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Utah's small business owners worry about making rent, possible evictions

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Small business owners everywhere are concerned about making rent when money is not coming into their businesses given the COVID-19 fears and restrictions. (Photo: KUTV)

Small business owners everywhere are concerned about making rent when money is not coming into their businesses given the COVID-19 fears and restrictions.

Many worry landlords won't understand this unavoidable predicament. Local governments don't have the authority to defer evictions — except for rare cases.

Kerri Nakamura, chief of staff for Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, said county attorneys have looked through the laws and found the mayor can only interfere in an eviction, if the owner of the business is sick with COVID 19.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, posted a video on Twitter explaining to residents in her city that she has limited powers when it comes to evictions too.

Only state lawmakers can change that.

Beau Thompson, who owns Cartridge World in Midvale said his business is down 30 to 40%. His rental agreement says if he misses payments, he'll be charged late fees or face possible eviction.

He hasn't talked to his landlord, but when he does, he hopes the company will understand and allow him to postpone rent or even offer a small discount.

"I'm not looking for free rent," he said.

He's trying to keep his workers employed at the store. He is company does not sell online.

"I've tried to be a good tenant and I hope they'd be willing to help sacrifice for us a little bit because as small business owners, we'll be sacrificing as well trying to help our employees," he said of his landlord.

Nearby at Specialty Market , which offers a variety of middle eastern food products, manager Leila Sabet said the market owner is also worried about making rent given that shoppers are staying away because they are unemployed, in isolation, or have COVID-19 concerns.

The rent at the shop is about $5,000 per month.

"That's not including phone, internet and paying employees," she said.

Nakamura said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson's staff has been working furiously to put together a short and long term relief plan for small businesses.

In addition, she said money from the federal relief package just passed by Congress, will deliver more relief money for businesses through grants to will go directly to counties. That grant money will be included in the county's plan which will be unveiled in the next few days.

Nakamura said a relief plan for individuals who are struggling to pay rent on houses or apartments, is also in the works.

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