HICKSVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Small businesses have just over a week left to apply for another round of loans from the Paycheck Protection Program to keep their employees paid during the pandemic.

The smallest businesses get priority this time around. But CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported many small business owners are unaware.

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A sprawling space in Hempstead would have been filled with children learning about science, technology and math. Instead, it’s been empty for a year.

“When COVID-19 hit, everything stopped. I’m the only one who comes in the building most of the times… to see it empty… breaks my heart to see that,” said Doron Spleen, who owns Morrison Mentors.

The not-for-profit business got one federal PPP loan. Now they’re applying for the second round.

“We still had to pay our mentors. We still had to pay a down payment on the location,” Spleen said.

This time, small businesses like Spleen’s, with fewer than 20 employees, will go to the front of the PPP line. The Biden administration created a 14-day, exclusive period. The deadline is March 9.

After that, bigger businesses can also apply for loans until the end of the month.

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Borrowers may be eligible for loan forgiveness. That’s a possible lifeline for the Shaheen Restaurant in Hicksville. Its catering income was wiped out and the owner was just made aware of the upcoming deadline.

“It’s like saying there is a line, but where is the line?” said owner Zeshan Hamed. “There really is nobody coming out and telling us, ‘Hey listen, apply to this. Hey listen, this is how you do it.'”

That’s why Long Island small business leaders gathered to spread the word, asking everyone to let a small business owner know there’s $1 billion in aid up for grabs.

“There is a limited amount of federal funding available. So please apply… as soon as possible and take advantage of this priority status immediately,” said Town of Oyster Bay Councilwoman Laura Maier.

“We want to make sure everyone applies and not leave money on the table,” said Eric Alexander of the Long Island Main Street Alliance.

“Our key statement today is, ‘Apply, apply, apply.’ Do not assume that you do not qualify,” said Lionel Chitty from the Nassau County Office of Minority Affairs.

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Folks who have gone through the application process say it’s not as complicated as last time. But if you do need help, contact an accountant, a bank or a chamber of commerce.

Carolyn Gusoff