MILLCREEK — A lot has changed in the past month for local business owner Tricia Bennion and her 52 employees.
A month ago, a visibly worried Bennion spoke with media in front of her shuttered Nailed! salon location in Salt Lake City. On that day, she was one among tens of thousands of Utah businesses that had applied for but not received emergency funding through the federal stimulus-backed Paycheck Protection Program. Bennion’s two salons had been closed since mid-March under COVID-19 restrictions and she said a number of her staff members, including several women expecting babies, were unable to secure unemployment benefits. Without some help to navigate the government-enacted shutdowns, Bennion said, the future for her and her employees was looking grim.
Cut to Thursday, where a much brighter Bennion was again in front of media. This time, however, hosting U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, at her newly reopened Millcreek salon.
Bennion said she received help via the second round of Paycheck Protection funding and thanks to the loan, is taking the first steps toward recovery.
“Without this help, there’s no way I would be able to open my doors again,” Bennion said. “The bills don’t stop just because the coronavirus hit.”
McAdams said the second round of Paycheck Protection Program, which Congress refilled with an additional $310 billion on April 23, is being depleted at a much slower rate and wants to remind Utah business owners that money is still available.
“If you are a small business and wondering how you’re going to get by the next several months, there’s a resource for you,” McAdams said. “And it’s not too late to apply.”
McAdams said as of Sunday, there was still $120 billion in Paycheck Protection funding available. According to data assembled by Bloomberg News, some 71% of Utah small businesses have received $5.5 billion in funding so far via the two rounds of funding. He noted the funds were there to help businesses owners, their employees and family members stay on their feet until the economic recovery is further down the road.
The Paycheck Protection Program provides federally guaranteed loans to eligible small businesses in amounts up to $10 million and may be partially forgivable. The available financing can provide businesses that employ 500 or fewer with funds equal to 2.5 times the company’s average monthly payroll expenses.
The first $350 billion allocated for the effort out of the $2.2 trillion stimulus package passed in mid-March was tapped out in less than two weeks. And while some 21,000 Utah businesses were approved for a collective $3.6 billion in partially forgivable loans in the initial round, 18,000 companies were left in a queue of unfunded applicants.
So far in the second round, 24,733 Utah companies have been approved for about $1.8 billion in loans.
As the second round of funding started going out late last month, McAdams raised questions about the transparency of the emergency loan process overseen by the U.S. Small Business Administration and U.S. Treasury. The agencies have released some aggregated information about where the loans have gone, but so far, no details about exactly who did and did not get help through the program.
“The money behind these loans comes from our hard-earned tax dollars and we need to make sure not a penny is being wasted,” McAdams said. “It’s important for people to see who’s getting the loans and for how much.”
McAdams said he and other congressional members have also been precluded from seeing which companies in their home states are getting loans and in what amounts. He also noted that reports surfacing about mega-operations like the L.A. Lakers, Shake Shack and others getting money that was supposed to go to small businesses wasn’t instilling a sense of confidence.
“The stories I’m hearing are alarming,” McAdams said. “I just want to make sure that the second round is allocated more fairly and that we’re not pushing small business to the back of the line, especially those businesses that don’t have anywhere else to look for a lifeline.”
Bennion said she’s been able to reopen both her salon locations and put all 52 employees back to work, though the nail salons are operating with shorter hours and fewer spaces to maintain appropriate social distancing. She said she hoped to be back to regular operating hours later this month.