Podcast: Utah Business COVID-19 Help from DWS & SBA

Pete CodellaBusiness Elevated Podcast, COVID-19


Business Elevated Podcast (Episode 27)

This podcast series features business and government leaders discussing what it’s like to live and work in the great state of Utah. This episode includes a conversation between Ryan Starks, GOED’s managing director of Business Services and Nate McDonald, communications director at the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

The Business Elevated podcast is also available on Apple PodcastsSpotify and Stitcher.



Welcome to the Business Elevated podcast, where we discuss what it’s like to live and work in the great state of Utah. Did you know Utah is frequently ranked the best state for business by Forbes? This podcast is a production of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Thanks for joining the conversation.

Ryan Starks: (00:22) Good morning. This is Ryan Starks. I’m the managing director of Business Services for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. And this morning, I’m joined by Nate MacDonald, the communications director for the Utah Department of Workforce Services. Nate, thanks for joining us. How are you today?

Nate McDonald: (00:39) I’m great. It’s good to be here with you during what we’re going through right now. It’s great for us to get together and talk.

Ryan Starks: (00:48) Yeah, a lot going on. In fact, in the past few weeks, as you know, we’ve seen unprecedented events as the Coronavirus has become a global pandemic. This affected Utah small businesses, and today on this episode of the Business Elevated podcast, we’ll talk about disaster relief loans through the Small Business Administration. Nate, tell me just a little bit about what you’re hearing.

Nate McDonald: (01:15) Obviously, as the COVID-19 situation, pandemic continues to spread and continues to grow, the concern has primarily been focused on the health challenges and social isolation and all those things. As this continues to grow and gets worse, we’re seeing how this is starting to impact the economy. It’s changing from being just a health concern to being an economic concern, not just from businesses, but to the very individual and families. How are they going to be able to manage their current situation if they lose their job, if they’re not getting wages or income coming in, what are they going to do? Those are the questions that are coming in and coming to the Department of Workforce Services. We have several programs that we manage that are out there to support people who do lose wages and lose their jobs or need child care assistance. That’s primarily what we’re getting right now are people coming to us who are in that situation. We also have employers coming to us that are going to have to lay people off and have questions about what they can do to help their employees. That’s where we’re at.

Ryan Starks: (02:40) This morning, I was on a call with Governor Herbert and his Economic Task Force, and John Pierpont, who’s the executive director of Workforce Services, talked about the high volume of people coming into the workforce service offices seeking assistance. Do you have any idea of how many people are coming to the offices and what are you telling them?

Nate McDonald: (03:01) We’ve definitely seen a strong uptick in people coming in and seeking services from us right now. We’re seeing our call volumes increased dramatically, with unprecedented numbers. It’s definitely something where we are working as hard as we can under the current situation with our staff and trying to protect our staff. We definitely have seen a huge uptick. We’re really doing all that we can to help people that are coming in and seeking our services. Obviously, our employment centers are seeing an increase in people coming in. We’re doing everything we can to manage the social distancing, so we don’t have an increase in a mass gathering in our employment centers. The biggest thing we’re asking people to do is no matter what, everything starts with an application. We can’t just give benefits out. Everything has to start with an application and the best way to get that process started is by going online to jobs.utah.gov. In red is a link that will take you to our COVID-19 webpage. It is broken down into what we have right now for unemployment insurance, for childcare, food assistance, energy assistance and what to expect if you have to go into one of our employment centers.

Ryan Starks: (04:25) That’s great information. Thanks for sharing that and thanks to the Workforce Services team. All of this response is taking tremendous teamwork across many agencies. One of the things that GOED keeps hearing is, what funds are available for small businesses? Are you hearing similar things?

