Officials Explain Why Ocean Pines Needs $1.1M PPP Aid

Officials Explain Why Ocean Pines Needs $1.1M PPP Aid
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OCEAN PINES –   More than $1.1 million in federal aid is expected to ensure that the Ocean Pines Association remains able to pay its employees.

Ocean Pines Association (OPA) officials announced last week that the association received $1.143 million in assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) tied to COVID-19 relief.

“The intent of the loan was to make sure we could meet the financial obligations to our employees,” Ocean Pines Association President Doug Parks said.

According to General Manager John Viola, OPA was one of the first local organizations to apply for assistance through the program, which was created in March as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“When the Paycheck Protection Program was announced, we immediately formed a task force to research the funding, and we were one of the first in the queue to apply through our local lender, the Bank of Ocean City,” Viola said.

The task force was made up of OPA Director of Finance and Operational Logistics Steve Phillips, Senior Executive Secretary Michelle Bennett and Director of Public Relations and Marketing Josh Davis.

“The team was instructed to be relentless in their research and they studied the issues, made the necessary calls and attended multiple virtual seminars and meetings to make sure that Ocean Pines was timely and prepared when we applied for the funding,” Viola said.

Phillips credited the Bank of Ocean City staff for their help in the process to get a PPP loan to be used for full-time internal payroll expenses. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website, the PPP was created as an incentive for small businesses to keep their employees on the payroll. Any small business can apply and the loan will be forgiven if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities.

OPA has also applied for funds through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan offered through the Small Business Administration.

“Ocean Pines will continue to monitor the rapidly changing situation and review any government programs that are available,” Viola said. “Josh Davis will continue to interact and attend conferences and review government communications, to help us apply for any funding/deferral opportunities that would benefit the association financially in this volatile environment.”

While OPA receives much of its annual funding from assessments—the $986 paid annually by each homeowner—the association’s board of directors voted April 1 to extend the due date for those assessments to Aug. 1. In addition, OPA amenities remain closed as social distancing remains in effect to fight the spread of COVID-19.

Parks stressed that the PPP funding would ensure that OPA employees were able to be paid. He said the association applied for the loan as soon as information became available because no one knew how long the amenities would be closed.

In the wake of numerous critical comments on social media regarding OPA’s pursuit of a small business loan, Viola and the board of directors issued a joint statement addressing the need for the loan.

“COVID-19 closures have affected all of Ocean Pines operations and amenities, with significant lost revenue especially in Golf, Recreation and Parks, Aquatics and General Administration,” the statement reads. “Those and all other departments are still fully staffed, however, and the PPP loan will help us keep that workforce intact. Many think assessments cover all of our expenses, but the truth is assessments only make up about 60 percent of Ocean Pines’ income, and the impact of COVID-19 will likely be felt for many more months.”

According to the statement, without the loan some of OPA’s roughly 80 year-round employees would have been impacted.

“The bottom line is, without the loan our workforce would have likely suffered furloughs or layoffs, and that would have hurt our people,” the statement reads. “The Ocean Pines Association is essentially a grouping of several small businesses and, by helping us keep those jobs, we believe that also helps boost the local economy, because those who held onto their jobs continue to invest in the local economy by buying groceries, and patronizing the local restaurants and other businesses that were able to remain open.”

Parks said a workgroup had been formed since the loan had been received to monitor the situation.

“The workgroup in conjunction with the board of directors will continue its due diligence in monitoring this fluid situation as things develop over the next several weeks,” Parks said. “While no changes in the status are anticipated, we will be prepared to make any adjustments should conditions warrant.”

Parks added that OPA would continue to operate.

“We are hoping that our amenities and other services affected by the COVID-19 pandemic will open next several weeks and we can return to some level of normalcy,” he said. “In the meantime, we ask all OPA members to abide by the government mandates, and hope everyone stays safe and healthy during this time.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.