First came the order to close up. Then the laying off of staff. Now small-business owners across the U.S. are bleeding cash and wading through paperwork to get financial assistance.

“I keep hearing that help’s on its way, but I can’t see much information,” said Susan Choi, the owner of a Hayward, California-based party-equipment rental business she founded with her mother in 1998. A week ago, she had to let go of her eight employees.

Large swathes of the U.S. are under confinement orders that are becoming stricter by the day as authorities try to contain the coronavirus outbreak. Among the hardest hit are clothing shops and other mom-and-pop stores that are the engine of the economy.

The impact is hard to overstate. The restaurant industry alone is set to lose 7.4 million jobs, consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. estimates. The shutdowns across the country could send the jobless rate spiraling to 30% in the second quarter, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard told Bloomberg.

Help is on the way. It’s just not fast and sweeping enough for many. Congress has yet to pass a rescue package that could include about $350 billion in loans for small businesses that would convert into grants if they retain most of their workforce. Those companies can apply for low-interest disaster loans from the Small Business Administration. The catch: it can take as long as 21 days to process an application. Once approved, it might take another week to go through, the agency says.

Every day counts when half of small businesses have a cash buffer of less than a month, according to a JPMorgan Chase Institute study.

As of Monday, all states were approved for coronavirus disaster loans. The SBA’s site warned: “We are experiencing high volumes of traffic and the site might be slow.”

“For the last several days, it’s been a constant stream of emails and phone calls to everyone in the office,” Robert H. Nelson, the SBA’s Massachusetts district director, said Thursday. “Are we in uncharted waters? Maybe so,” said Bill Koontz, an agency spokesman in Sacramento, California.

Industry advocates say loans aren’t enough, especially for the smallest outfits. An instant cash injection is the only way to save them from failing, according to the Small Business Majority. The group, which represents a network of more than 58,000 small-business owners nationally, is calling for $500 billion of support split equally between cash grants and low-interest loans.

“We have to move quickly and at scale,” said Mark Herbert, the group’s vice president.

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