Local restaurateurs and arts organizations are among those seeking federal aid under the $900 billion stimulus package passed two days after Christmas.
President Trump signed the bill Dec. 27, six days after Congress passed it.
The latest CARES (Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act) injects more money into the Paycheck Protection Program, providing $12 billion to minority-owned and very small businesses and $15 billion to performance halls and theaters as well as the media and non-profit organisations.
The new CARES Act extends Unemployment Assistance for U.S. employees and independent contractors and other self-employed workers for 11 weeks, from December 31 through March 14, 2021. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is also extended, but it has been reduced from $600 per week to $300 per week.
Those eligible for the PUA will receive an additional $300 each week until the extension period ends. Independent contractors will receive paid sick leave and family leave benefits until March 14, 2021.
West Virginia Chamber of Commerce President Steve Roberts told WV News the stimulus package is a lifeline for small businesses.
Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce CEO Michelle Rotellini said few businesses in Raleigh County have closed due to the pandemic.
“Raleigh County was actually very lucky,” she reported. “A lot of companies have changed their business model because of the pandemic, and a lot of new companies have opened up, but we haven’t really lost many.”
Top Knot cafe in downtown Beckley and It’s New To Me consignment store in Beaver closed in 2020. Roma Pizza and Grill on Main Street announced on Monday the impending sale of the small pizzeria and curry restaurant, except increased business, but Roma owner Diness Lamichhane blamed a four-month closure of Main Street, rather than the pandemic, as having the most negative impact on business.
Dobra Zupas, an Oakwood Avenue restaurant serving New American fare and award-winning craft beers, survived the pandemic by operating under a modified business model and with the help of funds from the latest Payroll Protection Program.
Owner Rebecca Zupanik said federal PPP funds and emergency disaster loan funding from the latest CARES package for employers have helped her restaurant. For Zupanik, the process was smooth and helpful.
“I had help with the application, but it went really well,” she said. “Within a short time, the money had already been issued and I was able to keep the doors of my restaurant open.
“Of course, I adjusted my schedule a bit,” added Zupanik. “There were really days, not a lot of people, and I was closing, then I took an extra day here and there, I took catering events, which was good.
“I will apply again when the new package arrives.”
Zupanik said she anticipates small businesses will need the additional federal assistance due to the predicted pandemic.
“Until we get more people vaccinated and we get better at wearing our masks and social distancing, I really think Covid-19 is going to be with us for a while,” she said. “We still have citizens who think it’s a hoax.
“We’ve been told since day one that washing your hands and wearing a mask helps everyone,” Zupanik added. “Honestly, I think if everyone did that it would go away, but I think it’s going to be there for a while yet.
“They vaccinate as many people as possible, but the people administering the vaccine are also humans.
“There are only a limited number of them who can vaccinate.”
Zupanik said one of the surprises of the pandemic is that Dobra Zupas has attracted new customers. When dining rooms were closed by executive order in March, she began serving $11 growler refills of her take-out craft beer on Fridays.
“Thanks to social media, I have had new customers who come on Fridays for beer,” she said. “But once we reopened, they would come back for dinner or lunch.”
Her restaurant now offers indoor dining and takeout, she added.
Becky Sullivan, executive director of the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce, said she was not aware of any permanent small business closures related to the pandemic.
To date, neither the BRCCC nor the Chambre Fayette have requested federal P3 assistance. This time, both agencies could receive funds, after Congress added 501 C-6 nonprofits, which include chambers of commerce and tourism promotion organizations, to the list of eligible agencies.
“Luckily the chamber is holding up for now,” Sullivan said. “We were not eligible to apply for the first round of the PPP, but we are eligible to apply for this second round.
“In the first round, we applied for EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loans) and we got it.
“We were lucky to keep this in our reserves, but we need to start repaying this loan in August 2021.”
Rotellini said it’s likely the BRCCC will also apply.
“Our board hasn’t made a formal decision, but I think we will,” she said. “Without our events, we struggled financially.”
In 2020, live shows across the state and country have been limited, leading arts organizations to find creative ways to stay afloat.
The latest federal CARES package allows performance venues and theaters to apply for grants from the Small Business Administration to support six months of employee payments and for costs including rent, utilities and maintenance.
According to the bill, candidates must have lost at least 25% of their income to be eligible, and those who have lost more than 90% will be able to apply first, within the first two weeks after the bill takes effect. law.
Grants are capped at $10 million.
In Fayette County, Gene Worthington is applying for the grants, with the help of the chamber.
Worthington and his wife, actress Karen Vuranch, own WV Enterprises, a historic performance company based in Fayetteville. They travel the country telling stories, portraying historical figures, murder mystery and other performances.
Worthington said on Tuesday the couple “took a beating” in 2020 with events being canceled due to Covid.
Beckley’s West Virginia Theater offered virtual performances, radio readings and socially distanced performances in 2020 in an attempt to make up for the cancellation of the 2020 summer performance season at the Grandview Amphitheater.
Hill said TWV would request funding available for the arts.
“It’s a huge deal for everyone affected, and it’s a huge deal down the road.
“This was designed for Theater West Virginia, an arts organization. Somebody wants the arts to be here once we drop the masks.”
TWV had struggled in the mid-2000s and were back on firmer ground when Covid forced the 2020 season to close.
“We were on shaky ground for a while, and finally we got firm ground, and it got a little shaky again for us,” Hill said. “Something like that, where they would pay a percentage of your wages, that would be amazing.
“West Virginia Theater will be looking at all the ways funding (is available),” he said. “We have auctions, we solicit grants, we have cookie sales, we sell hot dogs, we sell T-shirts, all with the goal of perpetuating TWV to the next generation.
“We will continue to do so. Whatever the government – state, federal – we will put our name in the hat.”