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Local business owner gets needed relief through paycheck protection program

PITTSBURGH — Months after the coronavirus pandemic and state restrictions forced a local restaurant owner to lay off 40% of her staff, she is now getting much-needed relief through the paycheck protection program.

Marlyn Parra owns the Venezuelan restaurant Cilantro & Ajo in the South Side, and a 50% decline in sales followed staff cuts because they were only allowed to do takeout and delivery until late July when the Pa. Department of Health and Allegheny County officials revised their restrictions and guidelines.

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“It was really hard for us because we had to put all of our employees on layoff, and it was just my husband and I working here -- cooking, answering the phone, taking orders for all the people. It was a little crazy,” Parra said.

Relief was finally made available through the federal government’s paycheck protection program (PPP) for businesses struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Parra immediately applied and was approved for the loan. She was then able to bring all her employees back to work.

Cilantro & Ajo is a success story the federal support program has seen across the country. To witness their achievement firsthand, Parra got a surprise visit from the administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“It serves as a bridge, a financial bridge, and a lifeline to protect their small business,” said Jovita Carranza.