WEST GLACIER — The summer season started off rocky for one West Glacier business, but the Glacier Raft Company was able to keep all 145 of its employees employed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Co-owner Cassie Baldelli says the longtime family-run business took a huge hit at the beginning of the pandemic, "so, we started out really slow. We pretty much lost April and May. June was really slow.
She told MTN News that's when the company decided to apply for a Personal Paycheck Protection (PPP) loan -- funding from the CARES Act that's designed to help small businesses with various things like payroll.
Glacier Raft Company received a PPP loan which was crucial to keep all of its workers employed, with Baldelli explaining that since many of the company's workers come from all across the country, it was important to the company to keep everyone on their payroll.
"We were going to bring on our whole staff, even if we didn't have work for them we would pay them," said Baldelli. "And it ended up being way busier than we ever thought it would be."
She says that this July's revenue numbers were almost equal to last year's -- which is similar to the visitor trends that were seen in July in West Glacier. Glacier National Park reports that last year at this time visitors topped a little over 800,000 while this year's visitation checked in at a little over 500,000.
Baldelli told MTN News that Glacier Raft Company has also changed its COVID-19 protocol.
"We brought on additional staff to help take temperatures of clients and every staff member before our trips," she said. "We issued new screening protocols. We set up a place where people can quarantine if we had a staff member test positive."
She added that luckily, no staff member has tested positive for COVID-19 this summer -- and if people are looking for a way to have fun outside, she says rafting is a safe option. For example, they've even decreased the number of participants per raft to allow for more room.
"Usually we have ten-person paddle rafts, but this year we did them with eight," Baldelli explained. Additionally, people who are immune-compromised and want to just be with family members can book a private raft and no other people but family members will be onboard.
Click here to visit the Glacier Raft Company website.