Navigating Idaho's economy and job market during the pandemic

Small business owners and self-employed people can now apply for government loans.
Posted at 2:08 AM, Apr 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-13 12:01:34-04

BOISE, Idaho — Here at 6 On Your Side, we know many Idahoans have been hit hard financially by this pandemic and are searching for answers. That's why we're taking a deep-dive into both the scope of the problem in Idaho, and what resources might be of help too you and your family.

“During the recession, we had time to prepare for it, and it happened over time, whereas, this has happened literally within an amount of weeks," said Leah Reeder, Unemployment Insurance Technical Specialist, Idaho Department of Labor (IDOL).

See that yellow line in the below image? That’s the spike IDOL is reporting in unemployment benefits paid. Those other lines represent the prior five years.

Graphic by Matt Covey, 6 On Your Side. Data by the Idaho Department of Labor.

“We have seen an unprecedented increase in the amount of calls we traditionally get," said Jani Revier, Director of IDOL.

IDOL reports that 77,430 unemployment benefits claims were filed in the three weeks after Governor Little declared a "state of emergency," for an increase of 7,400%. This -- painting a dim picture of just how many Idahoans are out of work right now.

“Generally the person on the other end is scared, because this was — they didn’t see this coming," said Reeder.

While this certainly a dark time, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

“The vast majority of the claims that we’ve seen are considered job-attached," said Revier.

But for now, what are your options if unemployment benefits can’t cover your living costs?

One option is to find work through a staffing company like Express Employment Professionals, who remain operating despite the pandemic. They have offices in Boise, Caldwell, and Fruitland.

“If you’re ready to work, and you want to work, we can get you work," said Rob Graham, Account Manager, Express Employment Professionals.

There's no catch for the job seeker; It’s free — since companies pay them to recruit talent.

“Like, one of the biggest areas at the moment, is the fulfillment industry. They are having a massive -- supply chain as well, are having a massive upsurge -- especially in online ordering. So anyone involved in any online ordering actually needs quite a lot more [employees]. Order pickers, for example. The healthcare industry," said Graham.

On the other side of that coin, if you’re a small business owner who’s struggling, the Small Business Administration urges you to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) at your bank or lending institution.

“There is no reason not to," said Jeremy Field, regional administrator, SBA Pacific Northwest. "This is the response from Congress and the White House to help America’s economy.”

"It’s a loan that can go up to $10 million. It has an interest rate of one percent," said Field. "The best part is, is that if you use it for the payroll, and for your mortgage, and for utilities, that loan can be forgiven so you owe nothing back to the government.”

Small businesses have been able to apply for PPP since March 27, but as of Friday, April 10, "gig economy" workers and self-employed Idahoans are eligible to apply too.

“So if you are the hairstylist who pays for a chair in a salon, and your revenues have gone down, you can apply for the paycheck protection program," said Field.

If you’re interested in applying for a small business loan, you have until June 30. More guidance can be found here, on