Here’s how small businesses can get help during the COVID-19 outbreak

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Locally owned businesses are now desperately looking for ways to survive the COVID-19-fueled economic shutdown.

“I mean at this point, everybody’s struggling,” said Catherine Cledelin, owner of the Artisan Gift Boxes. “One of my vendors went from 40 people to four. They’re down to four people.”

Cledelin’s company makes gift boxes with local products, so no South By Southwest, no events and no conferences mean no orders.

Photo courtesy: the Artisan Gift Boxes

“Everything that I had lined up, everything was canceled,” she said.

Cledelin said she has one company that’s now holding its event virtually and gift boxes were ordered. But she said the future is still unknown.

“We just don’t know. Every day, things keep on happening, and the uncertainty of it all is what makes more challenging.”

She said if you are able, shop local to help locally-owned companies like hers.

“Shop local. Spread the word on social media. Share things, follow us, tag friends and family,” she said.

City resources for small businesses

On Thursday, Austin City Council passed an anti-eviction ordinance that gives renters and small businesses owners an extra 60 days to make their payments for April and May.

Cledelin said while the extra time helps businesses, “at the end you still have to pay for it, so if you went without any income for that amount of time, you gotta get a loan, you still are getting behind.”

Veronica Briseno, Economic Development Director for City of Austin, said the city is exploring other ways to help.

“We at the city are in this with the community and are trying to be as nimble and as creative as possible when we’re looking at resources,” she said.

At Thursday’s City Council meeting, Briseno said the actions already taken by the city include:

  • Dedicate staff members to answer questions from business owners about the “Stay at Home” order
  • Waive fees for online classes for small businesses
  • Host virtual workshops for the heritage grant program
  • Return outdoor music venue permit fees to venues
  • Currently Assessing other SXSW fee refunds

She said the city is also looking at how it can re-deploy current resources or acquire new resources and dedicating staff to help small business owners file for the Small Business Administration loans.

Thursday, the council also approved a local emergency loan program. It’s to hold the businesses over until federal loans can be dispersed.

Federal resources for small businesses

On Friday, Pres. Trump signed a stimulus package that includes loans and tax credits for small businesses.

“They’ll see extensive benefits,” said Dana Harris, Vice President of Federal and State Advocacy at Austin Chamber. “There’s a strong paycheck protection program. There’s extensive debt relief included in this package. There’s expanded unemployment insurance. There’s assistance to distressed job creators.”

Harris said the Chamber will comb through the newly passed bill, so it can help businesses owners better understand what kind of loans and tax credits are available and when.

“There’s absolute hope that we’ll bounce back. These programs will continue through the end of the year, and some of it will be retroactive to February of this year,” Harris explained. “We plan to do webinars as many as we need in coming weeks to help explain and get this information out to employees.”

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