PPP Loans Help Local Businesses, But Rising COVID-19 Cases Creates More Uncertainty

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The cast, crew and staff at the North Coast Repertory Theater in Solana Beach were preparing to raise the curtain on ‘Human Error,’ a play about two couples on opposite ends of the political spectrum, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

With a loan of between $ 150,000 and $ 350,000 from the Paycheck Protection Program, a federal coronavirus relief measure, North Coast Rep was able to retain a production assistant, costume designer, art director, actors, staff at the ticket office and all of its other employees pay in May and June. The non-profit theater recouped its production by making a Zoom recording for ticket holders.

“We took a pretty big financial blow,” said David Ellenstein, artistic director of North Coast Rep, referring to public health restrictions on indoor gatherings that ended the theater’s income-generating events. “The PPP loan has helped us a lot to stay in a semblance of normalcy. “

So far, more than 750 businesses and other organizations in Solana Beach have been approved for PPP loans, according to data released earlier this month by the Small Business Administration, including 107 of at least $ 150,000. A new PPP application period is currently open for applicants who have not yet received a loan.

Leaders of many local organizations have said the PPP is a vital lifeline. But many of them have already exhausted that funding and face more uncertainty as public health restrictions tighten again in response to the growing number of COVID-19 cases.

In July, the North Coast Rep took half of its staff on leave and cut wages by 20% for those who stayed.

“We’re trying to be creative and try to make lemonade from lemons, but the lemons are going to get more and more tart over time,” Ellenstein said, adding that the theater is hoping for greater relief from the federal government.

Following multiple requests for public registrations and lawsuits from news outlets seeking data on PPP loans, the SBA on July 6 released the names of all organizations that have been approved for at least 150,000. $ as part of the program. The data shows the range of loan amount each was approved for: $ 150,000 to $ 350,000; $ 350,000 to $ 1 million; $ 1 to $ 2 million; 2 to 5 million dollars; or $ 5-10 million.

A spokesperson for the North Coast Rep said the theater did not want to disclose exactly how much it received. The exact amounts of loans granted to other local organizations shown below have been confirmed by officials of each.

The SBA identified companies that received less than $ 150,000 just by type of business (for example, whether it was a corporation, LLC, sole proprietorship, etc.), but included the exact amounts of the loans for which they were approved.

PPP loans have been made by Zions Bank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, US Bank, and other lenders, and are guaranteed by the SBA. An SBA press release said 4.9 million loans, averaging $ 100,000 each, have been made.

It is not known how many jobs were saved by PPP. SBA data includes a “Jobs Kept” field for each organization, but some entered zero or left it blank when they applied. According to the SBA, PPP applicants did not have to specify how many jobs they would keep to get the loan, but they will need to verify that information in order to qualify for a loan forgiveness.

Restaurateur Bertrand Hug echoed the call for more federal aid. He said a $ 275 million PPP loan to Mille Fleurs, his French bistro in Rancho Santa Fe, allowed it to reopen in May after closing in mid-March. The loan has since run out, but the restaurant is still open for take out and alfresco dining.

According to SBA data, 308 PPP loans have been approved for businesses in Rancho Santa Fe and other organizations.

Hug said he expects a separate loan of $ 765 million for his other restaurant, Mister A’s in downtown San Diego, to last until August.

“Unless they come back with another PPP for the hospitality industry, there will be closures like we’ve never seen before, permanent closures,” he added.

More than 500 organizations have been approved for PPP loans to Del Mar. The state-owned Del Mar Fairgrounds, which faces dire financial forecasts after the cancellation of the county fair and other big events that generate the most of its income, received $ 4.7 million. Even with the loan, fairground staff announced on July 14 that around 90 of the site’s 150 employees would likely be made redundant in the coming months.

The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, which holds horse races at the fairgrounds, put half of its 250 employees on leave in April, including administrative staff, marketing representatives, security guards and staff from concierge. He brought everyone back in May after receiving a $ 2.8 million PPP loan and proceeded to the summer race without fans present.

DMTC, a quasi-government organization that donates all of its profits to the fairgrounds, was already struggling before the pandemic with declining revenues due to increased public scrutiny of safety standards across the industry. horse races.

“Without the PPP loan, we were wondering if we could have been successful and functioning this year,” said Mike Ernst, CFO of DMTC. “We just didn’t have the funds. “

Ernst said this year’s races are expected to generate around $ 16 to $ 17 million in pre-COVID-19 participation-related income. Now DMTC is hoping for a boost from online betting to help carry it through to 2021, when the fairgrounds host the Breeders’ Cup.

Local schools approved for PPP loans include Diegueno Country School, Santa Fe Christian Schools, Encinitas Country Day School, and The Winston School.

Dena Harris, principal of the Winston school, said a $ 404,200 PPP loan helped retain special education teachers, a marriage and family therapist, counseling staff and other staff at the end of last school year. The Winston School serves just over 100 students in grades 6 to 12 and has no endowment. The school’s pandemic-related expenses include personal protective equipment and distance learning tools.

“This allowed us to continue operations without interruption where other schools could not,” added Harris. “I think it was the biggest war front.”

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