CORONAVIRUS

State Offers Rental Assistance To Very Small Businesses

May 8, 2020, 10:54 PM | Updated: 10:57 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A new state program is offering $40 million in commercial rental assistance to small businesses that have taken a direct hit from the coronavirus pandemic.

The program is for businesses with fewer than 100 employees that have lost at least half of their gross monthly revenue after March 1 because of the pandemic.

“One thing I’ve learned about COVID is you just take it day-by-day because you can never be sure what’s coming around the corner,” said Tricia Bennion, owner of Nailed Boutique and Salon in Salt Lake City.

For Bennion, the first corner hit two months ago as fear of the coronavirus grew in the United States and Utah. By March 18, she was forced to close her doors and then later lay off nearly every one of her 52 employees.

“I applied for all of them. I jumped right on the ball and applied for all loans and grants that were available,” Bennion said.

It was a difficult several weeks of zero business. Then, she got her first dose of relief when her business was approved for a loan during the second round of the Paycheck Protection Program.

“Seriously, it was like Christmas and Easter and my birthday all rolled into one,” she said.

Not long after, the state transitioned from a high risk to moderate risk phase and Bennion was ultimately allowed to reopen her business. Though it’s never looked quite like this.

Customers and employees are now greeted at the back door with a thermometer check, followed by 30 seconds of handwashing. Each person is required to wear a mask. A shield separates workers, who are wearing gloves, from their clients. And the two of them are required to stay six feet apart from the next pair. That, along with limited hours, put the business in a tight spot.

“I don’t know how long we’ll be able to continue to operate at 30% capacity over time,” Bennion said. “We operate on very slim margins and so volume is definitely how we operate.”

She has now started the process to apply for the state’s new COVID-19 Commercial Rental Assistance Program. If approved, she could receive up to 100% of a single month of rent, no more than $10,000.

“I’m hoping that I can use that to backpay some rent that I missed out on when this COVID first happened,” she said.

Coincidentally, the first week she was allowed to reopen was also the week leading up to Mother’s Day.

“This would normally be my biggest weekend of the year,” she said.

Instead, her ability to serve customers was limited. Still, for the first time since she had to close, they’re getting more calls from customers every day and business seems to be headed in the right direction.

“Women want to get their manicures and pedicures,” she said. “I’m feeling very optimistic. I’m feeling very okay.”


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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State Offers Rental Assistance To Very Small Businesses