(NBC News) – Among the most painful impacts of the coronavirus: Millions of businesses struggling to stay open or forced to shut down.
“I had to lay off most of my staff,” says Trey Owens, owner of Soul Taco in Richmond, Virginia.
Owens says he reached a breaking point.
“Without any help, we will have to close in about a month to two months,” he says.
Fortunately, Owens got help, a much needed boost from the Virginia 30-Day Fund. It provides grants of up to $3,000 to businesses with up to 30 employees.
“The average small business only has two weeks of cash reserve on hand,” says founder Pete Snyder. “There were going to be tens of thousands of small businesses dying on the vine.”
Snyder and his wife formed the nonprofit in March.
“Our number one mission is to save as many small businesses as we can,” he says.
That includes businesses like Lexington, Virginia’s Walkabout Outfitters.
“In our case we were decimated, just decimated,” says owner Tina Miller.
For Miller, the financial help was just part of it.
She says it was also important “that somebody cared about our small business, that someone cared.”
The Snyders pitched in the initial funding, and from there it grew and has now helped more than 600 small businesses.
“Over the past four months, in contributions as small as $3 or $30 that pool has grown to over $3.1 million,” Snyder says.
The idea is spreading. Five more states have started funds, helping their struggling businesses survive.
“It has been some of the most heartwarming and heartbreaking work that I’ve ever done in my life,” Snyder says.
While the loans don’t have to be repaid, Snyder asks the small businesses to pay it forward, sending any dollars they can back to the fund, to help other businesses in need.
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