NOTE: This Friday, I decided to turn the blog over to my daughter so you could have a first-hand account of how the coronavirus affected one small business. Alyson’s firm got lucky, if you are to believe the NYTimes stories about banks favoring their largest customers. Specifically, there were two large investment firms with interests in the luxury resort business that were loaned millions, while one large bank awarded only two loans out of thirty applications from small businesses.
YIPEE! WE GOT OUR “PPP”
By Alyson Dunn
I am one of the principal architects in a small firm in Manhattan, where I have worked for 25 years. When the virus first spread to New York City, rumors that we would need to retreat indoors seemed debatable and it certainly was debated in offices, in elevators and in bars. Chuck, our lead architect, is a planner so we prepared for the possibility of working from home. It was just a week later that our Governor announced New York on “PAUSE” due to the pandemic which was tragically taking lives at an exponential rate. The word “pause” has never had such a potent meaning, school buildings shut to 1.1 million school children now learning at home, millions of office workers working remotely, billions lost as construction sites shut down and markets crash. Distress. Anxiety. Alarm. Fear.
Unfortunately, the statewide “PAUSE” and related financial uncertainty brought both our design and construction projects with the city as well as our private projects to an abrupt halt and we made the difficult decision to furlough our staff of 9 professionals. The plan was to allow our colleagues to collect unemployment as the pandemic played out then hire the entire staff back in May. This optimistic arrangement means the office pays all insurance premiums thus ensuring uninterrupted health benefits for our staff during this profound health scare but will reduce our payroll costs now that there was no income to generate.
Chuck and I are working from home, me in my studio apartment in TriBeCa and Chuck in his studio he built near his weekend home on his 10-acre property in the Hudson River Valley. We communicate all day via text, email, phone and sometimes all at once. He maintains client contact and juggles the finances and I aggressively bill work completed before the virus interrupted everything. Since much of our work is designing and building public schools, billing is not a one step process, but a painstaking accounting of every milestone met, or hour spent. When Congress passed the CARES Act, we went to work exclusively to secure a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) included in the Act. This federal Convid-19 related program provides a loan amount equal to two months of payroll, rent and utilities and loan forgiveness for retaining employees (or hiring employees back before June 30). Since our intention is to hire our staff back in May, we wanted to get this loan!
I live near the Hudson River so when not working or when I can’t focus on work I take long walks along the river, dip into mystery novels by Jacqueline Winspear to get my mind off my troubles by reading about mysteries set in England during the World Wars, by staying in contact with friends through Zoom virtual Happy Hours and calling family. I ration my television watching because I don’t want to binge and become nothing more than a couch potato. Although it is tempting.
I wear a mask now, as mandated by Governor Cuomo. I have two fashion masks and one sturdy mask with a filter sent to me by caring friends and my stepmother. The mask Carole made is very pretty and sewn with the same precision notable on her quilts. It is not only nice to have these handmade masks to wear, it is necessary since my condo building now also requires residents to wear a mask in all public areas including the lobby, elevators, mailroom and garbage areas.
I’ve saved the good news til last. After filling out frustrating forms and wringing our hands, this week we were notified by our bank that we had an official loan number through the PPP. The next day the money was deposited directly to our business account. Yeh Chuck! The immediate pressure is off and we can start planning for the future.