As the owner of a small business in Salt Lake City, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented the biggest challenge I’ve faced as an entrepreneur. It’s unprecedented, not just in the severity and scope, but in the way that it forces business owners to balance their financial and social responsibilities.
Coronavirus has brought about a two-pronged catastrophe, the first and most important being the threat to our community’s health and lives. All of us are at risk, but it’s particularly pronounced among our most vulnerable. Our duty as community members is to do everything in our power to prevent unnecessary loss of life.
The second prong of this catastrophe is the threat it brings to people’s livelihoods and our economy. Everyone is already disoriented and scared. Add a layoff or loss in pay, and this crisis is shattering. Imagine trying to make sense of the world while also having to worry about missing next month’s mortgage or rent payment.
Among my closest friends who own businesses, many have made deep, painful layoffs because they have had no choice. Some are even considering closing permanently. Fewer than half of small businesses have enough cash reserves to support even just a few weeks without sales. But sheltering in place guidelines require small businesses to do just that.
When a service business is faced with the moral responsibility of closing their doors to customers to help slow the spread of this pandemic, cutting costs and considering layoffs might appear to be the only way to survive.
But our duty as business leaders is to balance our financial responsibility and our social responsibility. And right now, our social responsibility is to do everything possible to keep our teams safe physically, mentally and emotionally, and to do everything in our power to keep them employed during this crisis.
Thankfully, government leaders have sprung to action to allow us to do that.
On Friday, Congress passed The CARES Act, which provides $2 trillion in emergency relief funding. Of that, $349 billion is specifically set aside for small businesses to receive low-interest loans and grants to keep their teams employed and to keep cash flowing in and out of their business.
Acting fast is critical. Cities, states, private lenders and the U.S. Small Business Administration have been launching programs left and right. The plethora or programs made available so quickly is remarkable and demonstrates an area of our economy that brings me hope: the response to this looming crisis is unprecedented and includes more capital than the stimuli used in the Great Depression or Great Recession of 2008.
But with so much information disseminating so quickly, business owners are left with the burden to make sense of which programs are the best fit for their needs. And sometimes the information coming out from different sources conflicts.
Across dozens of Zoom webinars, calls with CPAs and conversations with the SBA directly, I put together an overview of funding programs available to small businesses. Once compiled, this document was shared with hundreds of small businesses, with collaboration and contribution from experts around the state.
Here are a few points business owners should consider so they can act on their social responsibility to keep people employed.
- Unprecedented capital is available. The CARES Act provides unprecedented capital: over $349 billion set aside specifically to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19.
- Most businesses qualify for some form of funding. A major portion of CARES relaxes qualifying criteria to ensure that virtually any business negatively impacted can get capital to keep people employed.
- There are many, many programs. If you are a for-profit or nonprofit in the United States with fewer than 500 employees, there are many programs, including the The Economic Injury Disaster Loan, the Payroll Protection Program, the SBA Express Bridge Loan, and Salt Lake City’s ELP, Utah Leads Together Small Business Bridge Loan Program and St. George’s Greater Together Fund.
- You can apply to multiple programs. Businesses can receive capital from more than one source, so long as the funds are used for separate purposes.
- Not all programs are administered by the SBA. The SBA Express Bridge Loan (EBL) and SBA Payroll Protection programs will be administered through local lenders, but guaranteed 100% by the SBA. Lenders should be ready to start taking applications late this week.
- Work with the right lender. Banks or credit unions who have been delegated “underwriting authority” with the SBA will be able to provide accelerated funding timelines and your application will only go through one underwriting process.
- Avoiding layoffs translates to loan forgiveness. Businesses who do not lay anyone off will qualify for up to eight weeks of loan forgiveness through the SBA Payroll Protection Program. If you have already let people go, you have the ability to rehire them immediately and still qualify.
- Receive $10,000 whether you qualify or not. Businesses will receive $10,000 within a few days of applying for the EIDL program, whether they end up qualifying or not. This is debt-free, interest-free, repayment-free capital.
- Checks will be cut in weeks, not months. These programs are promising expedited consideration, but expect at least 10-15 business days to receive funding from some of these programs.
- Act now. Some of these programs have submission deadlines to consider.
Now is the time for business leaders to act. Now is the time to exercise social responsibility and respond to the unprecedented amounts of capital made available from so many sources in our economy. In a typical recession, layoffs are unavoidable. But not in this crisis. Capital is available. It’s accessible. And it’s on us to get this right.
Chase Murdock is the co-owner of Tailor Cooperative, a custom clothier located in downtown Salt Lake City.