Dunes Realty Vacation Rentals has 35 employees, who are counting on their paychecks to be able to put food on their tables and gas in their cars, according to manager Ryan Swaim.

Thanks to the company having been approved for a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program that the U.S. Congress designed to keep workers receiving their paychecks, that’s possible for at least the next eight weeks.

Although the company has reserves and could have kept its employees on the payroll during the current economic downturn, management decided that securing one of the PPP loans offered a better answer than dipping into its reserves.

Swaim told his employees from the beginning of the slowdown that Dunes Realty planned to keep them all. To this end, management sent them all home to work, except one who mans the office. The others all log in for work on their phones and continue to work 40 hours a week.

“We have always been relatively frugal as a company…We had reserves and we still do. This just enables us not to have to dip into this so much. We are only using the portion of the loan that is forgivable,” Swaim said.

It’s that promise of forgiveness that convinced the Dunes Realty team to seek one of the loans that have an interest rate of only 1 percent.

To make sure they don’t inadvertently run afoul of the rules and have to pay back too much of the loan, they set up a separate account at South Atlantic Bank just for the PPP funds.

As to sticking within the requirements, Swaim said, “I don’t think it’s going to be hard at all.”

They plan to take only payroll funding out of that account.

“We could have applied for more…but we decided to apply for the amount that we felt we could have safely forgiven,” he said.

These dollars will keep all of the company’s staff, except for a few seasonal employees, working, receiving their paychecks and keeping their benefits.

Swaim isn’t making any predictions about what will happen after this round of money is spent.

“I do think you reach a point where the cure’s worse than the disease. I don’t necessarily know if we’ve reached that point yet, but we’re mighty close to it,” he said.

The biggest burden Swaim sees now is falling on his 700 property owners who rely on Dunes Realty to keep their units rented and their payments coming in.

He said Dunes Realty had a number of rentals lined up in March and more in April in and May but, for the most part, that’s all gone away due to tourists’ reluctance to travel and local ordinances closing down short-term rentals.

Swaim points out that the PPP won’t help these property owners, who are counting on their rentals to pay their taxes, mortgages and utilities, which will all come due whether their units are rented or not.

“We can handle a little bit of it, and some of our owners can handle a little bit of it, but some of them can’t. That’s really what’s worrying us more than anything,” he said.

Swaim didn’t particularly like that the government had to set up a stimulus program, but said they figured that since the funds were available they might as well take advantage of the opportunity.

“We just want to get back to work and start welcoming people back to the beach,” he said.

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I'm the editor of the Horry Independent, a weekly newspaper in Conway, South Carolina. I cover city hall and courts, among many other subjects. Know of a good story? Call me at 843-488-7241.

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