Tale of two small businesses: one survives pandemic, one doesn’t

Sadly it has become a familiar sight during the coronavirus pandemic: a small business is forced to throw in the towel and close its doors.

Such is the case with Outpost Neighborhood Kitchen in Orlando's College Park neighborhood. Two empty bottles sit on a dark bar, a reminder of what used to be a vibrant gathering spot.

“It sucked, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, we all hugged and cried and drank, it was tough,” said Julie Casey, owner.

Casey said she fought to stay open, qualifying for the federal Payroll Protection Program (PPP). She received $37,000, but it ran out quickly.

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“When the PPP came as an option, it was a halo for us, it was like ‘Thank God!’” said Casey. “It wasn’t enough money and it wasn’t enough to sustain more than 8 weeks being open,” said Casey.

She tapped into her savings to keep the doors open.

“We dipped into our savings to buy PPE stuff, to buy sanitizer, to buy all those things,” said Casey.

The money ran out after eight weeks. Casey was forced to make the final last call, laying-off 22 employees.

“We were literally digging under rocks trying to find other solutions, but at that point, it was going to be 100 percent out of our pocket,” said Casey.

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Not every small business had to close its doors. Erika Benfield owns Florida Living Quarters Interior Design in Lake Mary. She too, was worried, until she got a PPP loan.

“Jobs would have unfortunately been cut, even my own salary would have been cut,” said Benfield.

The $25,000 was a lifeline. Benfield never imagined the crisis would last this long. She said financial planning helped her survive.

“Okay, let me make sure that I have four to six months worth in the account so that I could overcome anything, should anything happen but not everyone runs their business the same way,” said Benfield.

What happens to your taxpayer dollars given to businesses that ended up going under anyway? The PPP loan isn’t really a loan. It’s more of a grant. As long as businesses provide the federal government receipts showing at least 75% of the money went to pay employees, they’re off the hook. The loan is forgiven, whether the business survives or not.

Tune in to FOX 35 Orlando for the latest Central Florida news.