Small businesses join governor to push for additional relief
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Walter Gloshinski, who owns Smiling with Hope Pizza in Reno, Nevada, believes the pandemic has forced workers to make impossible choices.
“I see so many businesses like small restaurants and their employees are making $10-an-hour. They’re ‘get-by people.’ They come to work sick and don’t say anything because they have needs — and you can’t blame them,” he said Tuesday, speaking alongside other small business owners and state officials during a virtual roundtable on pandemic issues.
Gloshinski and his wife have a background in special education, and three members of their nine-person staff have cognitive disabilities that make finding a job difficult, he said. He decided to close his restaurant amid a Reno-area surge and said uncertainty surrounding vaccines makes it difficult to plan for the future.
“We want to give our special needs employees and our college-student employees the vaccine before we go back to work. Because we’re just scared we’re gonna die,” he said.
More than 4,300 small businesses have been approved to receive up to $10,000 each in pandemic relief grants to help keep pace with expenses like payroll, rent and utilities. When state Treasurer Zach Conine began accepting applications for the program in October, his office was flooded with more than three times as many applicants as it had funding for.
In a budget proposal released last week, Gov. Steve Sisolak set aside $50 million in leftover coronavirus relief dollars to double funding for the program. He, Conine and Lt. Gov. Kate Marshall joined business owners who previously received the grant for the roundtable discussion almost 11 months into the pandemic. The three are lobbying state lawmakers to approve the additional funds and other small business relief quickly once they reconvene in Carson City on Monday.
The grants, they hope, will inject money into the economy, preventing permanent closures, layoffs and a plunge in consumer spending until the pandemic is contained enough to rollback restrictions. New coronavirus cases have trended downward recently; health officials on Tuesday reported 956 additional confirmed cases — a decrease of nearly 72% from a record high set Jan. 7.
Despite fewer cases, single-day death tolls remain high. The 59 deaths reported Tuesday approaches the highest single-day toll during the pandemic.
Dr. John Hess, a physician who advises Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve, attributed trends to the restrictions on Nevada businesses and private gatherings as well as increased compliance with Nevada’s mask mandate and social distancing guidelines.
“It’s just taken awhile for people to really buy in,” Hess told reporters. “At some point people begin to know somebody who didn’t just get it but actually got very ill or even dying. And that really is the worst way to have to change behavior, but I think it did change behavior.”
Officials have repeatedly noted that trends in confirmed cases often predict trends in death tolls weeks in advance, with rising case counts often foreshadowing more deaths and hospitalizations. But vaccines and the arrival of a more contagious COVID-19 strain first found in the United Kingdom could alter the trends. Roughly 63% of those who have died from coronavirus in Nevada have been 70 or older and the state is prioritizing the demographic for early vaccine distribution.
The federal government has provided Nevada significantly less vaccine doses than the state claims it has the capacity to administer, delaying the process of getting shots into arms. Sisolak, a Democrat, asked acting U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Norris Cochran in a letter on Monday why Nevada has received the second-lowest number of vaccine doses per capita among U.S. states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nearly 273,000 cases and 4,088 deaths have been reported in Nevada throughout the pandemic. The number of infections is generally thought to be higher than reported because many people have not been tested, while studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
This story has been corrected in the fifth paragraph to remove an erroneous reference to Nevada’s Pandemic Emergency Technical Support grant program. Smiling with Hope Pizza is not a grant recipient.
Associated Press writers Ken Ritter and Scott Sonner reported from Las Vegas and Reno, Nev. Metz is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.