Washington Business Journal: 'A Band-Aid on a gunshot wound:' Small businesses desperately look to Congress for more relief

By Andy Medici
Washington Business Journal, Aug 11, 2020

... Boloco co-founder John Pepper’s journey began as part of a business school project, eventually growing to 22 locations that he sold to a private equity firm before buying it back years later to save what remained of the ailing chain. Set up as a B Corporation that balances profits with social value, Pepper put most of the profits into paying employees and promoting from within.

... 2020 had been looking up, with sales increasing 8% in an increasingly competitive landscape. Then Covid-19 swept across the country. “It was like hitting a brick wall,” Pepper said.

Sales collapsed. Revenue dropped 95%. Downtown Boston became a ghost town. Stores that saw 600 customers a day instead served just 20.

Today, Boloco faces a situation shared by many small businesses around the country as the ongoing spread of Covid-19 and the acute economic damage in its wake continues to slash revenue, force layoffs and send owners reeling. The business is one of millions that received a Paycheck Protection Program loan from the Small Business Administration — Boloco's was for $650,000 — but Pepper ultimately spent that money by July 1 to fulfill loan terms at the time, essentially paying workers to stay home as customers kept shying away from indoor dining.

Now as small businesses close at a rapid clip, they see the PPP as merely a stopgap, a short- term emergency economic measure to help them survive, but not designed to fix the wider gaps in business still to come. ...

Pepper said. “It was always a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound,” he said in an interview, describing the PPP. “If they want businesses to actually exist, there has to be relief that gets us through January 2021.”

Small businesses — and the organizations that represent them — have told me and Congress what they need, which includes:

Additional coronavirus testing. Small-business owners agreed that additional testing will not just help track the spread and current state of Covid-19, but would also help people feel more comfortable returning to businesses and weighing the risks.

Extend unemployment insurance. The $600 per week in enhanced unemployment benefits created through the CARES Act made it harder to hire back workers. But the elimination of those benefits has hurt many would-be customers as well.

Extend and expand the PPP. ...

Copyright 2020 American City Business Journals

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