(CNN) - Tuesday is a huge day for many small businesses across the country. It’s the last day to get the application in for federal money from the Paycheck Protection Program, known as the PPP.
What happens when hundreds of billions of federal dollars simply isn’t enough? It’s the wrenching question small business owners like Jess and Rich Fierro of Atrevida Beer Co. are grappling with as the cornerstone federal lifeline comes to an end.
“The shutting doors is the very definition of losing your livelihood for a lot of small businesses,” Jessica Fierro said.
“We’re a brewery. We sell stuff $6 at a time. So it’s not like we’re, you know, Apple selling, you know, a computer at $2,000 a pop. We’re not that business,” Richard Fierro said.
“It’s such a fluid situation that no one really knows when it’s going to start to kind of die down, and then we do start to die down and then starts to peak right back up,” Jessica Fierro said.
The Fierros run the first female, Latino-owned brewery in Colorado, and between their inventive, socially conscious beers and their equally ingenious Facebook content, they quickly made a name for themselves in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Then the pandemic hit in March, and it changed everything.
“We’re a family business,” Jessica Fierro said. “You know we’re both owners. I’m the head brewer, my husband’s there 90-percent of the time my daughter works front of the house as well. So it’s, it’s scary.”
They received a PPP loan, and it helped, but it could only go so far.
“It didn’t solve the problems,” Richard Fierro said. “What it did was sustain us for a few more months.”
The program is credited by government officials for saving millions of jobs, with more than 4.8 million small business owners tapping into the funds, for more than $519 billion in loans.
The lawmakers who created the program acknowledge the scale of the pandemic-driven downturn simply wasn’t expected, and even with the federal assistance, the hit has been devastating.
Between February and May, companies with fewer than 500 employees lost 11.6 million jobs, or 18.4 percent of their workforce.
The structure of the program - between the period the money needed to be used, to the inability to ask for a second loan - has left shuttered restaurants in particularly dire straits.
“We drive to work with that, that notion of ‘Let’s be positive really today. Let’s do it, but we are slowly seeing, you know, front awnings come down,’” Richard Fierro said.
And the problems it encountered - from a rocky rollout and constantly shifting rules to strict limits on how funds could be used - chilled its effectiveness in recent weeks.
In fact, the program will shut down on Tuesday with more than $134 billion in funds untapped.
Lawmakers have committed to redeploying those unused funds soon in the next round of stimulus, but “soon” may not be enough for some small businesses.
“There’s a lot of hard work being done by folks that are not asking for handouts, that are not running around asking for anybody to solve their problems. What we’re looking for is the opportunity to continue to fight to get to where we want to be,” Richard Fierro said.
For some businesses, PPP money has meant staying afloat.