As an Alaskan small business owner who specializes in event planning I am used to facing adverse conditions, planning for various contingencies and adapting operations in the name of public safety. My company, ADK Events, has put on dozens of our own productions with an unblemished safety record. We have provided sound, technical skills and DJs for countless gigs in our 12 years of operations.
At the outset of the pandemic, I had just invested in new sound and lighting in order to expand our rental capacity for 2020. Those new speakers are now sitting in the warehouse collecting dust, unable to pay for their own storage much less begin to recoup their cost.
I’ve submitted public event plans to the municipality, engaged with fire marshals, prepared forest fire contingency plans during summer festival season, accommodated last minute changes to artists or staff, and improvised solutions for plenty of bands with unusual gear requirements who didn’t provide any advance or rider.
What I hadn’t figured on was a global pandemic shutting down our entire country.
As the news of COVID-19 spread in January and February I began checking the CDC website regularly for guidance on public events. I had a show planned in April and was about to outlay marketing dollars to begin hyping it. By March it was clear the United States was not prepared for preventing an outbreak as our testing capacity was still well below that of even much smaller nations.
March 11: The State of Alaska declared a public health disaster, but issued no mandates.
March 13: The first state mandates did not require or request any business closures.
March 14: I ran sound for my last live gig, which I still haven’t been paid for.
March 15: The CDC released updated guidance regarding public gatherings at which point I announced the cancellation of my upcoming event in April and began negotiations with the agent to reschedule. We pushed the date back to Halloween hoping things get back to normal.
March 18: The State released Health Mandate #3 enacting social distancing measures and effectively closing my business (Three days after I already made that call based on the CDC).
March 21: The Small Business Administration (SBA) finally listed Alaska as an area with a declared disaster and I immediately spent four hours navigating their trainwreck of a website to submit my application for a disaster loan. I received a confirmation number and was assured applications would be processed in the order they were received.
March 30: The SBA updated their website to streamline applications and they notified everyone who had already applied that to qualify for the EIDL grant funds allegedly being provided to businesses via the CARES Act we had to apply again. I went through the process and resubmitted my application including my account information for the grant which was allegedly going to be deposited within 3 days of submitting the application.
Today, April 21: It has been a full month since applying for an economic disaster loan and I have received no funding, no responses to my application, and when I called the SBA they were unable to look at the status of any of the applications, even with a confirmation number.
The PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) provided for privately issued, forgivable loans which appear to have been designed for companies with employees who aren’t affected by shutdown orders and who have an existing lending relationship with a bank. There's absolutely nothing for companies like mine which were the most directly impacted by shutdown orders. Even if I had full time staff I couldn’t keep them employed with a PPP loan because there are no events happening to provide sound or lighting for. The program provides for up to 20% of funds to be spent on rent, which would help with my primary fixed cost right now, but it apparently ran out of funds before self employed/1099 contractors were even allowed to apply.
I support the efforts to save lives, but small businesses desperately need the financial support that the government promised for taking this hit in the name of public safety.
We were told these programs would help small businesses, but then our timely applications were ignored while loans were prioritized for well-connected national retail, restaurant, and hotel chains. These large companies apparently drained the programs of funds thanks to their mis-classification as small businesses.
Meanwhile actual small businesses have no loan programs, no government assistance, no grant funds and no income.
We’re hurting right now and instead of stepping in to support us and manage the crisis at the ground level we have a government who only thinks about the needs of big business lobbyists and the stock market.
Please contact your senators and representatives and demand that they get money to the small businesses who need it. Specifically small businesses, not nation-wide chains and publicly traded companies, but the local mom and pop on the corner. The minority-owned business who can’t get a loan because they don’t own property to put down as collateral. The independent owner/operators of America who have sacrificed their income for your safety.
Mike Mason is a born and raised Alaskan small business owner who has operated ADK Events bringing music and entertainment to thousands of Alaskans for over a decade. in addition to his titles of DJ, Technician, Audio Engineer, Visual Artist and Computer Geek, Mike is deeply involved in the fight for LGBT equality and is a committed organizer and volunteer on many community issues including for the Recall Dunleavy campaign.