Businesses near campus have received financial support from the federal government under a loan program designed to keep small businesses afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Multiple GWorld vendors, including Tonic, Bindaas and Duke’s Grocery, have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, according to data released by the U.S. Small Business Administration earlier this week. Owners said the loans ensured they could continue to pay their employees as sales dropped or even stopped completely for months.
Jeremy Pollok, the managing partner of Tonic, said the restaurant closed in mid-March because it could not sustain carryout-only operations, but the loan provided additional funds allowing his business to reopen. Sales at Tonic this spring dropped by 86 percent compared to the same period last year, Pollok said.
The PPP provides loans to small businesses and nonprofits that will be forgiven if certain percentages of the funds are used in certain areas, like payroll and rent. Tonic received a loan of between $350,000 and $1 million, according to the data.
Pollok said he used the funds to pay both staff who were managing Tonic’s limited operations and other employees while they were not working for a period of time.
“We were paying everybody to stay home,” he said.
Pollok added that some staff members did not want to continue receiving compensation from Tonic because increased unemployment benefits during the pandemic exceeded their regular pay. Employees in D.C. receiving unemployment benefits in select programs are eligible for an additional $600 per week between April 4 and July 25, according to the D.C. Department of Employment Services website.
Pollok said the loan helped him cover costs during the pandemic, but changes to the loan’s conditions over the past few months, like giving borrowers 24 weeks to spend the loan funds rather than eight weeks, made it difficult to use the funds in the most effective way possible.
“It was a good program that had its faults and hopefully there’s some other programs to follow,” he said. “Restaurants need a lot more help to survive, so hopefully there’s something coming down the pike.”
The PPP data released this week only provides the names of companies and organizations that received more than $150,000 under the program. The Small Business Administration publicized attribute data about groups that received smaller loans, like zip codes and business types.
Three nonprofit organizations and eight for-profit companies located in zip code 20052, which comprises GW’s campus, received loans totaling nearly $531,000 under the federal program, according to the data.
Bindaas, which received a loan between $150,000 and $350,000, according to the data, did not return a request for comment.
Duke’s Grocery received a loan between $150,000 and $350,000, according to the data.
“We are grateful for the support of the Foggy Bottom community during this unprecedented global pandemic,” Daniel Kramer, the managing partner of Duke’s, said in an email. “All members of the GW Hospital Staff, first responders and related medical professionals receive 15 percent off their order at any time by showing their badge.”