Businesses adapt to stay afloat
The reality for employers amid the coronavirus pandemic is that business operations and government orders change on a daily basis.
Since March 26, some businesses have been ordered by the city and county government to cease operations altogether under a stay-at-home order. Essential businesses, such as healthcare establishments, grocery stores, and banks, are allowed to remain open with certain restrictions.
Many business owners must adjust to keep making sales and paying, and some are looking to federal loans to stay afloat.
The US Senate also passed a stimulus package on March 25 that will inject about $ 2 trillion in aid into the US economy – the largest bailout in US history, according to media reports. The package, which is awaiting approval from the House of Representatives, includes billions in aid to large and small businesses, direct payments to Americans, expansion of unemployment insurance and $ 150 billion to support the sector health care.
At the state level, the Missouri General Assembly has approved an allocation of $ 40 million to the health care industry for personal protective equipment and additional testing.
At Bawi Korean BBJ and Hinode Japanese Steakhouse in Springfield and Nixa, owners have transitioned their restaurants to take-out alongside recommendations from the city government, followed by discounts on most meals ranging from 40% to 60%. %.
Restaurateurs took it a step further in mid-March, saying they would not be taking a salary or profit sharing yet, and managers agreed to pay at minimum wage.
“Our only goal is to keep people in employment and to provide affordable food,” said Rosal Tapp, director of human resources for restaurants. “This is all fair to the staff. The way you treat your employees in this circumstance is going to really change the way they feel about coming back. “
So far, Tapp and restaurant co-owner Cosmo Kwon have said they’ve been blown away by the support from the community. As the order count fell below what they would normally sell during the week, Kwon said the weekend order count saw no change. He declined to disclose sales, but noted they were well below the company average due to menu discounts.
Kwon said his restaurants, including Bawi Korean BBQ, have prepared more than 10,000 orders since the initial announcement on March 20. Amid the commotion, they had to shut down Springfield’s Hinode for a few days to allow staff to cool off after busy working hours.
The property group provides free meals to organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of Springfield, the Springfield Discovery Center Inc., and Springfield Public Schools.
“The funds are currently in limited supply for everyone. We want to do what we can, ”Kwon said. “We have a lot of food in stock and we want to give as many meals as possible.”
Tapp said the company is providing temporary layoff opportunities for staff who do not want to work in the restaurant environment amid COVID-19. Those who accept the offer may be eligible for unemployment. She was not aware of any employee who accepted the offer at press time.
Tapp said the property group is considering applying for a business loan through the SBA.
The US Small Business Administration offers disaster recovery loans to businesses across the United States.
Dubbed economic disaster loans, working capital is available to small businesses with a maximum interest rate of 3.75% for a period of up to 30 years, according to a press release. The loan is limited to $ 2 million to mitigate the economic damage.
Chrystal Irons, director of the Small Business and Development Center at Missouri State University, said the five-person team was busy helping business owners with their disaster recovery loan applications.
“My schedule is full every day this week, and I don’t anticipate that will slow down,” Irons said in an interview on March 23.
She encourages business owners to apply for a loan amount they could have supported before the COVID-19 disruptions, as well as to consider loan deferrals and insurance adjustments.
“Most lenders are currently working with their clients on deferment of loans, and trying to maintain cash flow is also important. They can do a lot while waiting for disaster recovery, ”she said.
Irons said she did not know when the awarded businesses would start receiving loan funding.
Prior to the Stay-at-Home Order, businesses such as Hudson Hawk Barber & Shop had announced temporary closures. Hudson Hawk plans to reopen on April 24, according to a Facebook post.
Meanwhile, operations don’t stop at Paul Mueller Co. The stainless steel equipment maker announced in a March 24 press release that it was classified by the federal government as a critical manufacturer. Mueller Co. officials say the company allows employees to request time off, and if approved, they will retain their health insurance coverage and status with the company, and they will receive assistance through all sources of remuneration available.
“We believe we can continue to meet the needs of our customers as well, many of whom are currently on the front lines of caring for our country,” said David Moore, president and CEO of Mueller Co., in the release. .
Other companies have had to temporarily lay off employees.
O’Reilly Hospitality Management LLC made an undisclosed number of layoffs in mid-March in response to COVID-19, according to earlier reports from the Springfield Business Journal. CEO Tim O’Reilly highlighted travel restrictions impacting the hospitality industry.
“I’m extremely determined to bring all of these people back,” O’Reilly said. “We will survive. We will go through this.
Shawn Askinosie, founder and CEO of Askinosie Chocolate LLC, laid off half of its factory workers on March 24. He plans to bring those 10 employees back in 60 to 90 days.
“This is the reality we find ourselves in, in order to maintain financial viability and be a responsible citizen when it comes to law enforcement,” Askinosie said. “I spent 15 years building this and … I have an obligation to the community and my employees who are on leave, not on leave, to have a business to come back to.”
Individuals are eligible for unemployment, he said, pointing to the federal stimulus package which could provide some relief.
Askinosie Chocolate will continue production with three people and one in shipping, Askinosie said, noting that the company has over a year of cocoa beans to make chocolate.
“We still receive large orders online from people across the country and in small specialty food stores. However, we have also seen a dramatic reduction in sales of chocolate ingredients, ”he said, adding that these sales are typically made by restaurants, cafes and ice cream makers.
He said the shop window and factory tours were closed.
“My main focus in all of this is to be successful, yes, financially at what I would say is a driving force, and that we’re going to go through that and do what we can for the employees and run the business in the best possible way. . ”Askinosie said.
Web editor Geoff Pickle contributed.