By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Nevada’s small businesses with a gaming cohort did not fare well in the recent federal Paycheck Protection Program, said Terry Reynolds, the director of Nevada’s Department of Business and Industry.
Reynolds said on Nevada Newsmakers that Gov. Sisolak’s administration is worried that the lack of attention paid to many of these Nevada small businesses from the federal program may leave them without the funding needed to reopen.
“Frankly, a lot of those aren’t going to make it,” Reynolds told host Sam Shad. “They are going to have difficulty getting employees back and getting people back in to those business. So yes, we are very concerned about that.”
Nevada’s small businesses received fewer loans than any of the seven states with similar populations, according to an analysis of PPP statistics done by the Nevada Independent. Through April, Nevada had the nation’s highest unemployment rate, with 28.2 percent of the labor force unemployed.
“The ability to get out and get that money was severely hindered in the first go-round (of the PPP),” Reynolds said. “The second go-round was a little bit better. We processed more loans and we came up in the rankings of the states that got loans. However, still I dont think it reached the types of business that really needed those dollars.”
Nevada fared better in the second-round of the PPP program because Nevada’s Congressional delegation lobbied the Trump administration for more money.
Yet many Nevada businesses such as restaurants and bars that had slot machines were excluded in the first round of the program. Scrambling to get into the second round of the PPP was not always successful.
“Frankly, Nevada was handicapped with that first go-round of the Paycheck Protection Plan of monies that came in because they didn’t go to gaming (companies),” Reynolds said.
“So if you had 33 percent or more of your income from gaming, or if you had a restaurant and had 15 slots within your restaurant, you may not qualify for that loan,” Reynolds said. “And so there were a lot of small businesses that were affected by that, like Dotty’s and Tavern Gaming and even restaurants were affected by that.”
Other types of small Nevada businesses also suffered, Reynolds said.
“Also small retail,” he said. “One of the things that we saw was a lot of the large banks, basically, when they got those Paycheck Protection funds, they went to their best customers, to their larger customers. That didn’t come out to the small business people. You saw the article in the paper about the mayor. That was a classic example.”
Reynolds was referring to a Nevada Newsmakers story — also published in the Reno Gazette-Journal — about Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve. The two-term mayor, owner of two small businesses, applied but was denied funding from the PPP. Schieve said her mistake was applying with a nationwide bank and not with a local bank.
Reynolds said the second round of PPP loans were too late for some businesses.
“The loans were smaller and more distributed,” he said. “But by that time, a lot of people had become disgusted and gave up on that and really couldn’t either apply or get the application out fast enough. We set up programs to try to help those people fill out those applications, through the SBA.”
Reynolds was also critical of confusion from the federal level.
“The other part of it was that (the Department of) Treasury didn’t get the guidelines out in the first go-round for several weeks after the program went out,” he said. “So banks were really hesitant, the local banks, smaller banks, to carry out the program, not knowing what the guidelines would be.”
Schieve echoed that opinion in an earlier Nevada Newsmakers interview: “I think that (PPP) money really needs to have different guidelines on it because so many of the small businesses did not see that money,” she said.
The numbers of neighborhood gaming business will probably shrink in Nevada’s post-COVID-19 economy, Reynolds said. It could have a ripple effect.
“From a statewide standpoint, I’m not sure if you’re not going to see less of those businesses around. Some people may think that is a good thing but it takes away jobs, it takes away local income for people and generally, that is part of our economy.
Jobs will be lost in ancillary businesses that do work for gaming companies, Reynolds said. He has been backed up by Mary Beth Sewald, CEO of the Vegas Chamber who said of her members: “Some of them are saying they are going out of business completely.”
“There there are a lot of auxiliary jobs that go along with those types of businesses,” Reynolds said. “It’s like in the gaming business when you have conventions, you have people help set up the convention, you have people that service the food industry portion of that, you have businesses that have gig workers who set up exhibits or set up outside exhibits as part of the overall trade shows when gaming has those large events.
“All of those people have been out of work and a lot of those people did not qualify because they are independent contractors,” Reynolds said. “Now they are starting to be able to get income, unemployment insurance for that. But they initially did not qualify and they were behind the curve on that.”