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He was approved for a Paycheck Protection Program loan. Here's his advice to business owners who want one, too

Fabian Videla
Source: Fabian Videla

In March, Fabian Videla realized that his 20-year-old construction and renovation company, Smarter Remodeling, in Jacksonville, Florida, might not survive the coronavirus outbreak. 

"People started canceling sales appointments," Videla, 49, said. "Current customers were apprehensive about letting crews in their houses. All of a sudden, it was a massive shutdown."

Soon, he didn't know how he was going to cover the payroll for his six workers. "We have some older employees – they need the income," Videla said. "If they lose this job, it's going to be hard to get someone to hire you at 67-years-old." 

Then came a ray of hope: In the government's $2 trillion stimulus relief package, $349 billion was earmarked for forgivable loans to small businesses to keep their employees paid during the public health crisis. Videla parked in front of his computer at 3 a.m. on April 3, when banks began accepting loan applications for the Paycheck Protection Program. 

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"It was stressful," he said. "I kept refreshing the page." 

He was right to be stressed.

With millions of small businesses around the country vying for the relief, the pot of money dried up in under two weeks. Hundreds of thousands of restaurants, salons, law firms and other businesses around the country were left waiting in line or have been locked out of the program entirely because they can't find a bank that will give them the loan. 

Videla was one of the fortunate small-business owners to get approved, and his $60,000 loan should keep his employees paid for the next two months. Now that Congress has authorized another $310 billion for the program, CNBC asked Videla for his tips to other small-business owners trying to get the relief. 

"Be ready," said Videla, who was born in Argentina and moved to the U.S. in 2000.

The attitude of the whole team after the loan was 100% different. We can think of running the business now.
Fabian Videla
owner of Smarter Remodeling

On the afternoon of April 3, the loan application went live on the website of his Alabama-headquartered bank, BBVA. Videla immediately logged in and submitted the initial Small Business Administration application.

The next day, he got a call from someone at BBVA, explaining the documents he would need. After doing research online, Videla already knew all that was required, including his employee and tax information, which he downloaded online from his payroll provider.

"I had every piece of paper ready to go," Videla said. "I hung up with him and uploaded the documentation."

Days went by and he didn't hear anything. 

The team at Smarter Remodeling
Source: Fabian Videla

To be able to cover the paychecks for his employees, he'd need the loan in his account by Thursday. "I was talking to the guys," said Videla. "'If nothing comes, we're going to have to start laying off people.'

"They were very concerned," he added. "A lot of these guys don't have savings."

Finally, on April 8, he received a call from BBVA. He had been approved for the loan. "I almost started crying on the spot," Videla said.

The money was in his account the next day, and he hasn't had to let a single employee go. 

"The attitude of the whole team after the loan was 100% different," he said. "We can think of running the business now."

Videla said he knows that many small-business owners might never see the help he did. 

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"I don't know if they're going to have enough funds to help everyone in America, so I'd also advise them to find other creative ideas," he said. 

That's what he's done, and it's paying off. 

In the mornings, the company's project managers take their temperatures with an infrared thermometer.  "If it's normal, they go to their first job," said Videla. "If not, they have to stay home and notify us."

At every job site, they set up hand-sanitizing stations, and workers wear gloves, shoe coverings and masks. 

"[Customers] see we're serious about protecting our employees and their families," he said. 

For those who still are reticent to let a crew into their house at the current moment, Videla explains that the renovation process can begin with virtual consultations. "Budgeting, selecting, it all takes time," he said. "If you want to get renovations over the summer, you have to start now.

"And it's working," he said. "We're getting phone calls and setting up appointments."

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