I've had about 10 people call me already this morning saying that."

The sign-up website, sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance, is apparently experiencing high volumes of traffic, she said. And the process of signing up isn't the clearest, business owners warned.

"I was trying to get through the SBA loan thing, and I had to contact my accountant because they asked for similar info throughout and I wasn't sure what they wanted where," said Regina Ruppert, owner of Serenity Valley Winery.

Some of the information required by the SBA is simply nearly impossible to provide, she added.

"How am I supposed to project income?" Ruppert said. "Not even Macy's is projecting their income right now."

Another business owner shared concerns about eligibility.

"I understand SBA loans for economic loss to pay employees," said Keli Tate, co-owner at The Station. "James and I are working owners — our sales help us pay bills. That income today isn't going to pay bills tomorrow because it's not coming in. Am I to assume that if you're a working owner, you're not included?"

Tateosian offered to work on organizing a call with an SBA representative to help clarify the process.

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