They were independent. Now they desperately need help

The US government has offered some relief to the smallest of small enterprises – freelancers, entrepreneurs and sole proprietors. But for many, that help didn’t come quickly — if at all.

The federal aid program adopted by Congress in March allows these micro-enterprises to apply for special unemployment benefits and Economic Disaster Loan Grants from the Small Business Administration. They can also apply for the Paycheck Protection Program Loansalthough they weren’t allowed to do so until the first round was nearly exhausted.

Some business owners are starting to see some help coming now after a month of waiting. But many aren’t, struggling with a quagmire of long wait times, confusing advice and unreturned phone calls.

For these independent small business owners, the sudden onset of the economic shutdown has exacerbated their already financially precarious lives.

Massage therapist Rebecca Jackoboice had a successful business working with private clients in their Chicago homes.

Her husband, also a massage therapist, worked in a chiropractor’s office.

Both had to close their practices.

Jackoboice applied for federal assistance as soon as possible. But she still doesn’t know the status of her EIDL scholarship application with the SBA, she also didn’t get approval from Chase still on its second application for a PPP loan. (Due to a bank error on her first application, she said, she had to reapply.)

Jackoboice hasn’t started tackling unemployment insurance benefits yet, because it’s been too confusing. “I don’t know what the appropriate thing to do anymore,” she said. In Illinois, as in many states, the advice for the self-employed has been to apply for a unemployment benefits, getting rejected and then requalifying for pandemic unemployment assistance benefits created by the federal assistance program for independent contractors, sole proprietors and gig workers.

But she’s had better luck with her landlord and utility providers, all of whom give her a bit of a break on her monthly bills.

The family currently lives off their personal savings, even though Jackoboice’s husband has just landed a minimum-wage job at a friend’s business. “We were very lucky in that capacity,” she said.

Atlanta-based sound engineer Stephen Morrison has worked with major rap artists, including L’il Wayne. And he has done live musical work for performances by the Atlanta Ballet dance company.

Sound engineer Stephen Morrison works at Billboard Studios in Midtown Atlanta.

When the record industry shut down and his income fell to zero, Morrison kept busy asking for every kind of help he could think of, including food stamps, which he received. about a month after applying. “I was really surprised – it was a shot in the dark – and that was the only thing that saved me,” Morrison said.

He has yet to hear back from his EIDL scholarship or PPP forgivable loan applications. And he is still awaiting approval for unemployment benefits, which he applied for more than a month ago.

Morrison has just learned that he will receive a $2,500 grant from an artists’ collective, which will help pay his bills because “they don’t stop,” he said.

Going forward, he plans to use his home studio for online mixing whenever recording work comes up. But beyond that, he envisions new lines of work.

“I’m looking at things that make sense that won’t really go away,” Morrison said, like becoming a notary.

The pandemic has forced hairstylist and makeup artist Angela Ivana to temporarily leave New York and return home to Boston.

“I decided to move because I didn’t know when I would have the money – and I didn’t want the rent to pile up,” Ivana said.

Hair and makeup artist Angela Ivana works on actor Kyle Vanzandt.

She typically works on film productions, television shows, Broadway plays, commercials, and print advertising campaigns. She was already going through a rough patch before the pandemic because she lost her car and her $20,000 makeup bag — the tools of her trade — when a street in New York was flooded last year.

Ivana lost a lot of income as a result and tried to recover the city’s damage. Use borrowed supplies, she was was working on a late-night TV show when she quit on March 12.

While she was approved for unemployment benefits, she has yet to receive the first check because the system was too overloaded to allow her to certify that she still had no income.

Ivana was able to secure a $3,000 EIDL grant for a beauty training business she recently started with two partners. But that money will quickly be gobbled up for business expenses, she said.

She added that she had not applied for a PPP loan yet. “There was so much changing information about it. I wasn’t sure what impact it would have on me and if I could pay it back,” Ivana said.

Wedding plans across the country have been turned to hell in this age of social distancing. But Chicago-based calligrapher and wedding invitation designer Emily Rose Asher still has some work to do creating “save the NEW date” cards that couples now send to guests when they decide to postpone their big event. .

Emily Rose Asher is the owner and creator of Emily Rose Ink, a calligraphy and wedding papercraft company.

Yet, Asher said, where she made thousands of dollars during wedding season, she now makes hundreds. And the fact that she still has no income will likely disqualify her for unemployment benefits. But she applied for a PPP loan in late April after trying to sort out conflicting advice from two accountants about her eligibility.

Asher’s husband, meanwhile, still has his job. But his employer – a music retailer with an online sales platform – has already laid off some people, so it’s unclear how secure his job will be.

Asher says she has personal savings that can carry her business for two to three months, but the couple plan to buy a new house next year? “That’s not going to happen,” she said.

Stephanie Jeanty, a freelance stage manager and production manager at festivals like SXSW and Coachella, as well as major music venues, lives in Brooklyn but typically travels for work 11 months a year.

With major concerts and other music events on the ice at the moment, she doesn’t have a job and said she wasn’t even paid for what she did before SXSW, which was canceled a week before its start in March.

Jeanty was back in Brooklyn on March 12 to work at a concert hall when it closed due to the pandemic. Since then, she has lived on her savings because she has not yet been able to obtain financial assistance. She has applied for unemployment benefits and a grant from LiveNation, and she plans to ask her landlord for a break on rent.

Jeanty inquired about the PPP loan, but said someone at the SBA told her she didn’t qualify because she worked in multiple states.

She fears that due to social distancing requirements, many concert halls will not reopen. This is one of the reasons she is seriously considering new ways to earn a living.

Valerie and Geoff Franklin make handmade leather goods on their property on the Oregon Coast. And so far, the economic fallout from the pandemic hasn’t hit them hard…yet.

They are still making and shipping products to customers, and can do so while supplies last, Valerie Franklin said. But sales are always unpredictable.

Last week they learned they had been approved for both an EIDL grant and a PPP loan, she said. “We feel like one of the lucky ones so far and yet there is so much to worry about.”

Their retirement plan is real estate. They rent three single family homes in the Portland area. All have mortgages. “That worries me a lot more,” she said. mentioned.

Their tenants have paid their April rent, but it’s unclear how long this will continue.

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