The US government has offered up some relief to the smallest of small businesses — self-employed freelancers, contractors and sole proprietors. But for many, that aid hasn’t come quickly — if at all.
Small Business Administration. They are also eligible to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program loans, though they weren’t allowed to do so until the first round of money was nearly gone.
Some business owners are starting to see a bit of aid come through now after a month of waiting. But many are not, grappling instead with a morass of long wait times, confusing guidance and unreturned phone calls.
Feeling lucky for a minimum wage job
Her husband, also a massage therapist, had been working in a chiropractor’s office.
Jackoboice applied for federal relief as soon as it was possible. But she still doesn’t know the status of her application for an EIDL grant from the SBA, nor has she gotten approval from Chase yet on her second application for a PPP loan. (Due to a mistake by the bank on her first application, she said, she had to reapply.)
“I don’t know what the appropriate thing to do is anymore,” she said.
But she has had better luck with her landlord and utilities’ providers, all of whom are giving her a bit of a break on her monthly bills.
“We got very lucky in that capacity,” she said.
Applying for every type of aid, even food stamps
When the recording industry shut down and his income dropped to zero, Morrison got busy applying for every type of assistance he could think of, including food stamps, which he received about a month after he applied.
“I was really surprised — it was a shot in the dark — and it’s the one thing that saved me,” said Morrison.
Morrison did just learn that he will be getting a $2,500 grant from an artists’ collective, which will help with his bills since “they’re not stopping,” he said.
“I’m looking at things that make sense that won’t really go away,” Morrison said, such as becoming a notary.
Moving back home to save on rent
“I decided to move because I wasn’t sure when I’d have money coming in — and I didn’t want rent piling up,” Ivana said.
Ivana lost a lot of income as a result, and has been trying to recover damages from the city. Using borrowed supplies, she was working on a late night television show when it shut down on March 12.
Ivana was able to secure a $3,000 EIDL grant for a beauty-skills training business that she recently started with two partners. But that money will get eaten up quickly for business expenses, she said.
“There was so much shifting information about it. I wasn’t sure how it would impact me and if I could pay it back,” Ivana said.
Earning hundreds of dollars, instead of thousands
Still, Asher said, whereas she used to earn thousands of dollars during wedding season, she’s now earning hundreds. And the fact that she still has any income at all likely will disqualify her for unemployment benefits. But she did apply for a PPP loan at the end of April after trying to sort through conflicting guidance from two accountants about her eligibility.
Asher says she does have some personal savings that can carry her business for two to three months, but the couple’s plan to buy a new house next year? “That’s not going to happen,” she said.
Rethinking her career
With major concerts and other music events on ice for now, she has no work and said she wasn’t even paid for what she did ahead of SXSW, which was canceled a week before it was to start in March.
Jeanty was back in Brooklyn on March 12 working at a music venue when it shuttered due to the pandemic. Since then she has been living off savings because she hasn’t been able to secure any financial relief yet. She has applied for unemployment benefits and for a grant from LiveNation, and she plans to ask her landlord for a break on rent.
She worries that because of social distancing requirements, many music venues won’t reopen. That’s one reason why she’s seriously considering new ways to make a living.
‘We feel like one of the lucky ones’
They are still making and shipping products to customers, and can do so as long as supplies last, Valerie Franklin said. But sales are always unpredictable.
“We feel like one of the lucky ones so far and yet there’s so much to worry about.”
Their tenants have paid their April rent, but it’s unclear how long that will continue.