Local businesses struggle during coronavirus outbreak

Many Houston businesses are reeling after the cancellation of the Rodeo, the NBA season, and just lack of customers going out.  President Trump and Congress are considering stimulus proposals to try to help businesses survive.     

Asiatown restaurant owners tell us two restaurants in the neighborhood went out of business in recent weeks, and that others may end up closing too.

Restaurants like Ocean Palace in Asiatown say they're seeing a major decrease in customers.

"I believe our restaurant sales decreased 30 to 50 percent, everyone is just afraid of being around people, especially the Chinatown area," said manager Jackie Yang.

They're among restaurants that say they've had to cut back hours and lay off some staff.

LIVE: Interactive Coronavirus case data and map

"We did have to let go of some employees, of course. That is probably the hardest part for me," said Yang. 

"Asiatown has been hit heavily in terms of people staying away and so restaurants have lost anywhere between 50 to 70 percent of their business," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told FOX 26 after speaking after an Asian Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

To help boost the economy, President Trump is proposing to offer Small Business Administration loans to give businesses an infusion of cash and cutting the payroll tax, which workers and employers pay.

House Democrats submitted a bill with paid sick leave, free coronavirus testing, and more unemployment insurance. 

Business operators we talked to say any of those measures could help.

"I would be interested in what plans they have. As small businesses, we don't have the resources the larger firms have, so any kind of assistance would be very helpful," said Victor Lee, Vice President of Operations at STOA Architects.

But they say it needs to happen fast. Until then, all they can do is try to keep customers coming.

"Making sure everything is clean, our staff is cleaning, sanitizing everywhere, making sure the guest feels this is a nice, clean, safe environment," said Yang. 

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Democratic stimulus bill tonight.

The Small Business Administration tells us the loans are just a proposal right now, but would probably work like the existing Economic Injury Disaster Loans, which are for up to $2 million and can be paid back over 30 years at a cap of 4 percent interest.

TIMELINE: How the Coronavirus COVID-19 unfolded in the greater Houston area