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.”
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