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‘Moving in the right direction’: Small business owners hopeful as PPP opens again

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Epic Painting worker loads up truck in Madison

MADISON (WKOW) -- Josh Shaffer's painters have been touching up buildings in the Madison area for a decade, but when the pandemic hit, Epic Painting had to find a new way of doing business.

"We were very uneasy," said Shaffer, the owner. "We had no idea what it was gonna look like. Would people let us in their house? Was that OK? So, we definitely had to make sure to take all the proper precautions as we did move forward and we definitely took a hit."

The federal Paycheck Protection Program helped the team through it, allowing Shaffer to keep all six full-time employees on the job, despite an initial loss of 65 percent of the business.

"I just think it's important to make sure that we don't have any type of situation where committed, loyal employees are put in a position where they can't afford to take care of their family," he told 27 News. "It's important to me, on a daily basis, to realize that it's not just about me and my family. It's about the families of my employees."

More than 3,500 Madison businesses got PPP loans in 2020, but things still aren't back to normal.

Starting Wednesday, businesses with fewer than 20 workers will have an exclusive two-week window to apply for the second round of PPP. The goal is to help the smallest businesses, especially minority-owned ones, keep going as the pandemic continues.

"The larger businesses will need to wait a couple of weeks before they can submit their applications, but the local, small 20-employee or less-type operations now have the full attention of the government to be able to process those loans. So, that's definitely an advantage for them," said Dane Buy Local Executive Director Colin Murray.

Murray said the hardest hit industries that are farther behind some of the others in recovery are restaurants, retail and event venues.

His organization, and other business leaders in the community, aim to connect owners with available resources. Still, he believes many don't realize they do qualify, like sole proprietors or those who work gigs on their own.

"They very well may qualify and they should look into the program," he told 27 News. "Even if they've been told in the past that they didn't qualify in the first round, they should try again. They should have someone else look at their paperwork, their file, and see if they can find the resources for them."

He recommends reaching out to local business groups or a local bank or credit union.

As Shaffer adapts his business to the pandemic, growing its online presence to reach more customers, he's applying for PPP again to keep his workers top of mind.

"I feel very confident that we're moving in the right direction," he said.

Jennifer Kliese

Weekend Anchor and Reporter, 27 News

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