Two months after the COVID-19 isolation, business closures and home support orders, businesses in Bend are still seeking relief.
They have to make up for lost revenue and now, three weeks after a phased reopening with scaled-down operations, they are leading the way through uncertain scenarios.
The only certainty is this: the rules keep changing, from federal loans and grants to help businesses weather the crisis, to terms businesses must comply with in order to operate.
By anyone’s definition, it’s not business as usual, said Ben Hemson, Town of Bend. business advocate.
“The uncertainty of the process is a key concern that many people I have spoken to have shared,” Hemson said. “Many weren’t sure they would get a loan because the first round of funding was used up so quickly.
Uncertainty has cast a shadow Dudley Bookstore Cafe business owner Tom Beans. Although the cafe part of his bookstore business remains closed until July, he has driven all of his activities to selling books.
A paycheck protection program loan was not possible for Beans because he did not have enough work for his employees, but he was able to secure an economic disaster loan, which allows the owner to the business using the funds to purchase inventory and not primarily for payroll.
“I’d rather let them make more money on unemployment,” Beans said. “I needed flexibility with an (economic disaster loan). I could spend it on inventory.
Just weeks after the start of the pandemic, the federal government created programs that allowed small businesses to keep their employees on the payroll or pay rent and other expenses. Throughout the process, conditions have changed, money has been delayed, and business owners are struggling to keep up with changing conditions as pandemic restrictions continue.
In Oregon, as of May 23, the United States Small Business Administration issued 56,639 loans worth more than $ 6.7 billion, said Melanie Norton, regional communications director for the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
However, regional data is not available, Norton said in an email. But there is over $ 100 billion available for small business in Paycheck Protection Program loans. Some businesses have taken advantage of an economic disaster loan, which is a loan and grant program.
Many companies that received the loans don’t know which part is forgivable and on what terms, said Katy Brooks, Bend Chamber of Commerce CEO. Much of the confusion comes from the unknowns of the coronavirus itself and how long communities would stay at home.
“It had an impact on how much (companies) requested and how they used it, balancing the coverage of wages for employees on leave with other costs of closure,” Brooks said. “With the extension of this period by Congress, many will find relief in the way these funds are used, which is ‘forgivable’ depending on what is actually happening on the ground when they reopen.”
From this week, First interstate bank funded $ 1.46 billion in Paycheck Protection Program loans for small businesses in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming, said Bill Kuhn, president of the the First Interstate Bank in Bend in an email. Most of the loans made by the bank were around $ 100,000 and less than $ 2 million, Kuhn said.
“It was all handy those first few weeks to make sure small businesses that needed help could get a loan before the funding ran out,” Kuhn said. “This loan program was launched with the added complication of the coronavirus pandemic. To ensure the safety of customers and employees, our branch lobbies have been closed and many borrowers have socialized or stayed at home.
“We helped customers complete the whole process online.”
Central Oregon Community College has also helped businesses navigate the complexities of Small Business Administration loan programs. Small Business Development Center.
Staffed with seasoned advisors, the free service has helped more than 300 companies complete applications and assess their finances to determine how to stay in business during the early days of the pandemic, said Ken Betschart, director of the Small Business Development Center.
Usually the center helps that many businesses in a year, but they’ve done that kind of work in two months. At the height of the business shutdown, the center was receiving 70 inquiries a day from tired business owners looking for solutions.
One of the main frustrations for businesses was processing delays that put some plans on hold pending approvals, Betschart said.
“Some have waited up to five weeks to receive funds from the time of application,” he said. “The funds are not enough to cover a long term. The longer this lasts, it is obvious that these funds will not be enough. “
Metolius tea asked the center for help. Founder Amy Stahl not only has normal business deadlines, but she also has an actual deadline: she will give birth in early July.
“The (center) has been an incredible resource,” Stahl said. “They should have gold medals. They helped me understand.
With the help of the centre’s advisors, Stahl processed his Paycheck Protection Program loan and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan and got advice on how to grow his business primarily from wholesale to in line and retail.
“The second we were ordered to stay home we had to go into emergency mode,” Stahl said. “I had 10 employees. We fired them all. It was traumatic.
Now eight weeks later, she’s trying to stock her shelves with produce, so she’s called most of the staff back. Its bottom line depends on using the payday loan as a subsidy since it brought in workers, which is one of the conditions.
“We were able to rebuild the team,” Stahl said. “The Paycheck Protection Program is a one-size-fits-all sock, but it doesn’t work for all business models. We were lucky; it worked very well for us.
“The good thing is that we had the opportunity to rebuild from scratch. We have reduced all expenses. It was healthy to rebuild. “