Financial aid offers much-needed relief in western Nevada County for those who can get it
By the numbers
As of May 12
Number of COVID-19 cases in Nevada County: 41
Number in western county: 12
Number in eastern county: 29
Number of active cases: zero
Number of recoveries: 40
Number of deaths: 1
Learn more at http://www.theunion.com/coronavirus
Unprecedented amounts of financial aid have been made available federally and locally in response to the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and for those on the receiving end it’s been a “godsend.”
For others who haven’t been able to secure financial relief, keeping their businesses afloat has been a struggle.
Congress approved more than $2 trillion in financial aid in the last two months, with billions of dollars going to small businesses, billions being doled out to individuals through stimulus checks, billions being used to bail out entire industries and billions going toward testing and treatment.
“We availed ourselves right away to the Payroll Protection Plan,” said Mark Casey, president and CEO of Caseywood, a lumber distributor in Grass Valley. “We got right on that one. We’re not sure the length of this. We thought that was a good plan, especially if this goes longer than the summer months.”
The Payroll Protection Plan is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the SBA will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities.
“Luckily the industry has been pretty robust the last four years, so right when this all started we were able to not reduce hours and keep everyone going full tilt,” said Casey. “Then as we got deeper into this, there’s a little uncertainty.
“Some projects that were going to happen have been delayed, or maybe a project might not happen that we were a part of, and that’s where that Payroll Protection Plan becomes really a godsend in terms of giving us the ability to keep people and assure them of basically a normal paycheck.”
According to a Small Business Administration report on PPP activity, $175.7 billion in loans had been approved just five days into the program’s second round of funding, which was made available April 27. That’s on top of the $342 billion loaned out in just 13 days during the program’s first round.
While PPP funds remain available, a lot of local businesses have not been able to secure them.
According to a COVID-19 Impact Survey sent by the Grass Valley Downtown Association to Grass Valley businesses, of the nearly 100 that responded to the survey only 23.16% applied for the Payroll Protection Plan and just 6.32% have been approved.
Brian Scott, owner and operator of T-5 Boxing, Spotless Auto Detail and a U-Haul rental in Grass Valley, said he has applied for financial relief but has been unable to secure assistance.
“I did apply for some SBA loans online, but didn’t hear anything back,” he said. “I reached out to my bank and hit another road block because they’re a smaller branch and they don’t offer any SBA loans, so that was frustrating.”
Without any assistance, Scott’s businesses have all taken a major financial hit during the shelter-in-place mandate. Scott did note he expects business to pick up at his car wash and with the U-Haul rentals, but is still waiting for approval to reopen the T-5 Boxing gym. Scott added he and his wife received stimulus checks, and that has helped.
NEVADA COUNTY RELIEF FUND
Locally, the Nevada County Relief Fund has been developed to support local nonprofits and small businesses.
“We are trying to raise several hundred thousand dollars to support the nonprofits that are doing frontline service to our most vulnerable residents, as well as half the money going as lifeline, bridge support to small businesses countywide,” said Caleb Dardick, project administrator with the Nevada County CEO’s office. “We recognize that people are really struggling right now. Families are being faced with having to ask for food, something they probably never anticipated, and many of our businesses have been completely shut down by the stay-at-home order and are in a dire situation.”
Dardick said the first round of aid available through the Nevada County Relief Fund would be around $200,000. Nonprofits charged with helping the county’s most vulnerable residents can apply for up to $25,000 in aid, and small businesses can apply for micro-grants of up to $5,000. Applications will be reviewed and scored by a volunteer committee before being passed to a community advisory council which makes the final decisions.
Dardick said applications for aid through the relief fund should be available at http://www.nevcorelief.org this afternoon. He also noted that every time another $100,000 is raised through donations, another round of funding will become available.
“We really encourage people who want to help out during this time to donate and we will make sure every dollar makes a real difference in supporting our most vulnerable neighbors and our struggling small businesses,” he said.
As of Friday, the IRS has distributed $216.7 billion in stimulus checks to approximately 127.5 million people. In California, more than $22 billion has been distributed to approximately 13.5 million people.
While stimulus checks are being used for a variety of things from buying groceries to paying rent and bills, some of that money is finding its way to “Main Street,” as Mark Swasey puts it.
Swasey is the owner of Swasey Hardware and Hobbies in Grass Valley. As a business deemed essential from the start of the pandemic, Swasey has remained open and hasn’t had the need to apply for any of the federal aid packages.
“We’ve been busy and our numbers are up, but in a completely different way,” he said. “Our walk-in customer count was down the first four or five weeks, down about 75%. Now it’s down to the low part of normal. But, our online sells have been up over 200%. They’ve been through the roof.”
Swasey attributes a portion of that uptick to stimulus checks showing up in bank accounts.
“People have been coming in who have received stimulus checks and buying items they probably normally wouldn’t buy,” Swasey said, noting the many unique hobby and hardware items at his store. “There’s been a lot of that going on. From my perspective, the stimulus checks have gotten right down to the bottom level of Main Street.”
Swasey added the average transaction value is higher than normal, and customers are telling him directly the purchases were made possible due to the stimulus money.
“That’s happened more times than I can count, but I’d put it in the hundreds,” he said. “It’s been very significant. And a lot of the stuff they are buying are purchases they would not have made had everything stayed normal. It’s been a kind of a bonus. They come in and spend it like they’ve won the lottery, and I’ve heard people use that term.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4232.
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