SBA administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said she is encouraged by...

SBA administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said she is encouraged by the large number of small business startups last year.   Credit: AFP via Getty Images/JIM WATSON

The application window for federal pandemic relief may have closed, but the U.S. Small Business Administration still offers loans and advice through its long-standing programs to help faltering firms, the agency’s chief told Newsday.

“Small businesses are still struggling, especially in hard-hit industries, [from the pandemic] and across the board with the impacts of supply-chain inflation,” said SBA administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman.

“We’re really trying to focus on making sure that our capital programs are accessible to more small businesses, to continue to support them as they navigate this marketplace,” she said.

Among the programs cited by Guzman in Tuesday’s interview are the 7(a) bank loans and 504 loans from Certified Development Companies for purchasing and repairing equipment, real estate and other assets. Microloans of up to $50,000 per applicant also are available.

“In addition, we have technical assistance and networks of advisers ….to support small businesses with market access and learning how to grow their business through e-commerce and other systems,” she said, referring to business counselors at the Small Business Development Centers on college campuses and the Service Corps of Retired Executives.

Guzman, who is marking her one-year anniversary as SBA chief, said she’s encouraged by the record number of people starting businesses nationwide: 5.4 million last year compared with 4.4 million in 2020, according to the Census Bureau.

“That gives me enormous hope that there’s opportunity on the horizon … and that ingenuity is alive and well,” she said.

Asked about her 2022 agenda, Guzman said SBA will help small businesses compete for U.S. government contracts, expand the goods and services that they sell and continue to recover from the pandemic.

Told about last week’s sentencing of a Glen Cove physician for defrauding two of SBA’s pandemic-relief programs of $3.8 million, Guzman said the agency, together with federal law enforcement, will vigorously pursue fraud.

“We wanted these funds to get into the hands of the businesses that they were intended to serve,” she said, referring to Paycheck Protection Program loans and COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans, both of which were established under Guzman's predecessor. “These fraudsters need to be held accountable for their actions.”

Dr. Konstantinos “Dino” Zarkadas, who practiced medicine in Manhattan, was sentenced to four years and three months in prison in the most serious case of its kind against a Long Islander to date. He lied on 11 PPP and EIDL loan applications and used some of the loan funds to buy fancy watches, a yacht and pay off a debt to a Manhattan landlord. Zarkadas pleaded guilty last year.

Guzman said on Tuesday that SBA now has “systems in place,” like those used by banks, "to prevent fraud.”

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