TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Many local new businesses that opened during the pandemic are being turned away from relief money; both at the federal level and the local level, like Tender Loving Care Pet Nursing Hotel in Topeka.
Leslie Fleuranges has been dreaming up Tender Loving Care Pet Nursing Hotel for the last six years.
“We were ready to open in April, pandemic hit, we couldn’t open because of the stay at home orders,” Fleuranges said.
Gov. Laura Kelly deemed pet care companies an essential business when outlining her shut down guidelines because essential workers need somewhere to put their pets. Fleuranges opened thinking of everything she’s sacrificed.
“I was thinking of all of the money that I’ve invested in this building, I was thinking of the mortgage that I have to pay, I was thinking of the construction loan I have to pay, of the air conditioning and heating bills I have to pay even if no one is in the building – and I was freaking out.”
Fleurange was not alone. According to the Greater Topeka Partnership, at least 41 new businesses opened in Shawnee County between the first and second quarters of 2020.
“The City of Topeka announced that they had a grant for 10,000 for small businesses and it had all these criteria, and we met all of the criteria, save one: what were your sales in 2019? What were your sales in 2020? How have you been impacted?,” but Fleuranges could not answer that having officially opened in May of 2020.
“Do you know what $10,000 can mean to a new business? Everything,” Fleuranges said. At the federal level, she tried to apply for the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan. Similarly, the date of her opening made her ineligible. In an email, entrepreneurs that opened after January 31 are told that they opened after coronavirus was declared a public health emergency.
“I’ve called Senator Moran’s office, I’ve spoken to Aaron Mays with the county, I’ve spoken to the city manager, I’ve spoken to the Greater Topeka Partnership, what can we do?” she asked.
The President of the Topeka Chamber of Commerce and a member of the executive team for the Greater Topeka Partnership, Curtis Sneden, has been working with businesses like Fleuranges’ throughout the last several months to understand their needs.
“One of the most heartening sort of undertones from all of this, is the economic dynamism,
that just waiting to come back to life,” said Sneden. “It’s been really inspiring to talk to a number of small businesses who have had to adapt very rapidly. Whether they’ve been here for years, or whether they’re relatively new, they ought to at least be eligible for consideration.”
The Greater Topeka Partnership has developed and executed new programs throughout the pandemic to help struggling business as well as their displaced workers.
On the federal level, Kansas Senator Jerry Moran’s team told Fleuranges her story is part of a greater issue that needs to be resolved.
His office gave us this statement, “Through the paycheck protection program and other programs, congress has worked to bring relief to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are still important small businesses that have fallen through the cracks – restaurants, retail stores, the live event industry and others – and congress must work diligently to find solutions to quickly bring relief to these businesses.”
Fleuranges is asking Sen. Moran to change the Housing and Urban Development rules that make it so that businesses like hers can’t receive relief funding at both the national and local levels.
KSNT is dedicated to finding the answers and will continue to update this story as updates are made to finding relief for Tender Loving Care.