Since April 2020, Long Beach State’s Forty-Niner Shops has received two $2 million loans from the federal government in an effort to combat the loss of revenue and employees imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. The nonprofit organization let go several hundred employees after closing its on-campus amenities last March.
In summer of 2020, ProPublica began tracking companies and nonprofit organizations that received money from the federal government as part of the Paycheck Protection Program, which was added to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to aid small businesses across the country impacted by the pandemic.
As of last month, nearly a million organizations have been approved for loans ranging from $150,000 and $10 million, and the program has approved nearly nine million loans in total. Of those, two were approved for CSULB’s 49er Shops, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that includes the bookstore, dining services, convenience Stores, ID Card services and the Beach on Second Street.
The organization was first approved on April 8, 2020 for $2 million and again on March 3, 2021 for another $2 million, amounting to $4 million in total from the program.
“When we were impacted by COVID, it hit us immediately because, for us, we thrive when the students are here,” said Rosa Hernandez, director of human resources and communications for the 49er Shops.
Hernandez had to lay off nearly 600 employees, most of them students, after the university transitioned to online learning in March 2020. Campus amenities operated by the 49er Shops closed down, along with the on-campus Starbucks locations, which forced many students to file for unemployment or have their hours severely reduced.
“It was one of the hardest things to do because you’re laying folks off by no fault of their own,” Hernandez said. “This last year has been working with the campus to understand, and now we are trying to repopulate the campus.”
Hernandez said loan program was very strict with its approval, but the 49er Shops was able to qualify being a nonprofit and suffering from a lack of employees and a source of income.
Under the program, companies and nonprofits with under 500 employees were able to access loans from the Small Business Administration to help with payroll and operation costs, allowing them to hold on to some workers. The PPP also offered financial incentives for small businesses to hold on to current employees and bring back those who had been laid off or furloughed, even before the business fully reopened. Through the program, companies can borrow more than double their average monthly payroll, so long as it does not exceed $10 million.
While the loans help to avoid future layoffs, it remains unknown when or how much money will have to be returned.
“One of the things we have to figure out is how much of that [loan] we have to pay back,” Hernandez said.
In response to President Jane Close Conoley’s announcement that 47% of courses will be held in person for the fall 2021 semester, Hernandez maintained that the 49er Stops looking to schedule the amount of staff necessary to accommodate these repopulation plans.
She plans to hire employees this summer, likely in June, in preparation for the coming semester.
“We are working on a staffing plan to figure out, ‘How many people do we have to hire? What are the position types? Are they full-time students, are they part-timers? And that’s what we are doing right now,” she said. “The great news is that we are looking to repopulate, and that is a refreshing conversation.”