ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. — When COVID-19 hit longtime movie theater owner Larry Rutan, he instantly saw a 100-percent drop in revenue.
“I mean they close you down for three months and you have zero money coming in,” said Rutan, who back this spring, did whatever he could to prevent laying off employees.
He eventually got assistance from the first round of payroll protection funds, which he says helped immensely.
“One of the top things for me is pay the employees. Because they depend on you. I feel like it’s a huge responsibility on myself that they get paid.”
But those initial funds eventually ran out. Rutan says he’s been eagerly waiting for a second round of assistance ever since.
“It will mean that we can keep the doors open,” said Rutan.
Business attorney and PPP expert Jeffrey Scheer says the Small Business Administration now has 10 days to provide details and guidance on how the plan will work.
“My understanding is that is supposed to happen pretty quickly; and if I am a borrower, I would be contacting my bank to see if I qualify and to see when their portal will open to start making applications for these funds.”
There will be some changes to the PPP Program.
Only smaller companies, with a maximum of 300 employees returning for a second loan will now qualify for funding, down from 500 employees in the first round.
The business must also show a 25 percent loss in gross revenue quarter over quarter as compared to 2019.
And companies can now spend the money in new ways, to pay for employee facemasks and other PPE related to the pandemic or even to cover property damage related to rioting this spring not otherwise covered by insurance.
“It’s a real attempt by the government to give these small businesses an opportunity to really survive and make it to the other side,” said Scheer.
For Rutan and his small theater in Zephyrhills, there’s light at the end of the projector.
Hollywood hits like Wonder Woman are starting to help bring the box office back to life; but with business still way down, the financial challenges are still far from over.
“The upcoming PPP is going to be very critical thing to get,” said Rutan. “The coronavirus situation is not going away. It’s still here.”
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