businesses

This story is part of a collaboration between the Mountain West News Bureau and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Read about how a U.S. border town is responding to the shutdown here.

Paul Samycia started his fly fishing company two decades ago and has grown it into the largest in Fernie, British Columbia. But these days, Samycia's Elk River Guiding Company is adrift. 

Traditionally more than two-thirds of the company's clients are Americans, and with the border closed, Samycia says the season is almost a write-off.

This story was powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

The U.S.-Canada border crossing north of Eureka, Mont., is quiet these days. No buses or vans packed with mountain bikes and vacationing families. Just a single logging truck. 

"No traffic hardly at all," says David Clarke, owner of the First & Last Chance Bar and Duty Free Store.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced small businesses to deal with a lot of challenges they don’t normally confront.

“We have dealt with everything from HR issues, what to do when there are employee furloughs that are required, how to navigate different loan assistance programs, says Tara Malek, with the Idaho law firm Smith + Malek. “We’ve even talked to folks about contracting issues that they have with vendors. How do they negotiate or deal with vendors if there’s no revenue coming in to business?” 


Scott Lair

St. Patrick's Day is usually a popular day for bars to make money. And that's what Scott Lair, who owns the Great Untamed bar in Laramie, was expecting this year. But it was also around the time COVID-19 started hitting Wyoming.

Maggie Mullen


The first time Mark Ritchie and Leah Hardy laid eyes on their new camper, it was after they'd bought it.

"It was like, 'Oh my God, it's tiny.' Which was great," Ritchie said recently while standing outside their home in Laramie, Wyo. "It made me feel actually more confident dragging it around. Because when I see people with giant trailers, I go, 'Thank God that's not me.'"

Taylar Stagner

Riverton has seemingly returned to normal from months of closed businesses, social distancing, and mask-wearing. This while Fremont County has the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the state.

Even so, Riverton Mayor Richard Guard said that people are happy to get back to work.

Wyoming Department of Health - State of Wyoming


In early 2020, very few people had ever heard of Dr. Alexia Harrist. Since that time, the State Health officer has become a well-known and important figure as she tries to guide the state through the COVID-19 pandemic. Harrist has lately been opening things up. She told Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck that she's optimistic as the state deals with tourists and other challenges.

Public Domain


The COVID-19 pandemic has grown worse in Wyoming since the state started loosening restrictions last month, and health experts are saying the two are likely related.

After months of refining their business plans, the Wind River Startup Challenge's five finalists pitched a panel of judges on Saturday. Each Native-owned businesses was awarded a portion of the challenge's $25,000 seed fund, but the big winners were a hair salon and a fencing company, which received $10,000 each in debt-free capital.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he expects Senate Republicans will begin considering proposals for a "fourth and final" coronavirus response bill to address the needs of the country "in about a month."

McConnell said the bill will be narrowly crafted and will focus in particular on jobs and schools. He said there could be funding for small businesses and health care, but he will not support extending the additional $600 per week in federal unemployment benefits that run out at the end of July.

This story was powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

If you want a hearty breakfast in the small town of Thompson Falls, Montana, Minnie's Montana Cafe has you covered.

 


Yellowstone National Park/Creative Commons

Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of summer, and an influx of tourists are expected to come through the state to visit some of Wyoming's national parks. But as with everything, this year is a little different.

Members of the Senate Banking Committee squabbled Tuesday over how quickly the U.S. economy can rebound from the coronavirus shutdown and whether the federal government is doing enough to support struggling families and businesses in the meantime.

Marshall Gilmore finally got what he'd been waiting for this month when the state of Mississippi allowed him to offer table service again at his restaurant, the Harvest Grill in Meridian.

Still, many of his tables sit empty, even at limited capacity, and he makes most of his money offering curbside food pickup.

"People are just a little apprehensive about getting out in public. This was a once-in-a-lifetime scare that we all just went through. So everyone's a little scared," Gilmore says.

