ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - While businesses in Anchorage are about to be allowed to open all the way up, the road ahead of them is long and riddled with challenges originating from the coronavirus. On Friday, the Assembly heard from about a dozen small business owners in a virtual round table to hear about them.
The round table began with just under a dozen small local businesses expressing their worries, challenges, and experience thus far in the pandemic.
Several key concerns came up from the business owners. Many expressed frustration of not receiving any financial aid money after applying; some brought up the hardship of having to secure PPE for their businesses upon reopening; and many are having trouble getting employees back to work whether it be for health concerns or the fact that they're making more money on unemployment.
They were joined by lending companies and economic specialists, including President of the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, Bill Popp.
Popp explained that one of the biggest challenges for business owners moving forward will be the continued uncertainty in what happens next while they adapt their operations to be safe for customers and employees in the new normal.
For those still seeking financial relief, he reminded that there's another wave of money being made available to small businesses through the AK CARES program and the Paycheck Protection Program. However, it still may be longer before businesses see any of that money.
"The pace of applications has slowed down," he said about the number of people applying now, "we still have about $190 billion still left and available in the PPP program. If you're a business that needs help and haven't applied yet, I urge you to do so."
In the AK CARES program, he said there's about to be $290 million in grant money made available statewide. Those grants will be available for small businesses for between $5,000 and $100,000.
Popp said he expects the demand for these grants to be high, so he believes the processing time will continue to be long.
"If you haven't learned patience yet, you need to," he said, "This is a situation that changes every day. Certainty is a difficult thing to find these days."
In the round table, Popp alongside other experts noted that some businesses are to a point where they can't wait much longer for relief before closing down forever. He pointed out the harsh reality that not everyone is going to weather COVID-19.
In recent surveys, he said AEDC found that business owners are starting to think that more as well.
"We asked businesses, 'is your business at risk of closing permanently?' 16% said yes, absolutely. 22% we're not sure, we aren't quite sure if that's gonna happen or not which is a very scary proposition when you add those two together. That means almost 40% of our businesses in Anchorage are at risk of closing permanently based on what the business owners are thinking at this time," Popp said.
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