NewsCoronavirusLocal Coronavirus News


Federal loans offer relief for Utah small businesses during COVID-19-- but will it be enough to keep them open?

Posted at 10:24 PM, Apr 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 00:24:53-04

The federal government and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are each offering help to small businesses trying to stay open during COVID-19.

While some Utah businesses are hoping to take advantage of the available funds, others are wondering how much it'll actually contribute.

On Wednesday evening, dinner takeout orders filtered in to Weller's Bistro in Layton.

This week's special: The 'German Dip,' served with a side of global pandemic.

Jan Weller said business was good and they had built up a strong customer base until COVID-19 hit.

"Sales have been down about 65-70 percent," he said. "I immediately started adjusting to the new environment."

Weller said he hasn't laid anyone off, but has had to downsize staff hours and use some of his own personal savings to make things work.

He's also been utilizing social media and created weekly specials to draw people in.

"Who knows how long this is going to go on, and I just want to make sure that my business stays in business," he said.

That's why he recently applied for a small business loan. The federal government is offering help through the CARES Act, which is part of the $2 trillion stimulus package.

"It's nice to see that there's something out there, where we do-- as local business owners-- where we do get some support," Weller said.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a nationwide "Save Small Business" initiative, with financial assistance and other resources geared toward helping businesses like Weller's Bistro stay open.

But will those kinds of loans and help be enough?

Anna Davidson with Jessie Jean's Cafe in Ogden isn't confident it would help them.

"I know several people that have done the whole application process from other banks," she said. "and nobody's seen anything yet."

She indicated that they don't have time to wait for a loan to come through, and it doesn't help long-term if they're needing to pay the loan back later down the line.

Davidson said business has dropped 50 percent each week, from the previous week. She explained they're doing 25 percent of the sales they need to, in order to break even.

Curbside pickup isn't cutting it for payroll and rent.

"We are right there, we are on the brink. We are a day-by-day, minute-by-minute-- when do we call it?" Davidson said, as she began to tear up. "We've been in business for 20 years. So, this is heartbreaking."

She doesn't know if Jessie Jean's will survive the pandemic. If they close, she said, it'll be permanent.

"It's ugly," she said. "I don't even know how to say it."

There is no good way to say it: COVID-19 closures suck for small businesses.

For Weller, he said he applied for the loan a week-and-a-half ago, and has not heard back.

All he and Davidson can do right now, is hope that customers keep coming and don't drop off in numbers.

Weller said that it's been nice to see their regular customers placing orders.

"We have a lot of support from the local community," he said.

That support is crucial, Weller and Davidson expressed, in keeping their small businesses afloat.