Event industry workers face trouble with business assistance

Updated: Apr. 22, 2020 at 7:23 AM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Small business owners are still having trouble getting through the state’s unemployment system, but a new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program could give them an extra boost.

“It’s very overwhelming and very frustrating, especially having my office closed and having to work from home," said Jean McGrory, owner of After the Proposal Weddings and Events.

Those who work in the event industry are hit hard as venues remain closed, people stay home out of caution, and the CDC advises against gatherings of more than 10 people at a time.

Leo Ridge, owner of Snaparazzi Photo Booth said, “Everything changed in the event industry. It wasn’t like where it wound down and awe lost business, it just came to a screeching halt.”

On Tuesday, Governor Tate Reeves announced that the new unemployment assistance program will cover self-employed people, independent contractors, and gig-economy workers, many of which make up the event industry’s work force.

Small business owners are still having trouble getting through the state’s unemployment system,...
Small business owners are still having trouble getting through the state’s unemployment system, but a new program could give them an extra boost.

Previously, self-employed business owners said that they have been denied even though they are unable to work.

“With unemployment I wasn’t eligible because I was a sole proprietor, with the grants I’m not eligible because too many big businesses came in and got the money before I could,” said McGrory.

In the meantime, McGrory is thankful to have access to local entities that have been helpful to her.

“The Biloxi Bay Chamber of Commerce, who I’m a member with, has been sending us info every other day on what to do for small businesses. It’s really been keeping us abreast of what’s happening," she said. “Everyday I wake up and I’m applying for everything that I could possibly apply for.”

Ridge says keeping his event photography business afloat means leaning toward more creative avenues. His services now include turning old family photos into video slideshows and offering custom-sized prints. “We’re coming up with different things that we can do to generate revenue and keep our little tiny business moving along," he said.

Ridge believes it will be a while before people are allowed to assemble at events without the fear of coronavirus.

He explained, “It’s based on crowd sizes, whenever crowd sizes come up that are allowed to have 50-100 people minimum then we’re going to have events that require caterers, or photo booths, DJs, bands, whatever else it may be.”

McGrory says the pandemic has pushed self-employed business owners to strengthen their contracts for future emergencies. She is offering help to those who need advice on how to protect their businesses.

“I’ve had my contract for 25 years and believe it or not, it has the word quarantine in there," she said. "I used to the laugh through the years like ‘I’ll never have to use that!’ but I do now.”

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