A little sunlight for the hospitality industry

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Hello everyone,

Yesterday, this column took a look at the coronavirus catastrophe in the hospitality industry as well as concerns from a  small business leader on assistance being tied to debt.

The concerns were aired by Bob Older, who heads the Delaware Small Business Chamber and runs a travel agency. Older knows a thing or two about staying in business in a  tough industry over a long period.

As of today,  a little sun broke through the clouds – at least in a figurative sense.

The HELP program, short for Hospitality Emergency Loan Program, announced yesterday by Gov. John Carney, offers interest-free loans of up to $10,000 a month for hospitality-related businesses with $1.5 million or less in annual sales. Payments are deferred for several months and can take place over a decade.

For some restaurants and related businesses that are current on their bills and have a loyal following,  HELP should help.

A quick note. If you know someone who would benefit from the program, pass this information along or forward this Email message.  Restaurant-bar owners are hunkered down these days and may not have time to scan news reports.

The Small Business Administration also gave swift approval to Delaware’s request for an Economic Injury  Declaration that clears the way for low-interest loans and other assistance.

The SBA is also working to reduce some of the paperwork delays that come with a massive increase in demand for services.

The SBA’s definition of small business is broad and should help larger enterprises that forced into mass layoffs and other drastic measures and have good relationships with their lenders.

Carney also made a small but significant step by modifying the emergency order to allow unopened containers of alcoholic beverages to be included in takeout orders. The change should provide a modest boost to carryout revenues at some establishments.

Patrons can also provide an immediate boost by purchasing gift cards

Older remains on point with his concerns about taking on more debt in a crisis with no known endpoint.

Our misgivings remain on the Legislature not setting more money aside for times like this, despite the urgings of the Carney Administration and others for “budget smoothing” that would have built up reserves and allowed more emergency assistance.

While bringing up previous bad decisions is of limited value, one would hope leadership has learned its lesson and makes needed moves when this economic hurricane passes.

Meanwhile, lenders and others will need to step up to the table to provide further relief. We are beginning to see positive signs.

But as the cliché goes, until the “rubber meets the road”   will we know if the pledges make their way to main street.

Finally,  let us know about your experiences in navigating the current environment, whether in applying for a loan or simply coping with day to day issues.  Simply hit reply and type away. – Doug and Sharon Rainey

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