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  • Hopefully today some more of the workers show up.

  • I think a lot of 'em are just very scared.

  • We have to do it. It's something that we must do because we

  • really just can't close.

  • The coronavirus Pandemic is putting America's 30 million

  • small businesses to the test.

  • From nail salons, to grocers, to restaurants.

  • They're all facing an existential threat.

  • Every day I wake up and I keep my fingers crossed that this

  • will end. I don't know what our future holds.

  • I don't really want to think about it.

  • A month of what some experts compared to a power blackout

  • has nearly halved economic activity.

  • One additional month could lead to the permanent loss of

  • one fourth of all U.S.

  • business establishments, equaling four trillion dollars in

  • revenue. For New York City, the Independent Budget Office

  • estimates that the virus could cost the city nearly 10

  • billion dollars in lost tax revenue.

  • That could be catastrophic for the cities and the entire

  • country's small businesses, who are the main drivers of

  • employment, innovation and growth.

  • The COVID-19 situation has really been hammering our small

  • businesses across the country.

  • But there are a number of businesses that haven't had to

  • shut their doors. Grocery stores need food, pharmacies need

  • drugs. Your Internet has to continue to work.

  • The water has to turn on when you turn the faucet.

  • Essential businesses are fortunate to stay open when most

  • can't. Most of our staff members are happy to have a job.

  • I mean, we're thankful for that, of course.

  • But then the second thing kicks in.

  • It's like all of us have families and our safety comes, you

  • know, as if not more important than a paycheck.

  • Keeping your doors open during a pandemic is anything but

  • straightforward, especially for small businesses.

  • It doesn't help that the 349 billion dollar loan program

  • for small businesses ran out in merely two weeks.

  • It remains to be seen that the new 484 billion dollar

  • relief package will get into the hands of those most in

  • need. This is probably the biggest leadership challenge any

  • small business person has ever faced.

  • When the orders come over next door to our restaurant, we're

  • the ones accepting them and putting them away and doing all

  • the work because we don't have a lot of staff.

  • Also, because we don't have a lot of orders.

  • We don't have a lot of money to pay the staff.

  • So it's just all kind of falling on to us.

  • If it last a few months like this, it's going to be very

  • difficult, it's going to be extremely difficult. It'll be

  • years before we fully understand the economic impact of the

  • coronavirus. While the lockdown continues, essential small

  • businesses in New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic,

  • are barely holding on.

  • The coronavirus, or the COVID-19 disease, has turned the

  • world upside down, nearly every state governor has ordered

  • businesses to temporarily shut down and residents to stay

  • home. This is not life as usual and accept it and realize

  • it and deal with it. More than 50,000 major retailers and

  • restaurants, and about 54 percent of America's 30.

  • 2 million small businesses, were deemed non-essential and

  • told to close.

  • Though some states are cautiously considering reopening

  • parts of their economies.

  • The country is far from returning back to normal.

  • I had a gut feeling that things were going to change a

  • little bit. I actually spoke to a couple of my managers I

  • was telling them to stock up a little bit more on a dry good

  • that I thought there might be some kind of panic, but to be

  • quite very honest with you, not in my wildest dream I

  • thought it would go to this level.

  • What makes a business essential varies a bit depending on

  • the state. For example, in Arizona, golf courses are still

  • open. In Pennsylvania, medical marijuana dispensaries are

  • essential, but liquor stores are not.

  • And in Alabama, gun stores are considered too important to

  • be shut down. All states agree though, that grocery stores,

  • pharmacies and gas stations are absolutely necessary.

  • You kind of feel, you have to serve the country that it's

  • been good to you. You have to serve the neighbors that

  • have been good to you all these year.

  • So it comes in with that kind of sense of responsibility

  • that keeps me going.

  • I mean, I have been working now for almost 30 days

  • straight. I haven't taken a day off.

  • Mo Issa is the owner of Brooklyn Fair, a chain of three

  • grocery stores and a three Michelin starred restaurant

  • under the same name. Most three stores are considered

  • essential, as is his restaurant, but only for deliveries

  • and takeout, something for which his fine dining

  • establishment wasn't equipped.

  • It's something I take a lot of pride in and we had to close

  • it down, and I had to lay off quite a few people that

  • worked at the restaurant.

  • It's pretty sad.

  • It's usually very busy and beautiful but now it's

  • completely shut down. New York City, like the rest of the

  • country, is made up of small businesses.

  • 98 percent of the more than 220,000 businesses employ less

  • than 100 people.

  • But during a crisis, being small comes with a host of

  • challenges. For example, large retailers like Wegmans or

  • Whole Foods have dedicated crisis management teams and

  • generally run on larger profit margins.

  • I'm a one man show kind of, basically I do it all.

  • So the challenge for a small guy like myself to do it and

  • do it right. It's extremely hard because of the resource.

  • I don't have the same deep pockets as they do.

  • Mo has increased his workers hourly wage from $15 to $17.

  • Still, he says he spends most of his days convincing

  • worried employees to come to work.

  • He's running three sizable grocery stores that he says

  • gross about 42 million dollars a year on nearly half of the

  • regular staff. It's about 6:15 in the morning, 6:20 going

  • to pick up the food from 37th street to take it to the

  • Brooklyn store because we had to close the kitchen in

  • Brooklyn store because we're short on employees.

  • The stores are doing more business volume wise, dollar wise

  • head counts has dropped a lot.

