Coronavirus

SMBs' Futures Uncertain As They Wait For Help

Small businesses are looking for good results from the House of Representatives' vote on Friday (March 27) on a $2 trillion stimulus package that would send funds to help them weather the coronavirus pandemic's debilitating effects on their businesses.

The package, for $2 trillion to go toward helping businesses and individuals who have been fiscally left in the dust by the crisis, which has forced nonessential companies to close for fears of spreading the virus in close, populated quarters. Businesses that have seen a direct impact to their services because of the crisis will be eligible for aid.

The bill was approved Wednesday by the Senate and will go before the House on Friday.

Until then, many businesses are feeling the pain already as they try to find ways to pay bills to landlords and other entities. Some businesses fear that even if the stimulus is approved Friday, there could be delays before new loans come through. However, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the loans could be fast-tracked the same day they're requested.

The government response thus far to the virus has focused on larger businesses, with the Federal Reserve saying it would purchase short term debt, or commercial paper, from companies. But many smaller operations don't issue debt and lack the cash to work in that way.

As it stands now, many businesses have stories like Darren Turner of Cincinnati-based Darren & Co. Hair Salon. The state-mandated closure in Ohio last week gave him little time to prepare for how he'd pay his employees, he explained to the Wall Street Journal. While he tried to funnel income from booked appointments toward that cause, he still came up $10,000 short. He was turned away when he tried to go to PNC Bank and his payment processor, Heartland Payment Systems, for help.

Compounding rent costs and state and local taxes could pose risks for him, too — he expects to owe around $20,000.

He did decide to pay Duke Energy for power costs. But days after that, he received an email from the company saying it wouldn't deactivate power due to nonpayment during the crisis, and so now he wishes he'd spent the money on his employees instead.

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