Our world has changed. Covid-19 has re-shaped how we live our daily lives (or at least it should have). If you have not adjusted your routines, I can not express enough how much physical distancing is a requirement now. This is a very real issue and it’s going to take national recognition and compliance to safety standards to help us all.

There are healthcare professionals who can speak much more soundly then I can on the health ramifications of Covid-19. But as the executive director of the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber representing businesses in Bath, Brunswick, Harpswell, Topsham and a dozen other communities, I can speak on the business impact.

The past week and a half has been extremely hectic. Businesses are struggling with decisions on how to stay open and if they should. Yet, there is a bit of silver lining in this catastrophe, which is all of the collaboration happening locally, and statewide to help spread messages about best practices and business promotion. Here are several pieces you should be aware of both as a business owner, business patron or citizen of our region. Some of these are specific programs while others are general observations.

The Internet and Social Media Can Be a Great Asset: Regardless of how the internet, screen time and social media has hurt our face-to-face interactions, at this time of physical distancing, the internet and social media can really help us stay connected. There is a phrase I’ve heard that says “you need to be physically distant not necessarily socially distant.” And that’s true, we don’t need to be in the same room and space to connect now. Many of the suggestions below use the internet and Facebook, so if you don’t have an active Facebook account, now might be a good time to join or reactivate your account.

FAME and SBA Loan Programs: The Chamber was on two calls last week with the Maine Bankers Association and the Maine Credit Union League and they have loans available for businesses and citizens. These loans have very minimal qualifications and are set up to borrow quickly, so the time is now. To start, both the bankers and credit union groups said the first thing to do is to call your financial lender to go over options for your business. Lenders will know the loans that best suit your situation or perhaps may have another solution to better serve your needs. Many of these loans originate at the lender.

The Small Business Administration has SBA disaster loans, which are for small businesses facing an unforeseen disaster that Covid-19 qualifies for. FAME, or the Finance Authority of Maine, has a Covid-19 loan page on their website which outlines two independent loan programs for businesses, one program linked to the SBA disaster loans, and one loan for employees. Yes, if you’re affected and need support their may be FAME loans for you as an employee.

Both programs can be found by searching “SBA Disaster Loans” and “FAME Covid-19 Relief Loan Programs” or search on their websites www.sba.gov or www.famemaine.com and the information is on their homepages.

Unemployment Insurance Extension: On March 17, Governor Mills enacted emergency legislation that revises eligibility requirements to include situations not typically covered such as: an employer temporarily ceases operation due to COVID-19 or an individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work once the quarantine is over. There is a full Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page on the Maine Department of Labor website. Again you can find it by googling “Maine Unemployment” or find it directly at www.maine.gov/unemployment

Brunswick Downtown Association’s Operation Pick-Up: The Brunswick Downtown Association did an incredible project where they contacted their members and have a running list on their website of which businesses are open, which are temporarily closing and what they are offering. The program is called Operation Pickup and the list is broken out by industry type (Restaurants, Shops, Entertainment, etc) and has things like: “Cool As a Moose: Online only until April 1” or “Key Bank and Camden National drive up and online services only.” It’s an incredible tool for their businesses and something everyone should know about. You can find it as the first item on their homepage at www.brunswickdowntown.org

SMMC’s Covid-19 Facebook Group: Inspired by the BDA Operation Pickup, our chamber look at the Kennebec Valley Chamber (Augusta region) who came up with a Facebook Group for local business updates for the Covid-19 era and so we have created our own Facebook group. Essentially businesses and citizens join the group to share which businesses are open and what their deals are. It’s not a duplication of efforts with the BDA because we have 16 communities we represent, but we will be highlighting the BDA work on our Facebook group. The goal is to get out as much information as we can. To join the group which is called: “Midcoast Restaurant & Business Highlights During Covid-19” simply log onto the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber Facebook page at www.facebook.com/southernmidcoastmainechamber You’ll see the link to the group all over our page. Or you can search the Facebook Group name on the Facebook search function. Businesses and citizens are welcome to join the group. It’s a great way for businesses to share their own news to people in the area.

Other Programs and Opportunities: With things moving and changing so quickly we will continue to highlight these updates. Next week we’ll focus on projects like Pay It Forward Maine, a regional chamber program started by the Portland Regional Chamber that we are partnering on, along with Tax Day moving to July 15, and highlighting other non-business ways to connect such as Quarantine Karaoke and some educational programs you can find online.

If you have any questions on anything here, please e-mail Cory King at [email protected]. The SMMC office is closed until April 1, so this is the best way to contact us. Thanks.

Cory R. King is the executive director of the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: