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Small business owners left reeling from COVID-19 outbreak seek guidance, federal assistance

Last week alone, 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment

FORT WORTH, Texas — After moving locations from Fort Worth's Magnolia Avenue to South Main Village last July, Shannon Osbakken said her bar and restaurant 'The Bearded Lady' was finally hitting its stride.

"Business was increasing weekly, so we were really looking forward to the spring season," Osbakken said Thursday. "That’s our busy time of the year with having a large patio."

Then, the novel coronavirus hit, decimating her business, she said. Osbakken had to go from 45 employees to just six.

"We’re still trying to do to-go and online ordering and delivery, but we’re definitely down like 95% sales wise, weekly and daily," she said.

She said most of her employees have had to file for unemployment.

Another 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment last week alone, the labor department said, bringing the three-week total to nearly 17 million filings.

RELATED: Unemployment benefits update and how to get through to Texas Workforce Commission

"There are millions upon millions of small businesses out there who are being economically injured as a result of the coronavirus," said Rodney Johnson, director of the Small Business Administration-funded Tarrant Small Business Development Center, hosted by Tarrant County College.

The organization typically helps small business owners with strategic planning, but now they've shifted to also helping business owners navigate what assistance is out there as many of them suffer during the crisis, from SBA loans to the Paycheck Protection Program. 

"We’re now guiding and directing our clients where they can go, what banks they can go and see, who they can talk to," Johnson said. 

He added they've even opened a call center to help with the influx of concerned business owners.

The Federal Reserve announced Thursday it would provide up to $2.3 trillion in additional loans to assist "households and employers of all sizes."

Back at The Bearded Lady, Osbakken said she's waiting to find out if her application for the Paycheck Protection Program has been accepted. In the meantime, she is grateful for any food orders from the community that have or will come her way.

"Trying to remain positive and hopeful that it will help and bring the relief that’s necessary," Osbakken said, "or lots of us will have to close down permanently."

For help navigating assistance:

Tarrant Small Business Development Centers

Tarrant County Community College

Tarrantsbdc.org

817-515-2603

North Texas Small Business Development Centers

NTSBDC.org

214-860-5831

Fort Worth SCORE

Fortworth.score.org

817-871-6002

Dallas SCORE

Dallas.score.org

214-987-9491

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