Temple outreach center continues to help businesses in wake of COVID-19 pandemic
Melissa Walter and Kevin Walter, owners of Love City Brewing Co.
PHILADELPHIA, June 17, 2020 — For small business owners, the CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) can be intimidating, and that’s not just because it’s one of the largest U.S. stimulus programs in history.
Its website is extensive. The application is exhaustive. Finding answers is easier said than done. The entire process can be… a lot.
“When we went to apply, there was just a lack of clarity about certain things, and that made things even more confusing,” says Melissa Walter, co-owner of Philadelphia’s Love City Brewing Co.
Love City Brewing Co. was one of many regional businesses to recently seek guidance from Temple University’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) regarding the PPP program. Funded jointly by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the PA Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) and Temple University’s Fox School of Business, the SBDC’s mission is to provide entrepreneurs and small businesses with the knowledge needed to make informed business decisions. It has been serving Philadelphia and the surrounding communities since 1983.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Love City had already started to pivot with regard to its business strategy. Like all non-essential businesses, the brewery was forced to close down, so it introduced statewide shipping. However, navigating the PPP, proved to be a bit more difficult.
“I felt like I was calling (SBDC consultant) Karl Kraus every other day trying to get some clarity,” Walter says. “Having somebody who has a direct link to the SBA was so helpful because at least we had a source who has accurate information.”
One of the most complicated factors about the PPP is how it seems to constantly change. The SBA maintains a FAQs website, which is updated on a weekly basis. Additionally, while the loan is forgivable, there are a number of requirements that must be met to ensure it actually gets forgiven.
For one, the loan must be used for its intended purpose, which is to fund the salaries of businesses’ employees to ensure no one is laid off. It can also be used to pay for utilities. The salary aspect can be confusing though, especially if employees are not making a large amount.
“The complication is that if a business has furloughed or laid off people, their employees are now receiving unemployment with another CARES Act program that adds an additional $600 per week to their compensation,” Kraus says. “A lot of businesses laid off their employees only for them to make more on unemployment. Many employers are reporting that their furloughed employees would rather not return until the business can reopen.”
Also, while the loan can be forgiven, its interest rate is only for 1% for businesses that choose to spread out spending beyond the forgiveness period. According to Kraus, that’s a strategy that made sense for some businesses.
“Helping businesses understand how to spend the money but also how to get the proper documentation is probably the hardest part of the process,” Kraus says.
Two other businesses who recently sought the SBDC’s guidance with regard to the PPP are Bennett Compost, a Philadelphia-based business which picks up waste from 3,500-plus households and businesses every week, and Nase Dental Group, a privately-owned dental office in Harleysville, Pa.
“We’ve been able to keep operating because collecting food waste is considered an essential business, but it was not the same. Probably about 80 to 90% of our commercial business had evaporated,” says Tim Bennett, owner of Bennett Compost. “That’s where Karl and the SBDC were so helpful. He had done some webinars with the SBA, so he was able to explain how we should go about using it while also giving us the information needed, so we can apply for other programs as well.”
According to Dr. John Nase, owner of Nase Dental Group, the loan was key in ensuring that all of his employees remained working.
“By April 1, I was having to furlough employees, but fortunately, because of the PPP, I did not have to let anybody go, and even the thought of that was so hard. Thankfully, I was able to start paying them again,” Nase says. “I’m very thankful. It definitely would have been more hours at the computer trying to figure this all out had it not been for Temple and the SBDC.”
To learn more about the SBDC and its available services to small businesses, visit its website.
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