Local experts in small business answer questions about applying for a Paycheck Protection Program loan for the first time, or trying for a second. Sign up for COVID-19 text alerts at newsday.com/text. Panelists include: Erica Chase-Gregory, Director of the Small Business Center at Farmingdale State College; John Mallano, SBA New York Deputy District Director; and Stacey I. Sikes, Executive Dean of Entrepreneurship and Business Development at Hofstra University ideaHUb.

The funding in the current round of the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which is open to applications now, is likely to last longer than in the first round, but to maximize chances of getting a loan, experts said Tuesday that companies would benefit from connecting with business support groups on Long Island.

The loan program administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration was initially depleted within two weeks in 2020, but 80% of the loan guarantees are still available during the latest round, launched about a month ago, according to John Mallano, deputy director of the SBA’s New York District. He said during a Tuesday webinar sponsored by Newsday that applications may be filed through March 31 — or until funding is depleted.

"They did a better job than the first time trying to figure out how much money they would need," Mallano said. "I wouldn’t say it’s impossible for the funds to run out, but I don’t think that it’s as likely."

The Small Business Development Center at Farmingdale State can help executives and small-business owners stay on top of regulation changes from SBA, according to director Erica Chase-Gregory, a panelist at the "Newsday Live Conversation" hosted by Newsday economics writer James T. Madore. Chase-Gregory said the center — an SBA partner that provides free assistance — is on top of the frequent changes to disaster relief aid programs.

"We can get you ready. We can answer questions,’’ she said. "It’s really important to connect."

Companies also can prepare well-supported PPP applications and loan forgiveness plans at the center or Hofstra University’s ideaHUb business incubator, according to panelist Stacey Sikes, Hofstra’s executive dean of entrepreneurship and business development.

If a company doesn’t qualify for PPP, firms may want to explore a state loan program aimed at minority- and women-owned businesses or other assistance, Sikes said.

Sign up for COVID-19 text alerts at newsday.com/text.