‘It’s terrifying’: Local business owners in limbo as emergency loan money runs out

SPOKANE, Wash. — In less than two weeks, the Small Business Administration handed out 14 years worth of loans, effectively tapping out its $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and leaving thousands of small business owners scrambling to figure out what to do next.

Others are breathing a sigh of relief, knowing they were able to snag some money before it ran out. Nectar Wine and Beer owner Josh Wade says since he was approved for a PPP loan he has been able to hire back the ten employees he was forced to lay off last month.

“As it was sad to send an email out and talk to the team individually about having to let them go three weeks ago, it was just as happy of a day, really to send out that messaging that for those that can and want to come back, that we will have jobs for them starting on Monday,” Wade says. “When you hear of a program like this becoming available you never think it’s going to be something that’s even going to be attainable.”

Wade is looking for creative ways to keep his staff busy for the foreseeable future. He is hopeful employees will get the chance to earn certifications while expanding their wine and beer delivery program.

“These people that work for us — they’re not just employees. They’ve become our friends and our family,” Wade says of bartenders like Ryan Maliski, who just got his job back after being unemployed for four weeks.

“I wasn’t sure if it would crystallize or become an actual thing or if a small business like this would even have the opportunity to get that money,” Maliski says. “It’s kind of exciting to see that something we’ve heard about at this national level is actually tangible and actually here and it’s gonna give us an opportunity to get some paychecks and be busy doing something.”

That opportunity is now out of reach for business owners like Amber Park at Wanderlust Delicato, who has had to get creative with shorter hours to pay the bills.

“It’s a lot on the line,” she says. “I’m trying to occupy my time and my mind with planning for the future that is uncertain.”

Park was forced to lay off both her full-time and part-time employee when restaurants were shut down last month, nearly a year after opening her business. In the days since, she has spent her days applying for loans. She just got an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, but it was about $8,000 short, since those funds have also dwindled.

“Instead of $10,000, it’s $1,000 per employee now, so that was kind of a big hit,” she says. “I mean, a little money is nice but it’s, you know, it’s not what I was expecting.”

Park is still crafting special orders and creating cheese plates for takeout while watching her wine club membership grow, but she wonders if it will be enough when life gets back to normal.

“It’s terrifying, you know, it’s like I finally got to a point where I was seeing a little bit of a profit and it’s just, it’s gone,” Park says. “[I’m just trying to stay strong and positive and not cry.”

Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke with Democrats Thursday in an effort to reach an agreement on a package which would immediately increase funding for the Paycheck Protection Program.

Spokane mayor Nadine Woodward announced Thursday business owners like Park and Wade will soon be able to apply for loans between $10,000 and $25,000. To be eligible, owners must have a business license with the City of Spokane, a credit score of 640 or higher, and proof of profit from 2019.