After $54 million in stimulus, Dartmouth businesses still struggling

Feb 16, 2021

As the worst of the pandemic in 2020 saw shops shuttered all over town, Dartmouth businesses received $53.8 million in CARES act loans — but many are still fighting to survive.

CARES act Paycheck Protection Program funding went out to 525 Dartmouth companies last year to help pay for eight weeks of payroll. Much of that debt may be forgiven.

The loans ranged from nearly $4.3 million for Hawthorn Medical Associates on Faunce Corner Road to $1,250 for King David Wines in South Dartmouth.

But many businesses were closed for at least ten weeks, not eight, and the rest of the year saw limited capacity, staffing issues, and temporary closures due to Covid.

Some establishments have already become Covid casualties, including Cravings and Duke’s Bakery on State Road and the Sail Loft in Padanaram. Others — like Buster’s Bar and Grill — are indefinitely closed until full seating is allowed again.

The commonwealth’s small business grant program for Covid relief has also awarded more than $1.7 million to 34 Dartmouth businesses thus far, 26 of which are women-, minority-, or veteran-owned. The program sought to focus help on such businesses.

Of the relief grant recipients, 20 have gotten PPP loan funding. The grants range from $10,000 to $75,000, with most of the awards at the upper limit. (Wareham-based, woman-owned Beaver Dam Partners, Inc., which publishes Dartmouth Week and sister publications Sippican Week and Wareham Week also received a $75,000 Covid relief grant.)

But many Dartmouth-based recipients have yet to receive their checks.

“We’re just trying to survive,” said Dartmouth Indoor Tennis owner Cynthia Belinkoff. “We’re 60% down this past year. We haven’t been able to do our clinics and our leagues, and we’ve had to cut down a lot of stuff.”

The pandemic shutdown took half of the season from the business, which normally shuts its doors in summer but last year had to close from mid-March.

“And a lot of our members are older and didn't feel comfortable coming back,” Belinkoff added. “I can’t blame them!”

Belinkoff and her husband received a PPP loan last year and have applied for a Covid relief grant as well. 

Although listed among the grant recipients due for a $60,000 cash injection, Belinkoff said they haven’t seen it yet.

“We’re still waiting,” she said. “Taxes don’t stop, insurance payments don’t stop, utilities...but we’ll see.”

Sree Athuluri, owner of the PharmaHealth pharmacy on Faunce Corner Road, said that he too has yet to receive a promised Covid relief grant from the state — although he did receive a PPP loan.

While PPP loan money generally arrives right after a loan is approved, state grant recipients are told that the money will arrive within three to four weeks of the award announcement.

As an essential business, Athuluri stayed open last year. But he said he had to cut back on employees and spent all day working at the pharmacy himself during the pandemic. “It’s a tough situation,” he said, adding that it’s “slowly getting back to normal now.”

According to Athuluri, the PPP loan “didn’t work much” in terms of protecting the business. With the $70,000 grant, he said he hopes to hire more employees and maybe do some marketing to boost sales.

“[I’ll be] doing a little bit of advertising here and there,” he said, adding that the grant would help him once more stand on his own two feet.

Belinkoff said that Dartmouth Indoor Tennis can’t afford employees right now either. “We’ve been on thin ice for the last year,” she noted. “It’s been a struggle...We’re just trying to make it work.”