Many local small businesses waiting anticipation for Washington's COVID-19 relief bill

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The massive $2.2 trillion financial relief bill for American taxpayers, workers, and businesses defines a small business as a company with 500 employees or fewer -- but most of the businesses along Glenwood South where Brian Burnett opened his custom tailor shop are a lot smaller than that. And they're struggling to survive since COVID-19 grabbed hold of the economy. The small business loans in the bill can't come soon enough.

"Entrepreneurship was my dream," said Burnett, who over the last five years has turned that dream into Glenwood South Tailors and Alterations.

He calls it Raleigh's first upscale tailoring shop and says business had been booming with his custom-made suits and a growing client list of new brides for wedding gowns. And then came the coronavirus.


"Then COVID-19 hit. Automatically we started seeing more and more headlines on Facebook, started seeing more people mention it in their casual conversation," he said.

And when the nation and the Triangle began shutting down, Burnett's business went with it. It's the peak of bridal season and Burnett says 80 percent of his expected revenue is suddenly gone.

"Brides started rescheduling, canceling because they were being urged by their venues to cancel and to postpone their weddings," Burnett said.

That lost profit is the money that funds the payroll for Burnett's six employees. They've all been temporarily furloughed. Now, this small business owner and thousands of others across the country are counting on Washington to help ensure the layoffs aren't permanent.
President Donald Trump, Thursday, called on the House to follow the Senate's lead in passing the $2.2 trillion relief package for workers and businesses. It includes $367 billion dollars for small business with eight weeks of cash assistance through emergency loans to cover payroll and other expenses -- much of which would be forgiven if the company retains its workers.

"The House of Representatives must now pass this bill without delay," Trump said in a briefing with reporters at the White House.

Even before the bill hits President Trump's desk, Burnett says he's already filled out the federal application for one of the loans. He's trying to keep his dream alive in the midst of this American nightmare.

"We want to keep these people on our payroll. We don't want them to skip a beat. But that is a huge ask of a small business if they don't have any assistance from the government."

Once the relief bill passes the House, which could happen as soon as Friday, the president pledges to sign it immediately. Those small business loans would be available through an emergency period -- that is slated to end on June 30.
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