COVID-19 Town Hall: Small businesses face new challenges when reopening

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KOMU 8's Emily Spain talked with the director of the Missouri Small Business Development Centers about the new challenges small business owners face during this phase of reopening.

Greg Tucker talks about the uncertainty of the future and lack of uniform guidelines from the federal to state to local level.

Tucker also addresses owners' concerns about employees not coming back to work and what reopening means for support coming from loan programs.

Check out his answers below.

Q: With businesses able to reopen, what would you say their biggest concerns are?

"So, the challenges they have right now, Emily, are I'll say two-fold. One, are employees available to come back, or are employees willing to come back given all of the uncertainty? On a second note, depending on what guidelines a business looks at, you know, do they follow the White House guidelines, the state guidelines the local guidelines? So again, there's a lot of uncertainty, not a lot of uniformity in all of the guidelines that have been presented over the past few days and weeks."

Q: What if employees don't want to come back?
"Unemployment right now, with the pending unemployment insurance is not an unprofitable thing. So...many people can collect up to six weeks of unemployment right now. The problem with that is some of these small businesses they're key employees, they need those employees to come back. So, if those employees do refuse to come back, they can lose their unemployment benefits."
Q: Does support for small businesses like federal loans get affected when a business reopens?
"So, they can be. The two main programs that opened because of the COVID-19, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program and the Paycheck Protection Loan Program, both opened under special circumstances with special requirements. The basic loan underwriting requirements were dramatically reduced for those loans. As those loan funds go away, then some of the typical SBA, USDA, some of the other loans, the underwriting and credit requirements will come back. So, it could make it more difficult plus, I'm not certain what type of funds will be available after we exhaust the current disaster programs."
Q: Are you finding that some businesses aren't able to reopen and have had to close for good?
"Unfortunately, we are finding that some businesses choose not to reopen. We're really looking at different business models, and you and I used the term earlier, the new normal. So, what is a new normal for a restaurant or a salon or a daycare. And, many of those business owners are simply choosing possibly to sell or close. But, in my experience, again, entrepreneurs will typically find another opportunity. So, an opportunity that may not be appropriate today, there may be other opportunities open in the future."

The SBDC offers free webinars covering topics from federal programs to bringing employees back to work. For a full calendar of events, click here.