Small businesses shuttered due to coronavirus hoping to bounce back

It’s a sign of the times: Restaurants, bars, hair salons and stores have all closed because of COVID-19 health concerns. 

"The future of it is the scary part, not knowing,” said Linde Hilyar, a self-employed hairstylist from Elk River. 

Hilyar and her business partner have been running The Hair Studios for four years now. Seven stylists pay her rent for workspaces in her salon. All that suddenly came to a halt this week. 

“So Tuesday night at 9 o'clock, we were basically told, 'You can't go to work on Wednesday,'” Hilyar said.

It was a state order to shut down. That means empty chairs, no customers and no income to pay her $2,950 monthly rent. 

"If this is going to go on longer than two weeks, then that’s where we’re going to see problems,” Hilyar said. “I mean, right now, I feel we're OK, but if this continues, there's going to be a lot of people who are not OK."

Hilyar isn’t alone. 

The Minnesota Small Business Administration Office says there are 530,000 small businesses statewide that could be potentially impacted by the COVID-19 threat. 

“This is a tidal wave that we're seeing of businesses that are calling us, letting us know how severely they’ve been affected,” said Brian McDonald, acting district director for the Minnesota SBA. “Very bad, very serious.” 

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The numbers are sobering. The SBA estimates those small businesses employ over 1.2 million people across Minnesota. But there's a glimmer of hope for those shuttered businesses. 

Starting Friday, the SBA will be opening an online portal with information about a new program called the "Economic Injury Disaster Loan."

Businesses that qualify can borrow up to $2 million over 30 years at a fixed rate of 3.75%. 

Applicants can sign up for the program through a special link. 
   
“This is the first time that the SBA has ever offered disaster assistance for a virus,” McDonald said. “We all know small businesses are the backbone of the economy, and this is going to be a great tool to help keep them afloat during these times.” 

There are two links for small businesses to check out to get more information about the program.  

The SBA recommends businesses sign up for a newsletter to get information and then apply for loans. Applicants can start the process now, but the SBA states the turnaround, if a loan is approved, is expected to take about three weeks.

Hilyar says she’ll look into the program to see if her business qualifies. 

“Absolutely, it would be something that we should all look into if that’s a possibility,” she said. 

Meanwhile, Hiyar is counting the days, hoping she can reopen soon so she can get a chance to recoup the dollars that COVID-19 has taken. 

“Just hope that this will end sooner than later,” she said. “And just stay inside.”