By Cheryl Fiandaca

READING (CBS) – A Reading man said his restaurant was inching toward collapse as he waited for a federal loan that was held up because of a clerical error.

You can hear pride and passion in John Ryan’s voice. “We offer home cooked meals, everything here is made fresh,” he said.

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The Green Tomato Kitchen in Reading has been serving comfort food for 19 years and has never struggled until the COVID-19 pandemic.

John Ryan owner of The Green Tomato Kitchen in Reading (WBZ-TV)

“We closed the day before St. Patrick’s Day and we usually do about 400 dinners, so we had to pretty much give away all that product,” Ryan told the I-Team. “But I’d rather have my employees safe than sorry.”

At the start of the pandemic, the Green Tomato Kitchen was closed for two months. “We lost 50 percent of our business,” Ryan said. “What little catering we had going on is completely gone now so now we are just relying on take out.”

Looking for help, he turned to the Small Business Administration and got approved for a $150,000 pandemic disaster relief loan on July 22, 2020.

The Green Tomato Kitchen in Reading (WBZ-TV)

But because there was a typo in the name of Ryan’s bank and his account number, the SBA didn’t give him the money. “It was very frustrating, the phone calls every week and people saying that things are getting done and then they hear they’re not done,” he said.

On the verge of going out of business, John tried to get a loan from a local bank but his credit report showed he got the government loan and to make matters worse the SBA was billing him for interest on the money he never got.

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Ryan said, before the pandemic, the restaurant employed 14 people. Now they have eight. “They all have families,” Ryan said. “They need this job just like I do. I’m 58 years old I can’t do anything else.”

Congressman Seth Moulton said he recovered nearly a million and a half dollars in SBA loans for constituents. “There are a lot of businesses out there that are in danger of failing just because they are not getting the loans that they were promised by the U.S. government,” Moulton told the I-Team.

“Clearly they’re overwhelmed and they need to be doing a better job,” Moulton said. “Because people like John and great businesses like Green Tomato are being left in the dust and we need these businesses they’re part of the fabric of our community.”

The I-Team contacted the SBA about Ryan’s loan and were told the money would be deposited in his bank account.

Congressman Moulton’s office also opened a file on this case last week – and on Monday Ryan got the cash.

Grateful for the support of his employees and the community and getting the loan funds, Ryan told the I-Team, “Whatever you did, whatever magic people you talked to I want say thank you and Seth Moulton’s office too.”

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The Boston office of the SBA says with the two main lending programs:

  • The Paycheck Protection Program approved an unprecedented 118,384 loans totaling $14.31 Billion to keep employees connected with their employers
  • The Economic Injury Disaster Loan program made 59,915 approvals (as of 10/19) totaling $3.49 Billion to support working capital needs of businesses impacted by the Covid-19 disaster

Cheryl Fiandaca