Pamplin Media Group – SWNI hopes to chart a new course with 2nd PPP loan
Citing need to restructure, neighborhood coalition will seek new federal loan despite objections
Southwest Neighborhoods, Inc. plans to secure a second Paycheck Protection Program loan, following a vote by the District Coalition Board of Directors.
The coalition’s board voted 9-4 at an emergency meeting on April 21 to seek a second-round PPP loan, hoping to hire temporary staff and help the organization to restructure and get back on its feet. The organization expects to receive approximately $71,000.
“It’ll only last about six months, but it’s a lot for the board,” SWNI chairman Leslie Hammond told the board in April. Hammond said the funds should be used within six months and the loan would likely be cancelled, she said, relaying what the lending bank had told the organization. The plan is to try to hire a few employees to help mostly with administrative functions and tasks, web postings, technology, a monthly newsletter and other tasks.
Hammond said SWNI should be able to meet the parameters of the loan program, which aims to keep people employed.
“They don’t care how many people we hire, they don’t care what we pay them, they don’t care how many hours they work, they just want us to use good judgment,” Hammond said. . While former employees who had to be made redundant could be rehired, the group is unlikely to recruit its 40-year-old former chief executive, who retired earlier this year.
Still, any help is better than trying to run the organization through volunteer labor alone, some said.
“Absolutely go for this loan,” Patty MacMahon urged the board. “We are fighting for our survival. We are looking for grants, for (funds). We can serve our community, we can bring money into our community, we can employ people.”
This will be SWNI’s second PPP loan since 2020. The group’s initial loan helped fill a large funding gap, but also drew some anger from the city and some of SWNI’s members.
Last July, after receiving a PPP loan of nearly $66,000, the Civic Life office informed SWNI that its plans to reallocate part of the annual grant it had previously received from the city were unacceptable. Shortly thereafter, the city withheld funding from the neighborhood coalition and commissioned an audit of SWNI. In March this year, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty informed the group that she was severing the coalition’s role with the city.
The 17 Southwest Portland neighborhood groups that SWNI was once responsible for overseeing and serving as a liaison are now served directly by the Civic Life office.
At least one complaint about SWNI receiving PPP loans has been filed with the lender, Umpqua Bank, by former SWNI member Marie Tyvoll. Tyvoll also has an active lawsuit against SWNI on public records.
SWNI was not the only district coalition to secure a PPP loan. Neighbors West Northwest also received a loan.
“After meeting the criteria for the program, the (Small Business Association) awarded NWNW $33,400 based on our payroll history,” said Mark Sieber, executive director of the Northwest Portland Neighborhood Coalition. . “The Office of Community and Civic Life had no concerns, understanding that NWNW funding from other sources is outside of the city’s purview.”
Without direct accountability to neighborhood groups, SWNI now finds itself in uncharted territory. The group still has one part-time employee who takes care of the accounts. Monthly board and executive committee meetings are still held, but some say they are unsure of SWNI’s mission and what it should be moving forward.
“I see no reason not to take this loan,” said Frank Rudloff of the Multnomah Neighborhood Association. “I think we can use it effectively, but I think we have to focus on what we become…”
Others were not so encouraging.
Ed Fischer of the Homestead neighborhood said he was one of many SWNI members worried about what would happen if the loans were not converted into grants.
“I respect what you’re trying to do by getting some people to try to reorganize,” Fischer said. “Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s okay. Yes, we could technically qualify for this loan, but that doesn’t feel right to us.”
Fischer said the federal PPP funding was one way to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Technically, SWNI’s budget has not dried up due to the pandemic. This was the result of the city withdrawing funding from SWNI and never restoring it.
With a small quorum and the loan application approved, the SWNI Board agreed that any unused portion of the PPP loan would be repaid or converted into a loan. Board leadership called the move a “new start” for SWNI and its executive committee members.
You rely on us to stay informed and we rely on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.