The Watering Can Art Studio in Vienna provides customers with take-out and take-out art kits while the business is otherwise closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo provided)
A colorful exhibition is presented at the Watering Can Art Studio in Vienna. Owner MJ Ayson-Lemon applied for and obtained a payroll protection loan through a local bank and the US Small Business Administration. (Photo provided)
Physiotherapy assistant Shoshanna Magee, left, watches a patient exercise on Tuesday at First Settlement Physical Therapy in Vienna. Magee wears a cloth mask that a patient made for the employees at the location. (Photo provided)
The owner of Watering Can Art Studio, MJ Ayson-Lemon, is shown with her pottery wheels in the business at the Grand Central Mall in Vienna. Ayson-Lemon applied for and obtained a payroll protection loan through a local bank and the US Small Business Administration .
VIENNA – In October, MJ Ayson-Lemon purchased the Viennese Pottery Place location from the previous owner after running the walk-in ceramic and canvas studio for four years.
She renamed it Watering Can Art Studio, added more art classes and in January she turned it into “An art studio that I have always dreamed of”. Now…
On Monday, she signed documents for a Small Business Administration loan to help pursue the dream as businesses across the country struggle to adjust to the new realities of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It gives me leeway” Ayson-Lemon said, noting that this would allow him to continue paying nearly a dozen part-time and full-time assistant manager. “I planned to keep them on the payroll until I couldn’t pay them anymore. … I think I would have been good for three pay periods until I should have quit.
The Paycheck Protection Loan Program was created by the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) law passed in March.
Loans can be up to $ 10 million, with an interest rate of 1%. They can be fully or partially forgiven if the recipient shows the money was used to retain or rehire employees and pay overheads until June 30.
Banks began accepting loan applications on April 3. Technical issues with the SBA’s website for the program, high demand, and ever-developing regulations made the process uneven for applicants and lenders.
Ayson-Lemon said the process was “a little painful” to begin with, with the greatest challenge of gathering all the necessary documents. She said she was grateful for the help of the Mid-Ohio Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Contemporary Ceramics Studio Association and her local bank in carrying out the process.
But even then, there was some uncertainty.
Ayson-Lemon declined to reveal how much she received, but said it was enough to cover two and a half pay periods. She expected more, but said it seemed the details had changed after her initial request.
“I am grateful for everything I get” she said.
In Washington, Pa., Attorney Jack Puskar said he filled out an application form with his bank on the day the program opened, but had yet to submit a full application on Wednesday.
“They said if you fill out the ‘contact us for more information’ form, we will get back to you,” he said.
With Pennsylvania courts closed for all “Non-essential questions” until at least May 1, Puskar said his company’s activities – mainly in criminal defense and family law – were down by more than 50%. A paralegal, paralegal and office manager were laid off, and the workload of an independent contractor lawyer “Was involuntarily reduced”, said Puskar.
“We still have work to do, and I’m trying to do it myself, which is insurmountable. he said.
The loan would lift the laid-off employees out of a financial stalemate and relieve Puskar of the extra workload, he said.
Jeff Spengler, a partner in the Pittsburgh office of the Baker-Tilly accounting firm, said his clients saw a mixed response in the first week of applications.
“I think it becomes clearer every day that employers are anxious”, he said. “It seems to be first come, first served, so everyone wants to line up.”
In Kansas, Sean Gerrity and Dave Heinz employed 80 people between their Henry T’s Bar & Grill locations in Lawrence and Topeka and the Yankee Tank Brewing Co. With restaurants closed for food service, only about 20 people work at a time.
The bank Gerrity works with typically initially only accepted applications from sole proprietorships. Henry T’s was only able to apply on Tuesday.
Having to wait made him nervous about his prospects. But now that he’s in the system, Gerrity said he’s wondering if the program will work well.
With unemployment benefits being expanded as part of stimulus efforts, some workers could do more work, he said.
“This is going to be the hardest thing … trying to find enough work for people and trying to find people who want to get out of unemployment”, said Gerrity. “To get people back, we might have to pay them more. “
But he said he was not sure it was allowed under the program rules.
Simon Hargus is the owner of First Settlement Physical Therapy, which employs 145 people at 23 locations in West Virginia and Ohio.
“Physiotherapy is considered essential, but you have to be very careful about who receives it, how many people are in a building” he said. “The responsible thing to do is to have a reduced workload.”
Hargus said the application process was fairly straightforward, but it was frustrating to wait for a response.
“The bank would love to give us that feedback, but they couldn’t do it for a while due to the website crash (SBA)” he said.
Now Hargus is wondering whether to spend the money on time to get the loan canceled or to keep it longer and pay it off at the low interest rate. If he can do that, the latter might be more useful in the long run, he said.
“You could technically get everything and spend it all by the end of June” Hargus said. “We also don’t know when activity levels are returning to normal. So there is a lot of reason to assume that we will still need capital after June. “
Evan Bevins can be contacted at [email protected]