Meeting Expectations

Sorry I was AWOL yesterday. I got a quarter of the way into a post, on personal versus social responsibility, and then work got in the way. Maybe I’ll get back to it; maybe national stupidity is wearing me down.

county dashboard 0420
Without any good photo for today, here is the county’s new reporting system. It’s very sparkly as well as informational.

While Kara had the work day from hell yesterday, I had one that got me further than expected, even with a surfeit of meetings.

The internet at Pat’s, which is also our phone service and credit card line, has been non-functional since Friday afternoon. The excuse, which is the same every single time, is that the line got cut somewhere around Bailey, outside of Denver. And while most of the lines got fixed yesterday afternoon, three still needed attention, including, of course, the one coming to our provider.

So Kara would go to the office and need something she left at home; then she would go home and need something left at work; then back, and back again . . . I didn’t check in with her last evening, but I’m betting she was completely wiped out, and not very much to show for it.

I sat right here at home, where I am far more stationary than I usually am at work, except for the part where Marrakesh takes this as license to demand to go out, then in, then to the garage, then in, then out . . . his every day is a lot like Kara’s yesterday.

I settled in first to figure out my first Employee Retention Credit request, right as news was coming in that the feds were reaching agreement on assistance that would re-fund the Paycheck Protection Program. [Let’s go back to the part where a Euro-Canadian-style assist would have been sooooo much easier on everyone.]

My internal debate started up again: ERC? Or PPP? The PPP, assuming my application is processed and money is actually forthcoming, is “instant” money, while the ERC is far more spread out. In a craven bid to figure out which one offers better assistance, I still get lost.

But then my scheduled Zoom meeting with the retail task force turned into a second meeting, because the owner of a rum distillery in Crested Butte, Karen Hoskin, had made a presentation on the PPP to her manufacturing sub-group. I think people are still going to end up with less “grant” and more “loan” than they expected. The interest rate on the loan is 1%, but it’s still money that has to be paid back within the next two years. In Ms. Hoskin’s scenario, the fictitious applicant wasn’t able to use all the PPP money and would be required to return the unused portion.

She then did wonder out loud to her meeting, which I watched as an after-the-fact recording, if this was information people already knew. At a guess, the answer is a 99 percent “no.” You can’t use it for anything but payroll, utilities and rent or mortgage (interest only, although one of her colleagues had an interesting workaround, because he formed a holding company to buy his building, so he’s viewing his payment as rent from one of his companies to another). You can’t artificially inflate your payroll, or “hire” your relatives. And she didn’t even touch on that thorny payroll tax issue I still can’t get clarity on.

So it’s the ERC for me, although my calculations showed yesterday that in order to utilize it completely, we may have to go to September. Sadly, I think that could easily be the case.

Yesterday’s retail meeting featured County Commissioner John Messner, whose appearance was set weeks ago. Conveniently, his guest appearance (although he’s been present for other meetings) neatly coincided with the governor’s announcement that Colorado will begin to “re-open” as of this weekend.

Listening to Mr. Messner, who didn’t have any specifics because the governor doesn’t yet have specifics, it kind of sounded like “re-open” is just a buzzword to make yearning constituents think we’re making some headway. In Mr. Messner’s mind, allowing retail to open on May 1 means providing curbside service, which is already allowed.

While I feel the meeting was the only productive one of the several I’ve sat in on (since Mr. Messner and Arden Anderson, part of our response command, didn’t waste time on cheerleading, just answered questions straight-up), there was a lot about it that was circular: merchants need to come up with a plan for re-opening, but don’t send it anywhere; just wait until guidelines are issued by the county. But the county wants input from the merchants, but don’t provide that input yet. Ring around the rosie — wasn’t that a great plague song?

Then I went to the recording of the manufacturing group, which is much smaller and perhaps where Pat’s ought to be. In all the years I’ve been in business, I’m always at a loss as to where to classify screen printing: we don’t make anything, just value-add to existing products, but we do use some big, heavy equipment. We do sell a few shirts one at a time like other retailers on Main Street, but it’s not our primary source of income. We offer a service, but it’s not like the personal services of grooming and pampering that get talked about in the Tuesday meetings. I have no idea where we belong. (Could be a metaphor for my life, I suppose.)

I went to the recording for Ms. Hoskin’s presentation, but ended up — voluntarily, mind you — sitting through the entire hour-long meeting. It sounded to me like these companies, because they’re producing things, have been allowed to continue operating this past month, although perhaps with personnel limitations.

They also landed on a very Crested Butte sort of problem: what to do about employees who exercise their god-given right to go to Moab, Utah, because it’s April and that’s what April is all about, and then come back and have to quarantine for seven days. Ms. Hoskin wasn’t enthused about having to pay people under the national sick leave requirement for those seven days, and I can’t say that I blame her.

They also have the other Crested Butte issue, which is that this is the time of year where people are generally laid off, or between winter and summer jobs, anyway. So if CB companies applied for and might actually get PPP money, they’re going to be paying people to “come to work” in a season they generally don’t get paid for. (And you can’t back-date the money to March, when you do usually — but not this year — need a full staff to accommodate all the spring break skiers.)

It seemed like an educational use of my afternoon, when I was expecting absolutely nothing, as usual, to come of these meetings, but it was exhausting, even though my part consisted of sitting in a chair and watching it rain outside.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day (although I kind of thought last year was the 50th as well), and in a better world I could have talked about that today. Did you know Los Angeles — yes, I said Los Angeles, as in California — has the cleanest air of any major city in the world right now? You could put that in your tailpipe and not smoke it.

Digressing in one’s final paragraphs is in bad form. I guess I mostly just wanted to apologize for going on so endlessly about the travails of trying to make Pat’s viable in the time of coronavirus, but I’m having trouble summoning energy for other topics.

So happy Earth Day, everyone, and I will try to do the same, except that I’m told we still don’t have internet, nor any ETA for it. One foot forward at a time, I guess.

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