  • Before we were like at 250 to over 260.

  • Now we're running three stores like in about 150, 145.

  • It depends from day to day.

  • I lose two, three come back and every morning I just got to

  • deal with it. It's like whose coming, who's not coming?

  • If a McDonald's goes from having 40 workers to 36 workers,

  • well, it stays open.

  • If you run a small restaurant and you have eight workers

  • and you go to five or six workers, you might have a tough

  • time. Not too far from Mo's downtown Brooklyn store,

  • Leslie and Matt own a coffee shop and a burger restaurant.

  • This is not their first crisis.

  • A fire at the coffee shop in 2014 set them back for years.

  • But this pandemic is different.

  • After nearly all twelve employees said they were too scared

  • to work. They shut down the cafe.

  • We were open for the staff so that they could all get paid

  • and have a purpose and keep doing what they loved to do.

  • But when people started showing up it just didn't make

  • sense anymore to stay open.

  • This is our tiny kitchen.

  • We're just cranking out burgers, fries...

  • The couple estimate revenue to be around 40,000 for the

  • month of April, but 30 percent has to go to third party

  • delivery companies like Caviar and Uber Eats.

  • And with 30,000 in expenses between the two shops, they're

  • unlikely to break even.

  • It's extremely strenuous.

  • Bills don't go on pause.

  • Jonathan Goldstein and his brother are third generation

  • owners of Park Avenue Liquor Shop.

  • The store is nestled between bustling Grand Central and

  • Bryant Park. With no commercial business and nearly no foot

  • traffic. The business is down 75 to 80 percent.

  • They had to lay off more than half of the staff.

  • I don't think people want to be in midtown or in a crowded

  • part of the city. So we're missing that part of the

  • business. We're missing corporate business.

  • There are no parties, there are no staff meetings.

  • There's no after hours.

  • Let's say we have a good, four to six weeks before we have

  • to seriously look at the books and say if it's worthwhile.

  • Changes in spending habits is one of the most immediate

  • effects of the pandemic.

  • Spending in every category available has decreased except

  • for alcohol and groceries.

  • Not surprisingly, online sales have skyrocketed.

  • Mo's stores have had a similar trajectory.

  • He says the three stores used to earn 5,000 to 6,000

  • dollars a week. Today, they're generating nearly $200,000

  • in online sales. We're keeping people like almost up to 1

  • o'clock in the morning just filling in orders.

  • Some of them come in at 5:00 in the morning and we're doing

  • the best we can. We used to do it within a 24 hour window.

  • Now we expand the window like almost six days and we kind

  • of run it almost six days behind.

  • As we've reported before, the U.S.

  • is unlikely to run out of food.

  • But as the virus continues to spread to workers and

  • processing plants, warehouses and grocery stores, so have

  • concerns over the impact on the supply chain.

  • This could especially impact small, essential businesses.

  • When you have scarce resources and you have scarce time and

  • you're trying to set up priorities.

  • Having a large grocery store supplied, that can serve a lot

  • of people, maybe that's more important.

  • We are getting about 20 percent to 30 percent sometimes of

  • the orders that we order. Sometimes it just doesn't show up

  • because it's not like they don't want to do it.

  • They just don't have it. Plus, my suppliers' having the

  • same issue with labor as me.

  • Being small and essential also means you're at the shop

  • more. Mo, Leslie and Matt, and Jonathan spend their entire

  • days in their stores along with their frontline employees.

  • That goes a long way when you're dealing with a public

  • health crisis that's extremely contagious.

  • We've been driving one of our employees back and forth from

  • work every day because we don't want him on the trains and

  • we know that he needs to work.

  • I go to every store, every single day, six days a week, all

  • the time. I know their names.

  • I know their family.

  • I know their pain. I know what they're going through.

  • All businesses have shut their doors, but the bills are

  • still piling up. The Small Business Administration

  • launching a program.

  • In late March 2020, the government responded to the economic

  • havoc brought on by the coronavirus with the biggest relief

  • package in history. Three hundred and forty nine billion of

  • the 2 trillion is dedicated to small businesses.

  • That can be the saving grace for the many small, essential

  • and non-essential businesses who are holding on by a

  • thread. According to a survey by the National Federation of

  • Independent Business, as of April 9th, 2020, 70 percent of

  • small businesses had applied for help.

  • Numbers we're seeing are dramatic.

  • We are processing billions of dollars of loans an hour and

  • we are receiving and approving thousands and thousands of

  • applications a day.

  • The four temporary programs are meant to help small

  • businesses cover payroll and other expenses during the

  • pandemic. According to Bulger, lenders are supposed to

  • release the money within 10 days of government approval.

  • However, in New York City, as well as in many other

  • regions, relief has been lagging.

  • On the early morning of April 3rd, the first day of

  • applications. Leslie and Matt stayed up late to make sure

  • they would be ahead of the curve.

  • Waiting, waiting, waiting, 12:30 and we were like, this is

  • not happening. And then Friday, our banker reached out

  • again and said, no Friday they said we're not ready.

  • Monday we're going to have the forms ready so you guys can

  • start submitting. And then Monday, our bank was like kind

  • of a disaster also. Look, are there glitches?

  • Are we trying to work out the bugs as we're going through

  • it? Yes, because it is so new.

  • We're bringing on hundreds and hundreds of new lenders that

  • are just- who've never worked with the SBA- so yes there's

  • been tremendous challenges, but it's a 24/7 effort.