California Businesses Adjust to “New Normal” as Others Struggle to Receive Aid
Waking up at 4 A.M. for work six days a week is no easy task. For Carlos Salazar, the founder of Empanadas Gourmet in Brea arrives at his weekly farmers market only to find an empty street.
Like Salazar, millions of businesses across the nation have closed down their businesses due to stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, leaving many unsure about their economic future.
“Ever since the closure of the markets, the business has sharply declined and I am worried that soon I will be unable to pay my bills,” Salazar told Scriberr News.
Salazar started his food venture back in 2013 along with his wife Nancy, together they have built their business to cater to six different farmers’ markets along with a commercial kitchen. But since the closures of non-essential businesses, he was forced to handle the situation with a more creative approach.
However, the majority of California has entered Phase Two of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s four-part plan to reopen the state, allowing curbside retail, manufacturing plants, and offices to reopen for all counties except Sacramento and Los Angeles.
Even with Phase Two in effect, Salazar still sees a decline of clientele at the farmers market. Five of the six markets he attends have been temporarily closed, and the only that is still open is desolate. So, he decided to take matters into his own hands, offering free delivery from Orange County to Santa Monica.
“We are now taking orders through our Instagram via Direct Message, offering contactless delivery,” said Salazar.
Salazar set up a system where he delivers orders to a specific area on a designated day. For example, on Tuesday he would be at the market at Huntington Beach, so now instead customers who live in the area can order on Tuesday and have it delivered to them.
Salazar is also exploring with the idea of curbside pickup, for the customers who’d rather not wait to get their hands on a delicious empanada.
But what is curbside pickup? Curbside pickup is the hybrid child of drive-through and online ordering.
Curbside pickup offers several benefits, mainly the fact that both the employees and the customers will be less at risk for infection. But also, preserving to stay open and serve the community who are facing unprecedented changes to daily life. This is a new creative way for businesses that weren’t deemed essential to stay open.
After two months of temporary closure, Val Surf recently opened its doors to the public, with some stipulations. Curbside pick up is available at one location for now. Val Surf posted this guide on its website for a better explanation of the policies regarding services.
Bigger retail stores such as Best Buy and Target have also introduced curbside pickup to help reduce the risk of transmission. Best Buy recently posted its policy for curbside pickup on its website.
As many more businesses follow suit, curbside pickup is a new way of conducting business during stay-at-home orders.
Small businesses struggle to receive unemployment assistance
Millions of small business owners are struggling to make ends meet due to recent events caused by COVID-19. Many if not all of these businesses had to drastically reduce their workforce. As of March 2020, the unemployment rate in California is at 5.3%, forcing the government to send out stimulus checks through the CARES Act and paycheck protection program (PPP).
According to the Small Business Bureau, the Paycheck Protection Program is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.
Unlike the CARES Act, the PPP loan fund ran out of funding just after 14 days. The original total amount was for 350 billion dollars, yes billion with a b. There are about 30 million small businesses operating in the U.S. and only 1.6 million applicants were approved.
Nationwide these business owners face a grim reality: Either stay open and risk multiple citations, or close down and lose revenue until the governor reopens the state.
Jose Romero, owner of Gemela California Catering has seen better days. He and his wife have built their new business three months before the stay at home order.
“Business is slow, and times are hard right now, but I have no other choice but to provide,” Romero told Scriberr News. He says people aren’t leaving their houses unless it is for essential things, and even then people are afraid of coming into contact with others.
Romero himself feels worried about his health and the health of his family and workers.
He applied for the PPP loan but to no avail and was denied on April 20. Now he is unable to pay his workers, along with other fees that come with running a business. Forced to operate his food truck solely with a skeleton crew, his wife handles the dwindling delivery orders while Romero tends to the day to day needs.
Romero’s story is similar to thousands across the state of California, some have been lucky enough to receive government aid, but not all.