You may know my business, Ipso Facto, as that “spooky store” nestled on the north end of downtown Fullerton for the last 30 years in a 15-foot wide sliver of a utilitarian 1930s building. Our punk/gothic lifestyle apparel boutique also caters to the pagan community, and offers workshops and free history/anthropology lectures within a salon-type atmosphere where artistic free-thinking people shop, exchange ideas, and are part of a community.
The challenges we face now with COVID-19, are more daunting than our first four nascent years in business. Some of Ipso Facto’s monthly events are being re-tooled for Zoom meetings, where possible, while others, like the wire wrapping jewelry craft classes, are on hold. Until May 22, the store could only offer pickup and shipping options to shoppers. Sales are down 50%, despite my returning to my fashion design roots making and selling over 200 unique cloth face masks.
I applied April 1 for EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loan) and PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) through the SBA when a friend who also owns a small business alerted me to those programs. I had to apply for EIDL twice after they added a one time $1K grant per employee, which I obviously wanted to get in on. Like many, I plan to decline the EIDL loan and keep the advance grant, which the SBA recommended in one of my many phone calls to them.
For PPP I went through my local commercial bank, FMB, with which I had a lengthy business relationship. When I hadn’t gotten a response after some weeks, I also applied through PayPal’s Loan Builder, a backup that I did not have to use, but that I recommend.
Thank you Redditors for the tip! Interestingly, it was other business owners, often in the online community, who provided the most valuable information, not local government or traditional news sources.
Good News and Bad News
I got both the SBA PPP loan and the EIDL grant for Ipso Facto in late April, for which I am extremely grateful. I know many business owners are still waiting.
Sadly PPP was a net loss for my staff. Not only did it require a lot of documentation and a lengthy wait, but in my case it failed in its very purpose—to benefit workers. A full-time minimum wage employee returns to work making $300 a week less than Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits, and PPP’s 8-week reporting timetable required me to re-employ workers during the lockdown, which is frankly idiotic for retailers.
I wouldn’t be surprised if many workers will return to UI after the 8 weeks, or if many businesses still fail because assistance and recovery took too long.
75% of the PPP loan must be payroll in order to qualify for loan forgiveness, and in my case, the remaining 25% provided less than half of one month’s rent.
EIDL, on other hand, had a very simple application process, and provided a no strings $1000 per employee advance grant. You can roll your 4% EIDL loan into the PPP 1% loan or choose to opt out of the loan that follows the advance.
Unfortunately, I just learned that via the SBA Temporary Changes document, that EIDL rules have been modified so that “proceeds from any advance up to $10,000 on the EIDL loan will be deducted from the loan forgiveness amount on the PPP loan.”
So, in my case, this wipes out any benefit for my business except for the 8 weeks of payroll for my employee, who would have preferred UI benefits for that time period.
Also there is still no SBA link or form available to decline the EIDL loan as promised.
Alas, I knew the job of a small business owner was dangerous when I took it.
Both PPP and EIDL may offer more benefit to other types of business owners, such as those with no employees, low overhead, home-based, or those who pay more than minimum wage, or have more staff.
For myself, I qualified for no UI benefits. However, thanks to the newly-minted PUA (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance) designed for the self-employed and those in the gig economy, I began receiving some benefits.
The Saga is Still Not Over
I am not looking forward to the process of getting forgiveness for my PPP loan in June. It requires providing detailed payroll records and documentation for the non-payroll 25% (spent on rent, in my case.) Crossing fingers! I have a great Payroll Service helping me, and am pretty punctilious about record keeping. The rules are still being written, and rewritten as to the qualifications for PPP loan forgiveness. I pity the bank workers trying to set up repayment plans and trying to navigate forgiveness for their clients. To many of my questions, the reply is simply “We don’t know.”
On May 22, California Governor Newsom permitted retail stores and dine-in eateries to reopen in those counties with less than an 8% infection rate, which included Orange County at 7.95%.
At Ipso Facto, besides disinfecting surfaces and air after each customer exits, we require face masks for entry, enforce physical distancing, and quarantine clothing try-ons for 24 hours. This past weekend brought in a few decent sales, but as things continue to limp along, I wonder how long will that gentle upward curve take to provide the sales needed to afford new merchandise, pay rent, utilities, salaries? What will “normal” look like in the next few months?
I spoke with a local restaurateur who complained that he only got word of the Governor’s order on Thursday night, and missed out reopening for inside dining. They were required to professionally sanitize the entire restaurant, but all such services were booked.
I see many eateries (those who haven’t closed permanently) scrambling to adjust their seating, apply for the City’s outdoor dining permit, and meet other guidelines. It’s a heart-thumping gamble…spending money, pivoting, and wondering will they come, and will it be enough?
A Faint Light in the Storm
I recently applied for some private small business relief grants including the Red Backpack Fund offered by Spanx of Sara Blakely Foundation at http://www.philanthropywomen.org and several grants via http://www.LISC.org funded by Verizon and Sam’s Club. I recommend searching the web for other grants for your business, like my recent discovery, www.covid19businesscenter.com.
I hope this information can provide other businesses with the knowledge to consider the net financial impact as to whether or not to apply for assistance, and what sort would be of help.
Stay safe friends and see you when the dust settles. Visit http://www.ipso-facto.com.