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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

"I don't know what the future holds" | Memphis small businesses still struggling as COVID-19 pandemic continues

Memphis Mayor enacted Safer at Home order March 23rd, which closed salons and barber shops for weeks.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — Economists fear a decade-long recovery and Memphis business owners said they're hanging on, six months to the day after Mayor Jim Strickland shut down sections of the economy with a 'Safer at Home' order.

"I don't know what the future holds," Salon Liani owner Mark Amagliani said.

“I definitely had to go into my reserve funds to make ends meet," Blades Barbershop owner Charles Jackson added.

The struggles continue into September for owners of close contact businesses, after being temporarily shut down several weeks in the spring.

Mayor Strickland announced the city's 'Safer at Home' order six months ago Wednesday, with COVID-19 concerns peaking.

"What we try to do in government is make decisions that lessen that blow - health wise and economically. It's a hard balancing act," Mayor Strickland said.

While again open, Salon Liani is down a quarter of its normal business and Amagliani said federal stimulus funds are drying up.

"Mine is set to be up in the next pay period and I'm still concerned because I'm going to start to losing money because I can't book the same," Amagliani said.

Across town, Jackson said a $2,000 federal grant for safety supplies kept him afloat, as he also supported a daughter in college.

"We in it for the long haul, we’ve been here for 10 years, look forward to 10 more years," Jackson said.

But University of Memphis economist Dr. John Gnuschke fears many Memphis businesses won't survive the COVID-19 fueled recession. His analysis showed nearly 70,000 Memphians lost work this year - and only half of those jobs eventually returned.

"It's set us back a decade or more in terms of job growth. It's going to take us a long time to recover. It's not going to be fast," Dr. Gnuschke said.

Looking ahead the next six months, everyone from local mayors to small business owners wait to see if another federal stimulus package provides another local lifeline financially, ahead of a potential, widespread COVID-19 vaccine.