First-Hand Accounts of How CV19 is Impacting Local Businesses and Families
A few months ago Susie Goldsmith, owner of Boreas Bed and Breakfast Inn in Long Beach, was planning for another busy tourist season and looking forward to retiring sometime soon. Then suddenly, like most of us, her world began to implode as news of the Coronavirus pandemic took center stage. Their last guest left their luxury inn on March 22nd. At a meeting with a bunch of other local businesses, coordinated by the Long Beach Peninsula Visitor’s Bureau, they collectively made a proactive decision to shut down. The next day Governor Inslee ordered everyone to shelter in place and non-essential businesses to temporarily close until the Coronavirus is under control.
Their B&B lost $12,000 in reservations in just the first week. As reality took hold, Susie began to research available emergency loans and grants. She applied for a low-interest loan with the SBA and sent hours preparing and sending 57 pages of supporting documentation only to find that she needed to resubmit it all due to a technical glitch. She also applied for the $10,000 promised to small businesses as part of the CARES act. Then, she found out it only provides $1,000 per employee and she didn’t have any employees. She also applied for a loan through the EDC but hasn’t had a response. Meanwhile, her fixed expenses continue to pile up. Insurance alone is $10,000 a year. It’s been over a month and the only help she’s received is a stimulus check which barely covered the water bill and electric bill. She also applied for the self-employment unemployment but is still waiting for a decision on that.
I asked Susie what her plans are and she said, “Hopefully we can reopen in May by implementing the good sanitation and best practices policies that the Hospitality Association is developing. The association is working diligently to standardize protocols for health and safety to prevent further spread of the Coronavirus.” One thing is for sure, a future stay at your favorite hotel, retreat center, or B&B, is going to be a much different experience than what we’re used to.
Two months ago, The Chowder Stop in Long Beach was nominated for three Reader’s Choice Awards and won the coveted “Best Chowder” award. Now the doors are locked and the lights are off until May 4th when they will open again for take-out only with half of their previous staff. The Chowder Stop also just received a liquor license so they can sell bottled beer curbside to go along with their tasty fish chips and thick creamy clam chowder. Casey Barella, owner of the Chowder Stop admits that it’s been a hard hit for a company that’s been open for less than a year.
Casey’s wife, Gail, owns Barella’s Barber Shop, situated near the giant frying pan in the heart of downtown Long Beach. As another “non-essential” business, the chairs are empty and a “Closed” sign hangs in the window. Both she and Casey have tried to get one of the many loans and grants that are supposed to be helping small businesses like theirs during the pandemic, but their stories are much like Susie’s. So far, they received nothing, not even unemployment.
Since Casey and Gail both have time on their hands and care deeply about their community, they decided to put together a massive food drive to help families that are struggling with hunger due to unemployment from the Coronavirus. With help from many local organizations, like Green Planet Carpet Cleaning, North Beach Tavern, Long Beach Merchant’s Association, Harmony Soap Works, The Cove, Hungry Harbor Grille, and many others, they gathered up 5,000 pounds of donated food and took it to local food banks that were terribly low on supply. It’s a beautiful example of how our coastal area takes care of each other in times of need.
Many families are feeling desperate as they receive layoff notices and are told to stay home. One young woman who asked to remain anonymous said “I feel like our whole world is crashing in on us! My husband was laid off from his job at the car dealership a month ago and my housekeeping clients have let me go because they’re home now and can do their own cleaning. We have no income and three children to feed, plus homeschooling, which is a joke.” They are now receiving SNAP (government food assistance) and her husband is receiving some unemployment, but she said it’s not enough to cover their rent, medications, and bills.
Families around the world are suffering and life as we knew it rapidly changing. All we can do is cling to hope and do our best to help each other through this one day at a time.