'Depressing:' Small businesses wait on Congress to replenish PPP funds

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Dry cleaners have been deemed essential business during the COVID-19 outbreak. Many stores are still taking in clothes and doing dry cleaning, yet some owners are feeling they've been the ones left out to dry.

Medlin-Davis Cleaners owner David Makepeace applied for the Paycheck Protection Program, as well as a disaster recovery loan weeks ago and was waiting to be approved when the federal government announced funds had been exhausted.

"It was depressing," said Makepeace. "I found out quite a bit of my peer group did get the funding and we didn't."

He laid-off two-thirds of his staff. He's cut store hours at three of locations and temporarily closed another.

"The funding was supposed to last all the way to June 30, and it ran out within 10 days of the program being available," he said.

The Trump administration and Congress indicated Monday that they were working toward an agreement on a coronavirus aid package the Senate could take up as soon as Tuesday with more than $450 billion to boost the small-business loan program.

The Senate missed a potential deadline Monday and frustrations are mounting but the emerging draft measure - originally designed as an interim step aimed at replenishing payroll subsidies for smaller businesses - has grown into the second-largest of the four coronavirus response bills so far.

The emerging agreement, nearly double President Donald Trump's request to replenish the small business program, adds funds for hospitals and COVID-19 testing.

Makepeace is now twiddling his thumbs hoping for a lifeline.

The crisis has caused major kinks in business. Although some customers are using the drive-through and bringing in items, the volume has dropped off significantly.

People have little reason to get their belongings cleaned and pressed.

"People are not going to work, not going to church. They're not going to events," Makepeace said.

He plans to reapply for PPP to save the business that's been around since the 1940s and has lasted three generations of owners.

"It would certainly be nice to have to enable our folks to come back on board," he said.

To drum up business during the pandemic, Medlin-Davis is offering customers several discounts.

Folks can take advantage of 30 percent off dress shirts on Thursday and for the rest of April, 20 percent off comforters and bedsheets.

Many other small businesses are offering similar deals to their customers.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., set up another Senate session for Tuesday in hopes an agreement appears will likely to be sealed and written up by then.

"It's now been four days since Paycheck Protection Program ran out of money. Republicans have been trying to secure more funding for this critical program for a week and a half now," McConnell said. "Our Democratic colleagues are still prolonging their discussions with the administration, so the Senate regretfully will not be able to pass more funding for Americans' paychecks today."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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