Back in medieval France, the great poet-musician Guillaume de Machaut wrote his greatest novel (about his affair, with a young poetess) and composed some of his most hauntingly beautiful songs during the plague years. Inspired by his example, Anne Azéma, the Camerata staff, and its board, have decided to continue planning and creating music and musical projects, undaunted in will and energy by the current health crisis. The great Machaut exhibited similar fortitude during the Black Death. We want to be like him.
On the other hand, Guillaume de Machaut never had to deal with the American banking system.
Yesterday, Friday April 3, our Boston Camerata business manager, Peter Smith, filed the online application for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the newly authorized, emergency small business provider. That was, supposedly, the first day the funds were made available, and we wanted to be as rapid as possible in our request. The online form went to Bank of America, Camerata’s bank. This is the answer Peter, and we, received:
“Based on our records, your account doesn’t qualify to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program Loan through Bank of America. To apply for a Paycheck Protection Program Loan through Bank of America, you must have an existing Small Business relationship with the following: Small business checking account open no later than 02/15/2020, Small business lending relationship, inclusive of credit card, open no later than 02/15/2020, Online banking username and password.”
Condition number two was the killer. We are required by this bank, in an unannounced twist, to have a “Small business lending relationship, inclusive of credit card.” Whoa, Nelly! There is no such requirement in the recent law passed by Congress. This tells us, very clearly, that BOA is in violation of the intent of the law, and perhaps of the letter of the law as well. (And, by the way, Camerata has no record of debt with our bank because we have a conservative and cautious board that runs an admirably tight ship. So we are being punished for our good management!)
Can you imagine the wails of anguish going up as other outfits, similar to ours, receive this reply? One well-informed friend, officer at a local Newburyport bank, tells us in no uncertain terms that the whole program has been very poorly planned and executed.
Following on the shocking BOA refusal, Peter, Anne Azéma and board members were busy all afternoon, and into Friday evening, contacting media and public figures. We sent an initial report, very similar to the one you received, to music journalists at the Globe. One outreach that has been helpful was the one made to Senator Markey’s office. Anne’s call was returned by a very helpful staff member. She said that they have received many calls similar to ours, and that they are now working up a major media/communications push in response. Brett Donham. our undaunted board chairman, has been in touch with Senator Warren’s office, as has Anne herself.
Meanwhile, since we need to keep the lights on, Peter has applied for a more conventional small business loan. But that’s not the way it’s supposed to work.
“This is most worrisome and disturbing” says Anne. Or, as my granny would have put it, “A schande!” And, from his perch in the Pantheon of Poets, Guillaume de Machaut has been heard to murmur, “Quelle honte!”