Vail Valley businesses still working to apply for ‘Payroll Protection Program’ funds
Questions include how the two months of planned relief will work in a seasonal resort economy
- To learn more about the federal Paycheck Protection Program, talk to your banker, or go to the website of the Small Business Administration.
Cameron Douglas, like many Vail Valley business owners, is just trying to stay afloat. The federal Paycheck Protection Program is a possible lifeline, but there have been stumbles.
Douglas is a co-owner of the Montauk and El Segundo restaurants in Vail. He was early to apply, filing his application done April 4, the day after passage of the nation’s $2 trillion rescue package for the COVID-19 virus pandemic. The Paycheck Protection Program is a $349 billion relief program included in the stimulus package that Congress authorized to help businesses survive the pandemic and keep employees on the payroll.
But Douglas has a lot of questions, and “nobody seems to have solid answers,” he said.
As the owner of a restaurant in a resort town with a seasonal economy, Douglas would like to know how he can use funds from the program to the best advantage of both his business and its employees.
The program is intended to help cover two months of payroll and certain other expenses. If used for that, the loan will be forgiven. Otherwise, it must be repaid, at 1% interest.
If the program funds are dated to March 13, the day El Segundo closed and the last day Montauk was open, that puts the window for use into mid-May.
If the current state restrictions expire as anticipated on April 26, that means many restaurants will open in early May at the earliest. In Vail, that would also open restaurants in one of the valley’s slowest months for business.
Douglas said he’d like to see some of his questions answered in the next couple of weeks.
In Eagle, Bonfire Brewing co-owner Andy Jessen has also applied for funds from the program. He was cleared to close his loan on the evening of April 9.
Jessen is a client of ANB Banks, a preferred lender for the Small Business Administration.
According to an email from Paul Wisor, an attorney in the Avon office of Garfield & Hecht, the clock starts ticking on either repayment or forgiveness when funds hit an applicant’s bank account.
Multiple application attempts
“They reached out to us the day after the law was passed and had us start gathering information,” Jessen said. But with an early start, guidelines changed before applications, meaning he had to redo his application several times.
In fact, Jessen reduced the amount of money he was requesting because early guidance didn’t include what businesses pay in federal withholding — about 26% of an employee’s paycheck. That was later corrected.
“They tried to roll this out as quickly as possible, but they didn’t have their poop in a group yet,” Jessen said.
Jessen said the program could be “very reasonable — it basically bought us two more months,” Jessen said.
The business owners contacted for this story stressed that a relationship with a bank is essential for navigating the program.
Scott Turnipseed is an architect and the mayor of Eagle, who just won re-election after running unopposed in the April 7 municipal election. He and his brother, Jim, own a design and construction company in Eagle.
Turnipseed said the relationship with his banker, Kevin Armitage at Community Banks of Colorado, was useful in his application.
“When we first heard about it, we reached out to (Armitage),” Turnipseed said. Turnipseed and Armitage exchanged plenty of information over the course of a few days, including text exchanges on a Saturday.
Turnipseed’s company has been approved for its loan but hadn’t yet seen the funds as of April 8.
Busy at the banks
Margaret Martinez, branch manager of the Community Banks Eagle location, said everyone at that bank has been working long hours, including weekends, to take care of both current and new customers.
“I’ve never been this busy,” Martinez said. “We’re working 12 and 15 hours a day.”
Part of the workload is taking care of little things that wouldn’t be missed with a face-to-face meeting, but those aren’t happening right now. Martinez said the most common error is missed signatures on multi-page documents.
For those who haven’t yet applied — and there are indications that the federal government will refund the program at least once more — Martinez said business owners need to be organized in terms of payroll and tax records.
“It’s really about your payroll … if you’re in good standing with the state, with your articles of incorporation, you should be in good shape,” she said.
And, Jessen added, if business owners aren’t satisfied with the answers from their current banks, it’s time to call around.
Martinez said her bank is getting a lot of those calls. But, she added, a business owner must have a business relationship with the bank being asked to issue a program loan.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.