Locals are optimistic about the impact federal funds for small businesses will have as a new year begins

The new COVID-19 relief bill's effect on local business

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Local economic development officials, as well as representatives of the tourism industry, have been anxiously waiting for a new federal COVID-19 relief package and they are thrilled it is now a reality and more federal funds will be available for small businesses that are struggling due to the pandemic. The legislation signed into law by President Donald Trump extends the COVID-related Paycheck Protection Program.

Michael Hecht is President and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc.

“Businesses now are going to be able to take a second PPP. In order to qualify for the second draw, they’re just going to have to show that they had a 25 percent reduction in revenue in any quarter in 2020 versus the same quarter of 2019,” said Hecht.

Todd Murphy is President of the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce.

“This is a great shot in the arm for small businesses. It is for businesses with less than 300 employees but if you look around our region and particularly here in Jefferson Parish that’s over 65 or 70 percent of our businesses,” said Murphy.

Both GNO Inc. and the Jefferson Chamber like some of the modifications to the PPP since it was rolled out months ago.

“Now you can do things like including some of your accounting expenses,” said Hecht.

Murphy said, “This is really something that will help our businesses tremendously to make payroll, to make rent and now this new plan it also reimburses for expenses that are related to personal protection equipment.”

Louisiana restaurants have suffered a great deal due to the health crisis and more people staying away from public establishments. Restaurants will get a special benefit in the federal relief package.

“There’s some bonuses for restaurants where now restaurants can qualify for 3 1/2 times of their monthly payroll; other businesses it’s 2 1/2 times. There’s going to be simplified forgiveness for all loans under $150,000,” said Hecht.

New Orleans and Company, the major tourism marketing organization in the city of New Orleans, had for months warned that many businesses were barely hanging on due to a lack of visitors. And Kelly Schulz of New Orleans and Company said the infusion of more federal dollars should help.

“Tourism is the lifeline of Louisiana, it’s 43 percent of the city’s operating budget and this relief package provides a critical bridge for survival for so many businesses especially restaurants and the small retail stores,” said Schulz.

But expectations related to a tourism rebound are tempered.

“2021 is still going to be a rebuilding year for the tourism industry. It’s going to take a little while for travelers to get comfortable with traveling again, with getting on an airplane,” said Schulz.

They say having vaccines administered in the state should also help to build confidence in travel and other activities.

“That’s right. We’re not going to get back to the normal or the new normal until we achieve this artificial herd immunity. The good news is that the vaccines have been developed in record time,” said Hecht.

Murphy agrees.

“If we can get this vaccine continuing to go out in tens of thousands each month, I think we’re going to see a really strong summer and a really strong third and fourth quarter,” Murphy stated.

And Hecht said there is additional federal help available for businesses who can show they have suffered losses.

“I also would encourage people to look at the Employee Retention Tax Credit. This has now been increased up to $14,000 per employee with no limit,” said Hecht.

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