‘When you run out, who knows what happens then’: Small businesses running out of PPP loans

SPOKANE, Wash. — It served as a lifeline for many local businesses in trouble during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paycheck Protection Program loans, also known as PPP loans, don’t have to be paid back. However, you only have eight weeks to use it. Some local businesses are running out of time and still aren’t able to open to the public. Now, they’re facing budget cuts all over again.

Thanks to the PPP loan, Auntie’s Bookstore in downtown Spokane was able to bring part of its staff back in April, offering curbside, online sales.

But it’s still not enough to cover the costs of running a business.

“It’s better, but it is still very difficult. The amount of money you make from that is nothing compared to a normal day,” said John Waite, owner of Auntie’s Bookstore and Merlyn’s Comics and Games.

The bookstore is already struggling, as are many other small businesses. On top of that, by mid-June, their PPP loan will run out.

“A lot of businesses like mine are spending a lot of money in a short period of time and we really wish we had an extension,” Waite said.

Auntie’s owner said even 12 weeks versus eight weeks would help.

“When you run out, who knows what happens then? Because we don’t know if we will be open to the public yet,” Waite said.

Over at River Park Square mall, Cosmic Cowboy Grill is feeling the same burden.

They already made one round of layoffs. Now, they might have to make a second.

“It was joyful to bring them back in April the the PPP loan, and it will be even more heartbreaking if we have to furlough them again in two weeks,” said Steve Eller, owner of Cosmic Cowboy Grill.

The restaurant said it’s only earning 15% of the revenue it should be.

“It’s day by day a fight to keep this store open,” said Chris Lee, a supervisor at Cosmic Cowboy Grill in Spokane.

The grill is right next to Nordstrom in River Park Square mall. This gave them a lot of business from foot traffic, about 70% just from those shoppers. The mall has been closed for weeks now, and it took away a big chunk of sales.

“The problem we have downtown is not enough people are downtown,” Lee said.

Eller said he doesn’t believe Spokane county needs to be under an order. He has a plea directly to the governor.

“Our call is for Governor Inslee to lift the stay-at-home order for Spokane County immediately,” Eller said. “We are not the only business that is going to have this problem.”

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