Nate McDonald: (04:44) We’re getting small businesses who are worried and concerned. They have people they care about that are their employees, that they’re not able to pay them right now. There’s that question mark, what can be done for the employees? That’s where we step in. What can be done for that business and how can that business get help? I know that’s something that your team is working on at the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

Ryan Starks: (05:11) That’s right. We’ve been working really closely with the SBA and I just learned this morning, we were fifth out of 50 states to get all of our applications in. We’re working proactively to provide some resources to the businesses. One of those resources is an SBA fund loan.This is a low-interest loan. It’s 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for nonprofit organizations. The purpose of the fund is to loan small businesses enough money to bridge the gap until the economy picks back up. Until we get through this coronavirus scare. For businesses that are interested in learning more or accessing this funding, you can go to sba.gov/disaster and you can apply for up to $2 million per company. This money will enable you to cover your basic costs as we work our way through this. Anybody who’s a small business in Utah, you can begin the process. We also have some additional information on our website, which is business.utah.gov.  It’’ll just be one more resource, one more arrow in the quiver to help some of our small businesses weather the storm.

Nate McDonald: (06:33) That’s a question that we’re getting from businesses trying to really understand what exactly they can do. And this is amazing. Your team is working very hard for that. The biggest thing is what they can do for their business, but also what can they do for their employees? That’s where we have these multiple resources.The state leadership coming together to develop this task force to really understand what is available and what can be used is great. Between your resources, what we have at the Department of Workforce Services, we hope that employers can take advantage and understand what can be done. Not only for them as their business, but for their employees as well.

Ryan Starks: (07:19) That’s right, and I’m sure you’d be the first to say that we couldn’t do this without the support of our federal government partners. The SBA and Senator Romney and Senator Lee’s office who’ve been instrumental in facilitating a lot of these programs. I just learned this morning about some new congressional stimulus,  emergency paid leave packages and things that are in the works.

As we coordinate these resources on a state level, we’ll be sure to communicate to our partners and to our businesses and the employees. This is just affecting so many people across the board, but we couldn’t do it without so much support from so many people. Nate, any advice that you’d give to an employee or an employer at this point?

Nate McDonald: (08:06) Again, I want to reiterate, to utilize jobs.utah.gov. Just go there. You’ll see right up front the link to go to our COVID-19 page and when you get there. We have a page broken out for unemployment insurance for employees and also a link for employers if childcare is a big question or concern. For employers who are listening to this, we have services, including a rapid response team. If unemployment is a need you’re going to go down the path of, we have a rapid response team that can help answer all the questions. They will help you navigate through how best to work through the unemployment system and what resources will be available for your employees that may be in need. It’s different for every employer. Some of them, it might be a temporary thing where they just need some temporary relief. Others, it might be more of a long-lasting thing. That’s where we need to have that open dialogue.

Ryan Starks: (09:15) That’s wonderful. So you said rapid response. What’s the typical turnaround time?

Nate McDonald: (09:21) So right now, obviously, that is the challenge. We’re trying to manage the workflow that’s coming in, so get your application in first. That is the biggest need. You should get your application in. We start processing those applications and it can take a couple of weeks to get things going. As you can imagine, right now the federal government, with the policies that are in place, it has always been within 30 days. You get your application processed. We’re doing everything we can to meet those demands, and meet the expectations so we can get the people the benefits they need moving forward.

We definitely ask the public, just like with everything right now, you have to be patient. Like going to the grocery store, you’re going to have to be patient with us as well as we’re managing through this increased workflow.

Ryan Starks: (10:12)  Well, kudos to your team for your great work. I would say the same thing is true for the SBA loans. Typically the turnaround time after processing the application is two to three weeks before a business can receive funding. To anybody listening, our challenge to you is to begin the process, whether it be through jobs.utah.gov where you can receive some unemployment assistance, or if you’re looking for a small business loan, you can go to sba.gov/disaster. For real-time information, you can visit business.utah.gov. Nate, thanks for joining us today. We appreciate all you’re doing and best of luck to you and your team.

Nate McDonald: (10:55) Thank you.


Thanks for listening to the Business Elevated podcast, a production of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Listen to other episodes where you get your podcasts or at business.utah.gov.