Grants give lifeline to small businesses

Posted at 5:14 PM, Sep 08, 2020

While many hair salon and gym owners across the country understood why they had to shut down during the pandemic, those closures created a financial hardship. A hardship that some are finding difficult to overcome.

"Economically, it's been devastating to us. We opened up our gym three years ago and sort of like a little miracle. We took over an existing gym that was probably not fitting the community. We came in there with our life savings, we opened up this beautiful gym and we were becoming very successful," said John Pena, the owner of GYM NYC in New York City.

Pena says their business was shut down for nearly six months. Now, he's finally excited to reopen. Pena applied for and received money from the Paycheck Protection Program but it only did so much.

"There is no income coming in from the business, obviously. The extra $600 on the unemployment has really been a big help but that’s going away. I’ve been able to pay my bills and that's it," said Pena.

Pena and other gym owners in New York are hoping for more government help for small businesses to help them get back on their feet.

"In general, I think there is a set of overhead expenses that I’m sure owners in any industry would tell you play a huge factor. Rent, utilities, payroll, insurance etc., and those are fixed costs that you sort of wonder whether they’ll be any concessions made," said Elvira Yambot, COO of Tone House.

In Tennessee, the Shelby County Commission is offering small brick and mortar businesses $2,000 each as part of the Beautiful Comeback Grant.

"It applies to any business that is in the personal care contact industry. So right off the bat you'd think of barber shops, beauty salons, nail salons but you also think about people who work in the massage industry, as well," said Shelby County Commissioner Mickell Lowery.

Gyms also qualify, along with any other business where close physical contact with clients is required.

"Even when they’re allowed to open they still have to incur additional costs because now they have to open under certain stipulations. You have to have either have PPE which we all have to have now, you have to have that, that's a cost you might have to have, disposable capes and that nature, maybe plexiglass between you and a client, things of that nature depending what type of work you’re doing," said Lowery.

Commissioner Lowery hopes other local governments across the country are also able to give something back to small businesses.

"If you're going to tell businesses to shut down, you have to give me something back so I don't starve," says Pena.

For Pena, he's concerned that not helping businesses reopen could have a devastating economic impact.

"The quicker we can get back on our feet, the quicker we can get back and people can start walking around and feeling confident, because not making any money, not being able to feed your family is far worse than this coronavirus," said Pena.

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