Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce has been working to help local businesses negotiate through state restrictions and stimulus procedures.
Now as the economy is slowly beginning to reopen, the chamber is at the forefront of helping businesses with their PPE (personal protective equipment) — with some help from Pulaski County Government.
According to chamber executive director Bobby Clue, the county procured 10,000 disposable face masks from a local distributor on the chamber's behalf. The masks — in boxes of 50 — were delivered to the chamber office Friday afternoon.
"They're flying out of here," Clue said, noting that the "big push" to distribute the masks will begin Tuesday due to the Memorial holiday weekend. "There's only so much you can do on a Friday before Memorial Day."
Pulaski County Judge-Executive Steve Kelley offered for the county to purchase the masks after learning about the organization's plan during a recent meeting of the chamber board of directors.
"I thought it would be a great gesture on the part of County Government to pitch in and help our business community to get back into serving the public," Judge Kelley said. "The great thing about this is that because we are meeting the physical needs of the people during this pandemic, we can apply for FEMA reimbursement. So it is a win-win-win for our community. We are helping our business community, our Chamber of Commerce, and we were able to purchase the masks locally from Team Modern.
The idea is to provide enough PPE so that local businesses can reopen safely and still have the leeway, if they need it, to procure their own equipment moving forward.
"What we've found is that a lot of the bigger businesses that we've talked to are covered," the executive director explained. "[For] the smaller guys, we're getting calls daily about where they need to buy masks. We're doing everything we can to help those businesses. We want to make sure they have what they need.
"We know their livelihoods are at stake."
Clue said he believes the Somerset chamber has done more collectively for the local business community during the pandemic than any other chamber in the commonwealth.
"We've not taken a day off," he said. "We've worked tirelessly to provide our members and business community with not only resources but information to help them — where to file for unemployment, how do they begin the process of getting this payroll protection, how can we encourage people to shop local and the importance of that. Now we're right in the fight with the Judge and Mayor [Alan] Keck in getting our business community back open."