For this Chicago entrepreneur, the new federal stimulus aid for small businesses ‘too little, too late’
Chris Costoso, owner of Impact Images Studio, poses for a portrait.Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times
The day Chris Costoso had feared so much finally came last month when he was forced to shut down his photography business and turn over the keys to his storefront studio.
After nearly five years in business, that studio had become a part of him, he said.
In some cases, Costoso’s photos chronicle some couples’ lives together — from engagement, to wedding and eventually to family portraits.
“Handing over the last key to the [building] owner was just horrible,” Costoso said. “I didn’t think it would hurt so much, but as a small entrepreneur, I have put everything into my business and watched it flourish until something out of my control ended it so quickly.”
On Sunday, President Donald Trump signed a $900 billion pandemic relief package lauded to help people, but Costoso said for him, it’s “too little, too late.”
“This latest stimulus doesn’t even matter to me at this point. It’s whatever. I mean, I’m already shut down,” Costoso said. “I can only rely on myself to make something happen and to bring some sort of income in.”
The latest COVID-19 relief package would put $284 billion back into the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers forgivable loans to small businesses to keep their employees on payroll during the pandemic. Portions of that will be dedicated to minority-owned businesses and companies in low-income areas. An additional $20 billion would also go toward small business grants.
The $2.2 trillion CARES Act, passed in March, created the PPP program; that first round of aid eventually reached $669 billion. Costoso applied then but never received any aid. At this point, he feels both the federal and local government have let him down.
Businesses like Costoso’s that didn’t have strong relationships with the banks handling the PPP loans were left adrift, he believes. In Illinois, 12% of businesses and nonprofits getting loans from the PPP program accounted for 74% of the money — meaning bigger employers benefited the most.
Costoso said he did everything to keep his business afloat. He dropped the price his photo shoots from $650 to just $100 to generate some sort of income to pay his rent on his home and his storefront, but he still fell too far behind.
And with social media hyper-politicized during the presidential campaign, it was difficult to use those platforms to market his business online.
“People are not looking for a new photographer, and they are focused on the news with coronavirus, civil unrest, the elections and then those challenging the election results,” Costoso said. “So much of our advertising and marketing on Facebook was just getting ignored or washed away.”
Read Manny Ramos’ full story here.
9:22 a.m. Cars take on new importance, functions during pandemic
Lines of them, decorated, drivers honking, people hanging out of them waving, screaming, singing, fist-pumping.
The scene has played out thousands of times, for myriad reasons, as vehicles became an all-important conduit during the pandemic for showing you care about something deeply.
Jean Smith can attest. Family and friends formed a caravan and rolled by her Hyde Park apartment building in April to celebrate Smith’s 99th birthday: “It made me feel like I was on cloud nine, or cloud 99,” she said with a laugh. “To get to be 99 and have that many people interested in you? Most of the time they just throw you by the wayside, but I felt like I was Queen Elizabeth. I thoroughly enjoyed it,” said Smith.
“Now I’m just waiting for the 100th,” she said, hoping for a face-to-face bash.
Birthdays, graduations, rallies, protests, funerals — thanks to COVID-19, cars played a bigger part in them all. And of course, events handing out coronavirus essentials — like face masks and hand sanitizer — often were drive-thru.
In the year of the census, those working on the tally often used car caravans to spread the word to fill out the form, often focusing on neighborhoods or communities that have been traditionally undercounted.
Keep reading Mitch Dudek’s story here.
Analysis and commentary
8:30 a.m. Joe Biden believes we can beat COVID-19 — because we are better than 2020
How hard was that? How hard was it for a president of the United States — or a president-elect — to stand up in a moment of national crisis and put it to us straight and honest and call on us to be one nation, fighting the fight together?
We’ve seen presidents do it before. Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, did it after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. George W. Bush, a Republican, did it after the attacks of 9/11.
On Tuesday, we saw it again with Joe Biden. In an unadorned address of some scant 10 minutes or so, the president-elect called on all Americans, whatever their politics, to pull together and charge into the new year with a resolve to do the simple, practical and sometimes hard stuff necessary to finally contain and beat COVID-19.
Honest to God, how we wish the current president, Donald Trump, had somehow found the empathy and integrity to do exactly this — tell it straight and rally us to the fight — when the pandemic first arrived on our nation’s shores.
Tens of thousands of lives might have been saved. Hospitals might not be facing a post-holidays surge of gravely ill patients. The United States might be on the backside of this pandemic, rather than in the very heart of it, showing the world how it’s done.
Businesses might be closer to reopening. Our lives might be closer to returning to some semblance of normal.
Read the full editorial here.
Source by chicago.suntimes.com