Businesses Face Uncertain Future Even With Coronavirus Aid

Apr 6, 2020

Boarding up a business in Las Vegas, Nevada, in March
Credit John Locher / AP Photo

Small businesses can now apply for coronavirus relief from a range of sources – federal, state and local governments and nonprofits. The patchwork is its own source of anxiety for business owners, who worry that one badly-needed source of aid will cancel another, and that the total still won’t be enough to see them through the shutdown.

There’s also the question of how businesses that have seen hardly any revenue for months will repay even very-low-interest loans.

Joanna Parzakonis co-owns Bookbug and This is a Bookstore in Kalamazoo’s Oakwood neighborhood. She says she is grateful for all of the aid being offered to businesses like hers. But, she added, “the fact that our income has been reduced by 80 to 90 percent and will continue to be into the forseeable future, possibly 90 days if not longer, puts us in no position to be able to start repaying a loan upon opening.”

"I can't imagine that we are alone, as a small business that operates on relatively low margins," she said. "The truth of the way our business model operates is, our daily income is vital."

Parzakonis says it’s not always clear that one funding source is compatible with another one. But no single grant, loan or forgiveness program is enough to carry the bookstores through.

“I can’t risk applying for one and losing out on the opportunity for another, because no single source to this point is promising me what I need to be promised, which is solvency of my business,” she said.

Parzakonis says she’s doing everything she can to raise money, and to serve customers, who can still order books online. But she says it’s not clear yet how the store will make it through the closure.

“It’s more than the possibility of closing our business,” she said. “It’s the possibility of having our business closed and continuing to pay for an unknown period of time, its debts.

“I know that we’re not in this alone and I’m not trying to dramatize my experience. I just am wanting to be clear about the fact that this closure is devastating and help on an ongoing basis will be needed, and more clarity around what that help looks like and how it actually plays out for small businesses," she added.