New York Bagel in Ferndale takes advantage of small business grants to keep employees paid during COVID-19 pandemic

Michigan is now on day 22 of its coronavirus shutdown and restaurants are some of the businesses feeling the squeeze the most. But many small businesses can keep paying employees thanks to the federal government's Paycheck Protection Program.

One of those companies is New York Bagel which has been in business for 99 years. It has survived the Great Depression and World War II and nothing could slow them down. Until now.

Fourth-generation owner Phil Goldsmith said they had to stop operations during the COVID-19 outbreak. But employees are still getting paid thanks to the federal government.

"We shut down a couple of weeks ago out of an abundance and caution for our employees and our customers," Goldsmith said. "It just made sense to us that if we're going to be able to get money from the government and spend it on our employees." 

The program is part of the $2 trillion federal stimulus plan.

Employment attorney Jennifer Lord says businesses with less than 500 employees who continue to keep employees on the payroll for eight weeks can get reimbursed through the program. 

"It's just a grant with the condition that you have to keep these people on the payroll and keep them employed, Lord said. "(It's) free money, nothing better than that."

Not only do employees stay on the payroll, but it also reduces the number of people filing for unemployment and it saves businesses like New York Bagel from having to search, hire, and train new staff.

"If employers can keep these people on the payroll and keep their families safe, the system is just going to run so much more smoothly for the people who really need unemployment benefits right now," Lord said. "If an employer lays off their workforce, those people are gonna go find other jobs. The employer's going to have to go out and have to hire a whole new workforce, train that workforce. Again, this is a win-win for everyone."

Goldsmith said he can't wait to get his employees back on the job, whenever that may be.

"Nobody wants to see those bagels come out of the oven more than me. I cannot wait to get back to work because I have nothing to do," Goldsmith said.

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