Houston small businesses look to federal government for lifeline

HOUSTON – Elizabeth Swift Copeland did something Wednesday she hasn’t done in over 30 years of owning a business—apply for a loan.

“I just hope the government will act quickly and respond to my application for a loan,” said Swift Copeland. “I’m happy to get a loan, happy to pay it back. I just need some money for liquidity in order to pay compensation and overhead.”

Swift Copeland owns Swift + Company, a high-end event planning business. As coronavirus fears increased, galas, weddings and other pre-booked events she needs to pay the bills were canceled.

She said she laid off 26 staffers.

“The past ten days have been really heartbreaking,” said Swift Copeland. “I’ve had to let go of more than half of my employees because I can’t afford to pay them. We have no money coming in, and we have no idea how long this is going to last.”

Despite her best efforts to delay payments and haggle with banks and utility companies, she fears her business might go under if the federal government doesn’t step in with an aid package.

“We need money fast,” said Swift Copeland. “I mean for small business; timing is everything. We employ so many people, so I would love to see a majority of the money going to small businesses because we are the heartbeat of America.”

Shifting business model

In a kitchen in downtown Houston, what’s left of Irma’s staff is still preparing to-go food.

Carry out and delivery meals were never part of Irma’s menu, but it’s something owner Nick Galvan said they are learning to do to survive.

“It’s going to be rough,” he said. “A lot of owners, staff members, they really need a pick-me-up. They really need this financial get-up from the government just to get through the next few months.”

Galvan said his bank is working with them to defer payments for three months. He believes the federal government should mandate banks to delay payments to small businesses hurt by the coronavirus.

He also feels any kind of relief plan should assist employees laid off from restaurants.

“They need money,” said Galvan. “Unfortunately, we don’t have the business right now to give them that.. point blank.”