The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much about our lives in recent months. Although the virus has brought numerous negative consequences upon our community, state, and nation there have also been some positives effects on our society. One of which is the increased spirit of cooperation that seems to be permeating across business, government, and healthcare. This is most evident on the local level as leaders are realizing just how important it is to work in tandem in order to combat this terrible ordeal.
Each leg of this important stool is working hard to help the other sides stand up. It has been highly encouraging to see this play out during weekly stakeholder calls that have been arranged by the local Office of Economic Vitality (OEV). During these remote discussions, leaders from local government, healthcare providers, and the business community all convene to provide updates and insights about the changes happening in our community week-to-week.
In recent weeks, this virtual setting has provided a place for important discussions to take place. One such item has been the need for and distribution strategy for masks. When Leon County worked with healthcare organizations to devise and implement a smart policy requiring face coverings in public settings the demand for masks at businesses went up dramatically. As part of our weekly stakeholder calls, a plan was vetted for the Leon County Government to work with all three local Chambers of Commerce to distribute over 100,000 free masks to businesses.
Earlier this week, those masks arrived at our office and were made available to Chamber members for pick up. Our team was quick to assemble packages with 100 masks each for businesses to use for their employees or customers. Within 48 hours, we distributed our entire allotment of 10,000 masks.
Next week, the same spirit of collaboration will be on display when the Leon County Commission meets to consider how to best use money made available for our community through the CARES Act. The CARES Act was authorized by Congress earlier this year to help State and Local governments lessen the financial impacts due to costs associated with the pandemic. As part of that funding, our County staff is recommending over $6 million in new business assistance grants.The development of that strategy came directly from collaborative conversations that took place during our weekly stakeholder calls with OEV. Along with other economic partners, our team worked with OEV staff to make suggestions on how CARES Act funding could best be used to help businesses who are in direct need of help.
If approved next Tuesday, the Leon CARES Small Business Assistance program will provide $1,500 to $6,000 grants to approximately 3,100 qualifying small businesses, based on the business’ number of employees, to cover business expenses directly related to COVID-19 including employee wages, vendor bills, rent, utilities, promotion, and employee/ customer safety costs. With the intention of targeting businesses with less than 100 employees, County staff anticipates that there could be over 5,000 local companies eligible for the grants.
Should the County Commission approve the Small Business Assistance program next week, your Chamber will be sure to alert you of the details on how to apply. Just as we worked with the County to distribute masks this week, we will also work with them to make sure as many businesses as possible can get their grant application submitted. Right now, we know that every bit of assistance helps.
Thanks to the growing spirit of collaboration between local leaders, the interdependent relationship between business, government, and healthcare providers has never been stronger. You can help reinforce that by sending a short message to your County Commissioners as part of the public comments for next Tuesday’s CARES Act discussion. Let them know how much the Small Business Assistance program is needed and how much their support means right now.
To submit a public comment to the Leon County Commission, simply visit this link and select agenda item #16.