ST. GEORGE — Earlier this month, the Tuacahn Center of the Arts in Ivins City hosted one of the biggest events in local history, the inauguration of Gov. Spencer Cox, and this summer they plan to host the first performance in the U.S. of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “School of Rock” since it closed on Broadway a year ago.
But during Thursday’s “What’s Up Down South” economic summit, Tuacahn CEO Kevin Smith said that while the center’s amphitheater doesn’t have curtains, the center’s figurative curtains came very close to closing for good as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The way Smith tells it, if it hadn’t been for the federal CARES Act, the complex in Ivins City would be nothing more than a ghost now.
“It was tough,” Smith said, choking up as he said it. “If not for CARES Act funding, we’d be in trouble.”
Businesses big and small are licking their wounds from weathering the last 10 months of the pandemic – or worse, they’re still sustaining injuries from it.
On Thursday, small businesses got a potential vaccine of their own for their financial woes, as the director of Utah’s Office of Economic Development announced that funds are now available for the second Paycheck Protection Program, which is similar to the first program that aided local businesses under the CARES Act. The funds are there for the taking for local businesses with 300 employees or less.
“We need to make sure Utah is getting it’s fair share of this aid,” said Dan Hemmert, executive director of the Utah’s Office of Economic Development. “Most Utah small businesses. even if they have one employee or even if they got assistance last time, are eligible.”
The new Paycheck Protection Program was created from the coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in December. The overall pot offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration is $284 billion this time, and businesses can seek up to $2 million in aid.
The 2.0 version of the program has some new changes, including easier loan forgiveness, grants for veneers that are shuttered and, the SBA claims, an easier application process.
Like anything in business, applying will take paperwork, and there are several options all detailed on the state’s coronavirus business webpage.
As Tuacahn learned, a helping hand from Uncle Sam might be the lifebuoy that keeps a business afloat with the distribution of vaccines putting the end of the pandemic in sight.
Smith said Tuacahn was at a $2.4 million loss from the pandemic, having to layoff some employees and furlough 40 to 50 others, while holding off on an expected hire of 180 new employees with the center’s new box office and artist housing completed last summer.
But he added that the center learned that the most valuable profit may not be in dollars but in the loyalty of both employee and customer. Even with the furloughs that included some only being able to work one day a week, he said only three employees quit, and only 20% of Tuacahn’s season ticket holders asked for refunds.
“We’ve come out of this with a sense of loyalty,” Smith said. “It just gives us the resolve to fight on.”
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