"We're thinking about it all the time, every day."
Bobby Clue, executive director, Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce, said his staff has been busy the past three weeks calling small business owners to find out how the chamber can help.
Clue said the chamber is "Ground Zero" for information about the Paycheck Protection Program" to assist small businesses during the coronavirus crisis and in a recovery program when the crisis ends.
"And it will end," Clue assured. "The 'American will' is stronger than any virus and small business owners are some of the most resilient people in the world." He said one of the most important chamber functions is to assist small business owners.
The Paycheck Protection Program authorizes up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses to pay employees during the COVID-19 crisis. Loan terms will be the same for everyone.
Loan amounts will be forgiven as long as loan proceeds are used to cover payroll costs, and most mortgage interest, rent, and utility costs over the 8-week period after the loan is made, and employee and compensation levels are maintained.
Payroll costs are capped at $100,000 on an annualized basis for each employee. Due to likely high subscription, it is anticipated not more than 25 percent of the forgiven amount may be for non-payroll costs. Loan payments will be deferred for 6 months.
In a news release e-mailed to more than 800 chamber members, Clue said " ... we always hear how important it is to shop local and support small businesses. Now more than ever that statement rings true. As everyone is quarantining, and social distancing, local businesses are seeing less foot traffic than normal, he pointed out.
"It is important to stay healthy and listen to government and CDC officials, but its also important to help our neighbors when we can," Clue added. Here are a few ways we can help support our friends and neighbors during this time:
SHOP LOCAL FIRST
Local businesses often do not have the same resources larger chains do when it comes to financial assistance and recovering from uncertain times like these. When shopping for goods and services, look to our local businesses first.
SHOP LOCAL, ONLINE
Many retailers have websites where you can buy online. If your favorite local retailers don't have an online store, many may be willing to take an order over the phone and have it delivered - it never hurts to ask!
ORDER TO GO
Our local restaurants offer takeout and delivery options. Services like GrubHub and DoorDash also offer delivery services from a wide variety of local restaurants.
If you have an ongoing subscription or membership with your local chamber of commerce or gym, consider keeping it active, even if you're not going to show up right now. Many of these small businesses rely on that regular cash flow to keep things open.
If you are a local business owner, take this opportunity to collaborate with your business community to see how you can help one another overcome challenges. Collaborating and understanding the unique challenges of different businesses will lead to solutions that benefit everyone.
TIP A LITTLE EXTRA
If you are financially able to do so, tip a little extra to the restaurants, salons and other service industries you may visit. These service workers may not have the privilege of income security, and a little extra can go a long way.
BUY A GIFT CARD
Unable to shop or dine in right now? Buy a gift card from a local business to give to someone as a “thank you,” or use at a later time. For those not wanting to visit in person, many businesses will mail or e-mail your gift card upon request.
GET SOCIAL, ONLINE
Social media can play a huge role in supporting the local community. Lead by example in encouraging your online following to support local businesses.
The COVID-19 outbreak will undoubtedly present new community challenges for our local non-profits to address. Now is a great time to donate to the causes and organizations you care most about.
Clue is an optimistic voice during the COVID-19 crisis. He expressed complete confidence Somerset and Pulaski County businesses will recover to return this community to its vibrant future.