Utah County small business one of many denied in coronavirus relief package

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LEHI, Utah (ABC4 News) – Many of Utah’s small business owners were ready to go as soon as the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP for short, was launched. Joel Bernasek was one of them.

“I applied for it immediately. I had my paperwork in the very first day, as early in the morning as I possibly could,” he told ABC4 News.

Bernasek and his wife own Assured Direct Mail in Lehi, which is a direct mail printing company for businesses in Utah and nationwide.

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The Bernaseks are one of the thousands of small businesses around the country left empty-handed when the first $350-billion payroll protection program ran dry.

“When we have such a drastic hit to our business, it’s hard to keep our employees, employed and I was really banking on the PPP to help out,” he said. 

The Bernaseks are in a catch-22. If they lay off their six employees, which they don’t want to do, the business becomes ineligible for a PPP loan. While in limbo, the Bernaseks have been dipping into their personal savings to pay employees. That money is “quickly running out.”

“If we keep on this same path for months, there’s no way I can keep the doors open,” Bernasek said. 

Congress says a second relief package is in the works. If it passes the House and receives the president’s signature, Joel is going to take another shot at applying, but he knows there’s no guarantee any money will come his way. 

“What will you do if you don’t get any money this second time around,” asked ABC4’s Brittany Johnson.

“If it comes down to it I’ll unfortunately have to let all of my employees go and my wife and I will have to step up to the plate and do what we can to keep the doors open and move forward. But this is a very scary time. I never thought in a million years that we would be going through something like this,” he replied.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Governor Gary Herbert, (R) Utah, raised concerns about money from the first round of PPP not being distributed equally. 

Reportedly, much of the relief money went to large business chains and not small businesses like the Bernasek’s.

“We have some concern, as I have talked to some other governors this morning, about, is the monies being applied equally and fairly to businesses across the country. We have some businesses that are surprised that they’re not being approved for a loan and other businesses that are getting more than they thought they needed. I think there’s some inequities in the system of federal monies anyway. But that being as it may, w’re trying to see what we can do to fill in any gaps in the state of Utah that were found.”

Bernasek said he’s also concerned. 

“It feels like I’m not on a level playing field when I’m going up against these multi-billion dollar companies, and here we are, we’re a small business in Lehi and I know some of those big guys are getting the funds. What’s left for the little guys?”

The Bernaseks have applied for other business loan programs as well but say they either haven’t heard back, or get the run-around.

“Really what needs to happen is people just need to get back to work and we need to try to get back to some sort of normalcy, but a safe normalcy. Obviously no one wants to get sick. I don’t want our employees, I don’t want our customers, anything like that to get sick, but, we just need to get cranking again.”

A webinar that addressed funding opportunities for small business affected by COVID-19 was held on Wednesday. The presentation, with resources, is below.

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