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Utah Business Receives PPP Loan, Worries Money Won’t Last

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A small business that received a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program has rehired most of its staff but remained concerned that business won’t pick up before the money runs out again.

“It was like falling off a cliff,” said Taylor Vriens, president and CEO of Modern Display. “There was really no way to prepare for it.”

The impact of the coronavirus on the events industry was immediate, and Vriens’ events and retail business was no exception.

More than 50 groups have canceled their events with Modern Display, amounting to a loss of about $3.5 million worth of booked business. On top of that, Vriens’ had little choice but to lay off nearly all of his employees.

“A lot of sleepless nights. A lot of worry,” Vriens said. “We just have to keep working at it and well get through it.”

Now, for the first time since the virus hit the United States, things were finally looking up thanks to the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program. The loan is forgivable and allows Vriens to keep the lights on at his business and pay his employees for eight weeks.

In just the first couple of days of receiving the loan, Vriens has managed to rehire about 85% of his workforce. Others, he said, have already moved on to other jobs. But his concern is that the money won’t last.

“Unfortunately, the meetings, events and conventions aren’t just going to turn back on,” he said.

As helpful as the loan has been, it didn’t fill the calendar for the near future. Vriens said clients have continued to cancel events as far out as August.

“I’m very concerned that at the end of eight weeks we may have to go through another round of layoffs,” Vriens said. “Our business isn’t going to be back in eight weeks. And I don’t know what that’s going to look like.”

Vriens’s business isn’t the only one on his mind either. As the chairman of Visit Salt Lake, he knows the tourism and hospitality industries, like many others, were hurting. While there is some optimism that businesses will be able to begin reopening in May, there was no timeline on lifting social distancing recommendations or restrictions.

“We don’t know what the new normal is going to look like,” Vriens said. “Maybe similar to what grocery stores are doing with one-way aisles. There may have to be something like that that encourages people to spread out.”

Still, one thing seemed certain — the recovery for his and other businesses won’t be nearly as quick and dramatic as the fall in March.

“There’s so much uncertainty with this,” he said. “Like I said before we’ve fallen off a cliff. We’re trying to figure out if there’s a way for us to get back to the top of the cliff and we just don’t know.”


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 recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

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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