With $1.25 billion in federal money to get Idaho’s economy running again after the coronavirus lockdown, state officials have been pumping money into small businesses including Salmon River Propane and Salmon River Electric Cooperative.
“It just helped us in a time when work was down,” Ken Dizes, manager of Salmon River Electric, said.
State officials have awarded $10,000 noncompetitive grants meant to be one-time payments as part of Rebound Idaho, Gov. Brad Little’s response to the economic damage caused by the coronavirus.
Salmon River Electric bought personal protective gear for workers, including a plexiglass barrier for the front counters and masks and gloves. “Their safety is my No. 1 priority,” he said.
Dizes said while the pandemic hasn’t defeated the cooperative, it definitely interrupted normal operations. On the occasion a member felt comfortable enough to have cooperative workers enter their home, employees had to take extra precautions while they worked.
That put a dent in the volume of business, but Dizes said it never got to the point of panic. If it had, Dizes said he would have taken advantage of the federal Paycheck Protection Program.
Mike Warner, manager of Salmon River Propane, cited similar experiences during the lockdown. It wasn’t just customers who were afraid to interact with others, but his workers voiced concerns. Not wanting to get anyone sick, Warner said work unfortunately slowed during the lockdown.
Warner said the propane company used the $10,000 from the state to help pay for inventory. The biggest interruption from the pandemic was the inability to fill orders for household appliances. Manufacturers closed the factories, so Warner had to go directly to dealers.
Things are starting to return to normal, Warner said, and suppliers are slowly filling orders.