As small businesses anxiously wait for federal help, accountants become therapists

Posted at 5:27 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-22 14:45:07-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — In his 20 years as an accountant, Barm Alsbrook didn't expect to add counselor or therapist to his job description.

Comforting his clients has become the norm recently as fear and stress about the future for many small businesses remain uncertain amid the COVID-19 outbreak. With his own company and job managing another firm in Nashville, Alsbrook deals with more than 100 clients, most of whom are small business individuals of all sorts.

"In some way, we're helping them through it from a mental standpoint as well as actually dealing with laying off staff, not having any clients or worried about getting paid," Alsbrook told NewsChannel 5. "Every time they call they just seem to be a little more concerned each time."

Alsbrook said while he's helping them financially, he also tries to provide encouragement and reassures hope when they feel upset and frustrated.

"I guess I'm just an internally optimistic person and think it's all going to work out in the end," Alsbrook said.

What would typically be a busy season taking care of taxes has quickly shifted to help navigate businesses through the stimulus package and federal assistance loans. Despite getting most of his clients applied for loans through the Small Business Administration and Paycheck Protection Program, only one has received the funds and another client was denied. Everyone else is still waiting.

"They've been incredibly frustrated by the whole process. Some clients are just calling to ask if I have any idea on how I can find out and all I can say is they haven't given us any method to check on those loan applications," he said.

The small business relief fund resulted in the government sending billions to areas of the country with relatively few COVID-19 cases, to companies in the industries that have not been the hardest hit by the shutdown and to companies that are not even small businesses, according to CBS News.

Alsbrook said he's waiting for the federal assistance loan for his own company. As much as he's working more so than ever, he's unsure if he'll even get paid during these unprecedented times.

"I don't know how my clients are going to pay me because almost all of them are having to lay off their employees. I keep doing work for clients but not entirely sure how I'm going to get paid," Alsbrook said.