This holiday season seems merrier and brighter with the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic hopefully behind us. But for many small business owners like me, the holiday cheer can’t mask the feeling that a winter storm is gathering and that small businesses across the country will need a hand — not a handout — to survive it.
I own Costume Specialists in Columbus. When the pandemic hit, the bottom fell out. It was especially scary because we work with the entertainment industry, supplying costumes for live entertainment, such as cruise ships, sporting events and amusement parks.
In the face of this challenge, I had to get creative and make adjustments to stay afloat. We did our best to stay relevant and help out by starting some personal protective equipment (PPE) production, including manufacturing and supplying medical gowns right here in Columbus. It was our way of pitching in for the greater good.
Fortunately, many small businesses like mine had access to a lifeline — a pandemic emergency disaster loan from the Small Business Administration. The COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (COVID EIDL) program is specifically designed to support small businesses by helping us pay operating expenses as we recover from the pandemic.
The loan created a backstop for my business, helped insulate us from the harsh realities of the pandemic, and relieved the pressure I felt amid growing financial uncertainty within my business. Now, as I look toward the future and rebuilding my company, the loan gives me the confidence to grow again and create jobs.
After two of the most challenging years in company history, we are hoping to have one of the best. Without the COVID EIDL, that would not be possible.
Orders are coming in and I plan to retain and increase staff to meet demand. The COVID EIDL makes it possible to meet the market for higher wages. Additionally, with the uncertain future of the pandemic due to the new omicron variant, the loan will help us stay a step ahead by continuing to grow the new PPE-focused part of the business.
It’s support like this that makes the difference for me and countless other small businesses forming the economic backbone of our vibrant and diverse communities in Columbus and central Ohio.
But the problem is that this lifeline for so many businesses is coming to an end. The COVID EIDL program, which is the last major pandemic emergency capital program for small businesses, is set to end today, Dec. 31, 2021. Without action, the program could expire with billions of dollars left unused at a time when small businesses are confronting mounting obstacles. As a member of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices community, I’m calling on Congress to extend the COVID EIDL deadline into 2022, and increase access to capital for small businesses more broadly.
We haven’t fought this hard and come this far only to falter as we are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. But, without a helping hand from our government, that’s exactly what could happen to small businesses across America.
Greg Manger is the owner of Costume Specialists in Columbus, Ohio.