Businesses face closures and losses due to COVID-19, Congressman weighs in on district business concerns
By LYNETTE SOWELL
While grocery and convenience stores and similar establishments continue to be open in Copperas Cove, numerous small businesses have shuttered their doors, while riding out the wave of the COVID-19 virus as it reaches into Central Texas.
Among them are places like Pacific Tanning, owned by Hope Wunsch, who was gearing up for her business’ 16th anniversary celebration on April 25. That “Sweet 16” celebration is now on hold.
Longtime Copperas Cove jeweler Bill French announced late last week that his business was closing temporarily. French has owned and operated Bill French Jewelers since 2006, providing jewelry repair in addition to custom and specialty jewelry sales.
GymKix, in business for 20 years and teaches gymnastics, dance, and cheer, has been closed since March 16 and won’t reopen until the mandate is lifted.
Frames & Things, known for its monthly First Friday Art After Dark gatherings, closed as of March 21 until further notice.
In addition to the above, gyms, salons, and massage therapy establishments remain closed.
It’s still not clear at this time what the business outlook will be for Copperas Cove, when Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order expires.
The Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation along with the Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce, hosted a live webinar to provide business owners with some financial options during these uncertain times.
Diane Drussell, assistant director of the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation, also shared information about options that businesses have for loans from the Small Business Administration, funded by the United States Department of the Treasury.
The first is that of an Economic Injury Disaster Loan.
“You apply for this directly through the SBA. The terms are 30 years, with 3.75 percent rate, with no penalty to pay early,” Drussell said. “ The beauty of this loan besides the fact it is available for profit and private most private nonprofits - is that you may use it for just about anything except to replace lost sales and profits. The SBA determines the loan amount based on eligibility.” The loan payments are also deferred for 12 months.
Congressman Roger Williams, who along with his family has owned and operated an automotive sales and service business for decades, talked with the Leader-Press via phone on Thursday morning about the Treasury-funded program.
With the passage of the CARES act by Congress and the SBA loan process now open, Williams recommends businesses look into applying for funding.
“It’s going to keep the workforce on track so when we get out of this, it’s going to help employers be able to keep employees. It’s going to put cash back in the economy now.
“The treasury has stepped up and is offering loans, some of which have forgiveness, if you maintain certain criteria, such as number of employees and paying rent, and mortgage. They have very aggressive rates. No loan is too small. Take advantage, go on the SBA website and see what’s out there as soon as they can, to get cash in their business to stay in business.”
Williams talked about his personal business perspective on the situation.
“We all have great people; I’m a Main Street business owner myself, and have been for 50 years, I don’t want to have to lay anybody off. This is a unique time, this was not caused by the economy. This is a health crisis. We just need to keep our employees and small businesses working so when we come out of this, we’ll be as good if not better than before. It’s a challenge, and our way of life has been changed.”
His family’s business has seen the same challenges, not having to lay anyone off, but there were a few pay cuts.
“We’ve had people work for us, 40, 50 years, they’re like family. The last thing you want to do is lay somebody off,” Williams said. “I feel the pain. I get it. We want to get this fixed. We’ve just got to get through this.”