Angela Melton Fray expressed some concerns about how small businesses such as her establishment would be able to survive once the coronavirus pandemic subsides.
In the meantime, there were a few questions she had regarding federal loans: How will all the loans be processed through the Small Business Administration? Will smaller banks be able to lend money? Will there be less paperwork to apply for a loan, especially for the nearly $350 million federal Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses?
“It’s a trying time for all of us,” said Melton Fray, who owns Dat Jerk Caribbean Chargrill at Woodmore Town Center in Glenarden and Waldorf in neighboring Charles County. “Restaurants and all other businesses are trying to figure this out and navigate through it.”
However, she listened to a conference call last week hosted by Prince George’s County hosted in regard to its COVID-19 Business Relief Fund.
The county will leverage $10 million from its Economic Development Incentive Fund to help small businesses and nonprofit organizations. FSC First plans to partner with local banks and other financial institutions to add another $5 million.
According to the plan, applicants can apply for a loan up to $100,000 at a 3.75% fixed interest rate.
Some of the required commitments to receive county funding include borrowers retain employees on their payroll during the term of the loan, must maintain the business in the county and “best effort” for 35 percent of future construction work designated for county-based small businesses.
Angie Rodgers, deputy chief administrative officer of economic development in the county executive’s office, said businesses can apply from April 13 through May 13.
Rodgers said businesses should also apply for money through the state and federal loan and grant programs.
“Businesses should be really thinking about these funds in coordination with the state level funding and the federal level funding,” she said during a press conference last week outside the Wayne K. Curry Administration Building in Largo. “We want people to think about those funds in collaboration with the local funds that we have available.”
Small business owners with 10 or fewer employees can apply for up grants up to $5,000 and those with 10 or more employees up to $10,000.
Dat Jerk, which celebrated two years March 18 at its Glenarden location, has about 10 employees. Its Waldorf location, which opened in 2015, has 12 employees.
Because of low traffic while filling only carryout orders for two weeks, Melton Fray said she decided to close both restaurants at least through next week because it didn’t help economically or keep employees safe.
She maintains an optimistic disposition for the business’s future, especially with her husband, son, daughter and two sisters-in-law also part of it.
“Our restaurant is our bread and butter,” said Melton Fray, who resides in Upper Marlboro. “We have to figure out if we stay closed, if it’s curbside [service only]. It also comes with the ethical side of putting staff in harm’s way. We need to see what is best for us.”
In regard to small businesses, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks stressed their importance to the county.
“When the coronavirus leaves — and we know that it will leave — we must have jobs for our residents to go back to,” she said. “Our family’s livelihoods are on the line. We’re going to have to work together.”