Sunday, April 5, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 5
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Santa Maria Sun / Spotlight

The following article was posted on March 25th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 4 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 21, Issue 4

Local chamber of commerce aims to help businesses stay afloat amid COVID-19 closures

By ZAC EZZONE

The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce’s mission to help local businesses hasn’t changed since the spread of COVID-19, but closures related to the pandemic have prompted a new sense of urgency. 


CHANGING OPERATIONS
Local businesses are closing or, when possible, adapting to local, state, and federal orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.
PHOTO BY ZAC EZZONE

As new local, state, and federal orders roll out aimed at stopping the spread of the virus, most businesses have had to close or change how they operate. In response, the chamber is seeking community input through a survey to try and understand the needs of local businesses during this pandemic.

“To help our community best address the impact COVID-19 will undoubtedly have on local business, we first need to understand the real-world concerns and issues developing in our business community as a result of the pandemic,” chamber President and CEO Glenn Morris said in a news release announcing the survey on March 16. 

Chamber Marketing and Communications Manager Molly Schiff told the Sun that the survey, which can be accessed on the chamber’s website—santamaria.com—will be open over the next two weeks. As of March 19, about 70 people have filed responses.

Given the uncertainty around the duration of restrictions related to COVID-19, such as the stay at home order Gov. Gavin Newsom issued on March 19, Schiff said the survey results should help the chamber get a head start on tackling some issues facing local businesses. 

For example, she said, the chamber is providing information on programs and assistance being made available through federal and state governments. This includes spreading the word about a low-interest loan program through the Small Business Administration. Through this, businesses can acquire an economic injury disaster loan worth up to $2 million, with a maximum interest rate of 4 percent.

Schiff said that Morris is also involved with state and regional discussions about other forms of assistance that could be made available in the coming weeks and months. 

On the local level, the chamber started a social media campaign with the hashtag #SMVOpenForBusiness. Through this, the chamber is trying to inform residents of the businesses that are still open, although maybe in a different way. For example, the Orcutt coffee shop and bakery, Cups and Crumbs, announced on Facebook on March 19 that it’s offering free delivery service for any orders more than $10. 

Schiff said it’s important for residents to continue supporting local businesses through this pandemic. Even though you can’t go right now, she said, if you can afford it, continue your gym subscription, order take-out, or buy local products online. These small efforts could aid the business community’s recovery whenever the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.  

“Obviously, the economic impact of COVID-19 is going to be pretty significant and severe, but if we’re proactive about supporting our businesses now, it will, over the long-term, make a big difference in businesses staying open and keeping staff on board,” Schiff said. 

Highlights

• Marian Regional Medical Center, French Hospital Medical Center, and Arroyo Grande Community Hospital are hosting blood drives on March 30, March 31, and April 1, respectively. According to a news release announcing the drives, there’s currently a shortage of blood after drives at schools, churches, and other locations were canceled due to COVID-19. For more information visit blood4life.org.

• On March 19, Walmart announced that it’s hiring 150,000 employees throughout the country to work in stores as well as distribution and fulfillment centers. In California, the company plans to hire more than 6,200 people through the end of May. 

Staff Writer Zac Ezzone wrote this week’s Spotlight. Send tips to spotlight@santamariasun.com.








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