CHICAGO (CBS) — The fine line that many businesses face between sinking and swimming amid the coronavirus crisis may rest on how many employees they have.
As CBS 2’s Chris Tye reported, Washington, Springfield, and Chicago all have programs to help small businesses with emergency loans. Money must be spent on payroll, utilities, or rent/mortgage.
But small businesses are defined as having 50 employees or less. That has some business owners feeling the lifeline may be out of reach.
At Timothy O’Toole’s Irish Pub, 622 N. Fairbanks Ct., keeping clean has been replaced by keeping open as the primary goal.
“We’re holding on by a thread, trying not to close,” said owner Humberto Martinez Jr.
Going take-out only has taken away 99 percent of business for Martinez, who went online for his federal loan application.
“And then the system started to crash,” he said. “And when it was reloaded and finally back up, the login button disappeared.”
Martinez registered, as everyone does, through the U.S. Small Business Administration. Business owners can receive up to $25,000 in federal aid dollars.
The money I supposed to arrive within three weeks of approval, landing via direct deposit.
The State of Illinois also has its fund. It is a $50,000 loan with no payback needed for six months. Afterward, business owners have five years to repay it with below market interest rates
Applicants will find out if they were approved starting this Saturday.
Chicagoans may not apply for the state loan. There is a separate one for Chicago small businesses to use through the city.
The max is the same – $50,000. But you must prove business suffered by 25 percent or more to qualify.
Five-year repayment is part of the city plan too. The city starts taking applications on Tuesday.
But O’Toole’s cannot access those state and city dollars, since the employee count exceeds 50.
“I don’t know where the state and city came up with their numbers,” Martinez said.
Those numbers defining a small business may play a large role in determining who stays afloat.
“We’re not throwing in the towel yet,” Martinez said. “We’re hanging in there.”
There are numerous other complicating factors. For instance, some need a little extra help to apply for help – with 800 numbers not always working properly.
To help with that, the City of Chicago Office of Business Affairs has launched webinars in English, Spanish, and Polish at 10 a.m., noon, and 2 p.m.