Additional government spending may be necessary to avoid long-lasting fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday.

Powell said the economy should recover once the virus is under control. But he cautioned that without more help, many small businesses may not survive that long. And he warned that a wave of business and household bankruptcies could do lasting damage to the nation's economic output.

Updated at 4:11 p.m. ET

House Democrats are moving full steam ahead with legislation to provide a new wave of coronavirus relief at a price tag of more than $3 trillion, with plans to call the full House back on Friday to approve it.

Flickr Creative Commons/The Red Baron

Last week, Gov. Mark Gordon gave variances to most counties allowing them to lift restrictions on some businesses, and officials said he'll lift more by the end of the week. But Wyoming Business Council CEO Josh Dorrell said it could take a while for the state's economy to truly get back on its feet, not just because customers are wary but because business owners will be trying to figure out how best to safely reopen.

Downtown Laramie, Wyoming
Bob Beck


This is a tough financial time for a lot of Wyomingites. But impacts on the general public also impact funding for local governments, which directly impacts a wide variety of services from law enforcement to streets.

Several members of the Joint Minerals Committee meeting over Zoom for the first time before the Special Session
Wyoming Legislature Youtube

The Joint Minerals, Business & Economic Development Interim Committee amended a bill that will determine how federal relief funds will eventually reach Wyoming businesses. Among other changes, the committee decided to double the allotted funds from $25 million to $50 million available.

Updated at 3:20 p.m. ET

Democrats and some Republicans are considering ways for the federal government to get money into people's pockets while the coronavirus is keeping much of the economy on ice.

Proposals for the next round of aid are being floated, and Democrats in the House are prepping another relief package as jobless claims continue to rise in the country. The Labor Department announced Friday that 20.5 million jobs were lost in April, pushing the overall unemployment rate to 14.7 %.

Flickr Creative Commons/Jasperdo

Governor Mark Gordon gave county officials permission to apply for variances so they can begin lifting pandemic restrictions. Church services can now be held in Platte and Niobrara Counties, and Lincoln, Park and Natrona Counties will allow restaurants to offer dine-in services. 

Wyoming PBS

State officials say they are working hard to get a handful of businesses ready to open as early Friday. Gyms, barbershops, hair salons and day cares are among those who can open as long as staff are screened, wearing masks and the numbers of people in their facilities are limited.

Flickr Creative Commons/She Paused For Thought

In the last round of stimulus funds from the federal government, 7,618 Wyoming businesses received money from the Paycheck Protection Program, injecting more than $837 million into the state’s economy that business leaders hope will help soften the blow of the pandemic. 

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

Wyoming's top state officials are starting to think about how the state can return to normalcy. During a press conference, Governor Mark Gordon said when that eventually happens, the state's economy will have to change.

Updated at 3:45 p.m. ET

The $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program to boost small businesses during the coronavirus economic crisis has run out of money.

About 17 million people have applied for unemployment benefits in the U.S. in recent weeks. It's an astonishing number that's nearly 10 times what the system has ever handled so quickly.

Liam James Doyle/NPR

Even if Wyoming's two senators aren't here in Washington, they're working overtime these days. After helping pass a $2.2 trillion stimulus package last month, this week they tried to give the administration another $250 billion so it could aide struggling or shuttered small businesses. Wyoming Senator John Barrasso says these massive stimulus bills are essential right now.

facebook.com/wyomingworkforce

Back in mid-March, Governor Mark Gordon shut down all public spaces to stop the spread of coronavirus. At the time, Destiny Irwin was plugging away on a political science degree at the University of Wyoming and working at two Laramie restaurants to pay her bills. Both went to curbside delivery, and Irwin got laid off.

Ivy Engel

On March 19, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon issued an order requiring all food establishments to halt sit-down services and move exclusively to delivery or to-go orders. Just a couple of weeks later, the order was extended through April 30.

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