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Small business owners frustrated with Bank of America over apparent gate-keeping of federal stimulus dollars

"It feels like a gut punch. I've been loyal customer for 10-plus years," said Robert Dallas of Tiger-Rock Martial Arts.

FRISCO, Texas — Robert Dallas, of Frisco, built his Tiger-Rock Martial Arts Academy the way many small business owners built their ventures: by working hard at doing what you love. 

He probably never imagined he'd be teaching Taekwondo classes virtually while the world combats coronavirus. He has been using Zoom to teach students martial-arts. 

The reality is business is down 20% since the outbreak, and Dallas says he's hoping to hold on long enough. 

"The thought of seeing it slip away is nerve-wracking," Dallas said.

On Friday, federal stimulus dollars were supposed to funnel down to banks to help business-owners. He applied for the Paycheck Protection Program, hoping it would keep the nine people he has on staff employed. Sadly, that is not the way his Friday ended up.

"It feels like a gut punch. I've been a loyal customer for 10-plus years," Dallas said.

He has three small business accounts through Bank of America, but when he applied for federal dollars Friday morning, he was essentially told to get to the back of the line. 

It appears Bank of America, which is the first bank to actually roll-out a plan to give clients access to the dollars, is gate-keeping the dollars through a client-priority system.

RELATED: Bank of America prioritizing some small businesses ahead of others for federal stimulus money 

The following statement from Bank of America was sent to WFAA:

"...it is only Day 1 and I assure you that we will continue to enhance our Paycheck Protection Program to accommodate more and more of our small business clients. In this first initial launch, we have focused on our full relationship clients first - those with a business DDA (demand deposit account) and lending relationship. We are also highly focused on responding to the needs of our core small business customers who do not currently have any borrowing relationship: we will expand our process soon and in the meantime, are addressing these through an escalation process."

Lawmakers are aware banks are gate-keeping the funding. Congressman Colin Allred, U.S. Representative of Texas 32nd Congressional District, said his office is taking inquiries from small business owners who are not being immediately served.

"We're going to have to oversee what they're [banks] doing and making sure it's not the most sophisticated getting access to funding," said Allred.

Dallas spent all day Friday looking for answers and he still feels in the dark. This money would help him keep the nine people on his staff, which is the primary goal of this paycheck protection program.

"They are like my family. I feel a great deal of responsibility to take care of those guys because they take care of me," he said.

Bank of America said this is just the first wave and that more clients will get help. 

"All the bank has to do is process it," said Dallas.

Congressman Allred believes another round of stimulus dollars may be necessary to truly help everyone. Just like with martial arts, timing is everything and small business have taken enough punches lately.

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