FAIRMONT — While they are not listed as essential businesses under Gov. Jim Justice’s Stay at Home order in effect, some local restaurants are still open by offering takeout and delivery.

Rocco Muriale, owner of Muriale’s Italian Kitchen, said the restaurant is open, and has been trying to make the service work during the COVID-19 crisis.

“We’re operating with takeouts and curb service,” Muriale said. “Right now, our hours vary from day to day, but we’re adjusting to the current norm, which we hope is going to be lifted sooner rather than later.”

While not all businesses have been able to stay open because of the Stay at Home order, others that are staying open have had to cut staff and hours to deal with the slow down of sales. Tina Shaw, president of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, said she is worried for the small businesses of Marion County, and the employees who are losing hours because of the Stay at Home order.

“My concern is the businesses that have to shut down and the ramifications from that,” Shaw said. “As far as the chamber goes, we’re just trying to support all the local businesses out there.”

In response to the loss of business, the U.S. Small Business Administration has opened up applications for small interest loans, so businesses can afford to make various payments during the pandemic.

“SBA is offering Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million per small business, in addition to accessing other loan resources for working capital,” said Karen Friel, SBA West Virginia district director, via email. “In response to coronavirus, SBA is granting small businesses an automatic one-year deferment period before they are required to start making payments on their economic injury disaster loan.”

Shaw said she has spoken to several business owners in Marion County, who are concerned about the future of their business and their staff.

“Their worries are what will happen to their employees,” Shaw said. “We’re trying to help their laid-off employees collect unemployment. Some of the bigger businesses with 50 or 100 employees are downsizing.”

Shaw said she is also worried about the staff members who are losing out on hours and pay because of the Stay at Home order, and some businesses are still trying to get their employees hours.

“That can take an employee from 30 to 40 hours a week to maybe five or 10,” Shaw said. “I think the ones staying open are really trying to stay open and service the needs of the employees and the community.”

Muriale said he had to cut his staff’s hours.

“Everybody is on limited hours,” Muriale said. “We’re doing whatever we can to work with people.”

He also said he had heard about the SBA’s options for loans, but has not decided whether or not he will pursue that program right now. He said it depends on how long-term the Stay Home order is in effect.

“We have not even gotten to that point but it’s in discussion,” Muriale said. “We’ll see what happens, but hopefully this is going to be more in the short-term rather than long-term.”

Friel said any small business can apply for the loans, so any owner is advised to apply, because no one is sure how long the Stay at Home order will be in effect, or when the COVID-19 pandemic will cease.

“When it comes to disaster recovery, there is always a degree of uncertainty for how long it may take for regular business activity to resume,” Friel said. “We recommend all small businesses directly affected by the disaster who are looking for loans to apply.”

Shaw said the Chamber of Commerce has compiled a guide for small business owners to view in search of resources and aid at this time, so the organization can aid them in dealing with their concerns.

“As the chamber, we have developed a hand out that is basically a guideline of who, what, when and where,” Shaw said. “We’re just trying to do everything we can to help businesses and help residents and give them the correct information.”

The Marion County Chamber of Commerce lists the SBA resources on its website, which can be found at marionchamber.com.

Email Eddie Trizzino at etrizzino@timeswv.com and follow him on Twitter at @eddietimeswv.

News Reporter

Eddie Trizzino has been a reporter with the Times West Virginian since August of 2017, covering the entertainment, business and health beats. He spends most of his time listening to records, going to the movies and strolling through the town.

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