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'We need immediate help' Small business owners try to stave off layoffs while coronavirus spreads

DC Council signed emergency legislation allowing small business owners to apply for a grant, which can be used to cover payroll, employee benefits or other bills.

WASHINGTON — At a D.C. plant shop, the focus isn’t on growth, but keeping the business alive. 

Employees at Little Leaf are left wondering how long they'll get to stay on the job with growing coronavirus concerns.

The store's director, Mollie Lee, said she’s trying to remain optimistic.  

"It's scary, and it's hard, and a lot of my friends are already much more impacted than I am," Lee said. 

Amanda McClements owns Little Leaf and a couple of other shops in D.C.

McClements began pleading with Mayor Muriel Bowser and the DC council on twitter to act quickly and keep small businesses afloat.

"Keeping my team paid is my number one priority," McClements said. "I have people who have been with me seven or eight years and they're like family." 

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McClements has 40 employees. She let go all part-time staff over the weekend and had to cut some employees' pay in half.

"That's what's been the most heartbreaking part," McClements said. 

The DC Council signed off on emergency legislation Tuesday, allowing small business owners to apply for a grant, which can be used to cover payroll, employee benefits or other bills.

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"Myself and a bunch of other business owners have all been texting and huddling together to try to figure out what the legislation does and doesn't do," McClements said.

She said the support looks great on paper, but she needs to be able to get that money within days, not weeks, to figure out her next steps. The process and how much she could obtain is still unclear.

In the meantime, McClements voluntarily closed her shops to keep staff safe.

However, she's trying something new, allowing plant pick-ups only, through online and social media orders. 

So far, it seems to be working. During our interview, at least three customers placed orders through Instagram.

The Mayor’s office couldn’t say how quickly business owners would get the money needed after applying for the emergency grant.

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