For Aaron Gross and Wende Stevenson, 2020 started out on a promising note.
“We thought this year was going to be our year,” Gross said.
The couple had just completed an expansion of their business, MoMo Italian Kitchen in the Lake Highlands neighborhood of Dallas, when COVID-19 forced restaurants to close their dining rooms.
Full coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it impacts you
“We’re trying to work through it. We’re doing the contact-free curbside carryout and doing a little delivery -- just trying to make ends meet and to keep as many of our people employed as we can,” Gross said.
A cash infusion from the Paycheck Protection Program, administered by the Small Business Administration, would have helped. When $349 billion in low interest, forgivable loans were made available, Gross said they applied on the first day. Initially, their lender informed them they were approved. A day later, came the notice the program ran out of money.
“It was just devastating,” Stevenson said. “You think how could this happen? How could they be without funds?”
At Tacos del Norte in Fort Worth, Austin and Lupe Cardona also missed out on the first round of loans. As a result, they said, they couldn’t make rent. They’re moving out of the business the family built over the last five years.
“This is everything to us,” Austin Cardona said. “We've spent all our livelihood in the restaurant business. There is no backup plan for us, this is all we have.”
Since NBC 5 spoke with the Cardona family last week, other area business owners and community member have offered to help. Donors have given to a GoFundMe page to pay for relocation.
They said they hoped they would be among the businesses first in line when the SBA begins to distribute a second round of funding on Monday. They said they would use the loan to reopen in a new location with their eight employees.
“We have a lot of energy and hope in God that everything is going to be fine,” Lupe Cardona said through tears.
The loans are critical for restaurants, impacted heavily by the pandemic’s fallout.
“Not only does it hurt, it’s scary,” Gross said. “What does the future hold for something that we’ve invested our life into?”
Gross and Stevenson also said they were hopeful they wouldn't be edged out of a PPP loan again.
In the meantime, they said they were grateful for the community and their neighborhood for continuing to support them with takeout orders.
Gross added his restaurant is participating in the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association’s #GIVE10 effort, allowing customers to add a $10 gift card to orders to help feed healthcare workers.
“If we don’t get it [PPP loan], we’re going to keep working everyday as hard as we can to keep this restaurant up,” Gross said.
Congress approved another $310 billion for PPP loans and $60 billion for disaster loans. The Small Business Administration is set to resume the program on Monday with new guidance intended to discourage large, publicly traded companies from receiving loans.
During the initial funding round, some large companies tapped into the fund. Some, amid public backlash, have said they would give the money back. Others insist they need it too.
Over the weekend, Dallas-based hotel owners - Ashford Inc., Ashford Hospitality Trust, and Braemar Hotels & Resorts published a statement on its website that said the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating to business.
It says, in part, “Media concerns over our receipt of PPP funds are misplaced. The PPP program was specifically designed to help companies like ours as part of the national objective of shoring up businesses and getting people back to work. We do intend to use the PPP funds to do our part.”
Ashford's full statement is below.