Elizabeth Thorp: I am a working mom of three little girls and the proud owner of a Bethesda, MD, communications firm. We've been in business for almost four years, and things have been great. This year has been lean. The major challenge for any small business is cash flow. I learned firsthand today that financial assistance from the banks is about as likely as the Salahis receiving a genuine invite to the White House.
I have $40,000 in outstanding client invoices -- in the meantime, I have to pay employees, tax advisor, accountant, phone bill, office space, etc., etc. I need a $10,000 loan or line of credit for a couple of weeks until the outstanding revenue comes in. I have been a Bank of America customer for 15 years -- I have personal and business accounts and credit cards. I pay all their monthly fees, transfer fees, ATM fees, eBill pay fees -- I've been a great client. Not good enough, apparently.
Today I requested access to my business credit card's line of credit -- I was technically eligible for $16K, and asked for $10K. I was transferred to the credit authorization experts, who asked for past years' revenue, what the firm has collected this year in fees, what assets I have in checking, stocks, 401Ks. The representative told me that the last few months, I was a few days late paying the business Visa -- I explained I have just transitioned accountants since the last one wasn't following up on deadlines and paperwork. Keep in mind, the minimum payment due was $100 dollars ... After a short period on hold, I was told that because I was delinquent on the business Visa, because my checking account was in the red, and because the company's revenues this year were less than last year's, they couldn't extend this line of credit to me. Hello?!! That is exactly why one needs a loan! Then she told me in light of their review, they were reducing my personal card limit from $9K to $1K and the business card limit from $12K to $3K. I called for financial assistance and hung up the phone in worse financial shape.
A few days ago, the Obama administration announced a new TARP program for small business. The initiative could give banks access to government money without restrictions, such as limits on executive pay, as long as they use it to make loans to small businesses.
Mr. Lewis, Bank of America is the largest bank in America. I know you've been scraping by lately on a $1.5M base salary, but you've made an enormous amount of money and are leaving with millions more in retirement. I just needed $10,000 for one month. Had you loaned it to me, B of A would have made $2,990 in interest, plus the "one-time $400 transfer fee." Before you retire, set an example to other lending institutions and expedite the new TARP program for small business lending. Make your rates palatable or even -- wait for it -- competitive! Shelf the ridiculous "$400 fee." Do the right thing and give hardworking "Main Street" business owners the same chance Bank of America got from the U.S. taxpayers. 'Tis the Season!
|Elizabeth Thorp serves as President & CEO of EDT Communications, Inc. Elizabeth's 17 years of experience spans almost every area of public relations, crisis management, event planning and public affairs -- although no amount of training can prepare you for crisis management in a happily hectic household with three young divas. She lives in the Washington, DC area with her husband and three young daughters, Isabelle, Lucy and Penelope.|