CORONAVIRUS UTAH

Small Businesses Working To Navigate Economic Pinch During Pandemic

Mar 28, 2020, 11:05 PM | Updated: Mar 29, 2020, 8:27 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Small business owners said they are struggling to keep the lights on with their doors closed during the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This was especially true for those offering experiences other than curbside options, and those businesses called on Governor Gary Herbert and the state to step in and help ease the pinch.

“You see it in the movies and it looks cool but you just don’t know until you feel the thud and you hear it,” said Brayden Floyd, owner of Social Axe Throwing, as he threw an ax at a target.

However, Floyd was only showing us how it’s done, as the lights were on but the doors are closed on what would normally be a busy weekend night.

“I mean, it’s kind of an unfortunate time for our name because they are saying social distancing and we’re social ax-throwing, right?” Floyd said.

There was a similar feel at Heart and Seoul Karaoke in downtown Salt Lake City.

“It’s already opening and it should have people coming in here, there should be rooms filled with people singing and dancing,” said Timothy Holley, one of the owners of Heart and Seoul Karaoke.

On a typical Saturday, Heart and Seoul Karaoke said they would see customers coming in right as they were opening.

Both businesses closed their doors about two weeks ago in efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“They want the curve to slow and we wanted to help out as much as we could with that,” Floyd said.

It hasn’t been easy, with both businesses saying they’ve had to send their employees home.

“That’s been one of the hardest things, on a personal level, figuring out how to take care of our employees and making sure that they’re not just left behind,” Holley said.

While revenues have stopped, the bills have not, prompting owners to seek aid at the federal and local levels — but they said it’s a tricky process.

“While we’ve applied for all that, for some businesses it may come just a few weeks too late,” said Brody Horton, one of Heart and Seoul Karaoke’s owners.

Owners said they’ve found a lot of flexibility with some of their vendors and landlords. However, Horton said more can be done by the state to ease the burden of paying sales tax right away.

“I’m getting one email saying apply for aid and we’re here to help you,” Horton said. “Then I get another reminder email saying hey, you owe us thousands of dollars and you have three days to pay because we pay our sales tax monthly.”

Horton said he doesn’t want to get out of paying his fair share, but he’s hoping for more time.

“That makes it really hard for a small business,” he said. “I think there is more to be done at the local level to step in and say ‘we’ll waive the late fees and we will do what we can to keep that cash in your business at least for the time being.’”

The Utah State Tax Commission essentially said it’s out of their hands and up to the governor and legislature in a statement sent to KSL TV.

”The Utah State Tax Commission has had several inquires about delaying sales tax deposits by vendors. Our research indicates that the Utah State Tax Commission does not have statutory authority to change those deposits. The legislature would have to meet in a special session to do so,” officials said. “Sales taxes are collected from customers who buy taxable goods and services and are remitted to the tax commission either monthly, quarterly or annually.

“Not only is the state’s portion of the collected tax remitted, but also the local sales, TRT, restaurant, public transit and resort community taxes, just to name a few.

“These funds are treated as trust funds in the hands of the vendors. Our statutes do not treat this as a payment but as a remittance of trust funds.

“We have discussed this with the governor. It is now in his hands and in the hands of the legislature.”

The Governor’s Office sent KSL a statement saying they’re working to extend tax filing deadlines to match the federal government’s extensions.

“The State of Utah intends to ensure that tax filing deadlines are adapted to match the extensions recently provided by the federal government. We will take all necessary steps to ensure this extension takes place,” said Herbert’s spokeswoman Anna Lehnardt.

However, it was unclear if this applies to sales tax deadlines.

In the meantime, both businesses are selling gift cards to be used at a later time and offering discounts on various services.


Coronavirus Resources

How Do I Prevent It?

The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:

  • Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

The CDC does not recommend wearing a face mask respirator to protect yourself from coronavirus unless a healthcare professional recommends it.

How To Get Help

If you’re worried you may have COVID-19, you can contact the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707 to speak to trained healthcare professionals. You can also use telehealth services through your healthcare providers.

Additional Resources

If you see evidence of PRICE GOUGING, the Utah Attorney General’s Office wants you to report it. Common items in question include toilet paper, water, hand sanitizer, certain household cleaners, and even cold medicine and baby formula. Authorities are asking anyone who sees price gouging to report it to the Utah Division of Consumer Protection at 801-530-6601 or 800-721-7233. The division can also be reached by email at consumerprotection@utah.gov.

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Small Businesses Working To Navigate Economic Pinch During Pandemic