Surveys: Nevada County businesses concerned about drop in sales revenue, most haven’t received federal loans | TheUnion.com
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Surveys: Nevada County businesses concerned about drop in sales revenue, most haven’t received federal loans

Sam Corey
Staff Writer

The current pandemic has created uncertainty for most everything society touches, and that’s particularly true of how local businesses operate.

Surveys sent out in April to Nevada County businesses by the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce and Grass Valley Downtown Association tried to take the temperature of local business owners and the self-employed to understand how they are faring.

While the Grass Valley results are still rolling in, survey responders of both cities have made a few things clear: many businesses have applied for federal loans, but the vast majority have not received them; the vast majority of businesses are concerned, first and foremost, about loss of sales revenue; and sizable minorities report that they may never reopen.

“It is shocking how few businesses have been approved for federal funding,” said Jesse Locks, who created the Nevada City survey, in an email. “It’s also sad to see that one-third or one-half did not apply for funding. A question we should have asked was, ‘Why didn’t they apply?’”

Nevada City’s survey, which resulted in replies from 74 people, went out to the city’s chamber of commerce, which includes over 400 members. About 100 people responded to Grass Valley’s survey, which was intended to reach about 250 businesses, according to Marni Marshall, executive director of the Grass Valley Downtown Association and the creator of that city’s survey.

For each survey, a plurality of responders were in retail.

Sierra Business Council Vice President Kristin York said the survey’s responses track with what she knows is going on inside the local business community, as well as what is being experienced by small businesses around the country. York said some businesses are intentionally not taking Paycheck Protection Program loans because they’re not sure they can meet all the criteria to have them forgiven.

“Some people that have received the PPP (loan) have opted not to take it since they do not think they can meet the — as of yet released — forgiveness guidelines,” York said in an email. “Others, however, are looking at the worst case scenario of having a two-year loan at 1%. The reality is, that is a good loan if your business can handle the repayment from operating cash flow.”

Grass Valley’s survey director is still trying to accumulate responses, as the more information local institutions gather, the better they can help small businesses.

“The more responses we get, the better information we have for the city, the county (and) the state on the impact,” said Marshall.

According to Nevada City’s survey, some things responders most want: help navigating paperwork to acquire federal loans and information about when they can reopen their businesses.

BY THE NUMBERS

A significant minority of businesses are concerned about closing for good, according to the surveys. About 28% of Grass Valley and 35% of Nevada City survey-takers said the abrupt and elongated closure may put them out of business.

A majority of Grass Valley businesses said they lost at least 75% of sales revenue over the month of April. About the same percentage of Nevada City responders shared their concern.

The majority of survey takers in both cities — 60% in Nevada City and a similar number in Grass Valley — have not had to layoff or furlough their employees.

While survey responders highlighted the lack of federal loans they’d been provided, businesses in each city applied for federal loans at different rates. While a majority of Grass Valley responders said they applied for Paycheck Protection Program loans, only 32% of Nevada City responders reported as much. Of the about 40% of Nevada City responders who applied for emergency assistance loans, 3% said they had been approved for such funding.

According to Jesse Locks, there are two ways to digest the survey’s information and respond to the moment: wait to see what will happen or get creative.

“I personally subscribe to the ‘let’s get creative’ way of thinking and am currently working with others to take the resources and assets we already have and do what we can with them to help as many of our small businesses as possible,” Locks said in an email. “We need to keep reminding ourselves that we are all connected and we each have a role to play.”

To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey, email scorey@theunion.com or call 530-477-4219.


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