SCARBOROUGH — Business Update Scarborough, a combined effort from three local organizations, is a tool for business owners to use in the ever-changing Covid-19 environment, answering questions and concerns as well.

The resource is a combined effort of the Scarborough Economic Development Corporation, the Scarborough Community Chamber of Commerce, and Scarborough Buy Local. The goal is to educate business owners and make information available, said Karen Martin, executive director of SEDCO.

Each day, BUS hosts a virtual meeting through Zoom, an online conferencing service, and there is a special guest about once every week, Martin said.

According to the group’s website, the meetings are held Monday through Friday at 1:30 p.m. The link to the Zoom meeting is zoom.us/j/412506131.

“(Each of the three organizations are) doing other things, but we just wanted to put out a united front,” Martin said. “We’re working out of homes, and when we first started this we thought, ‘How are we gonna let people talk to us and have some connections if they can’t drop by the office?’ We don’t know if this is gonna work, but we have remote office hours — here’s an hour a day where anyone in Scarborough can log on and say hi, no need to participate, or tell us what’s going on in your world. We can also make an appointment for later if they sign on for just the staff and the business.”

People tuning into the daily meetings or reaching out to SEDCO or BUS often have questions about the qualifications for an essential business or certain programs, like the Unemployment Insurance Program, said Martin.

She added that the Paycheck Protection Program, implemented by the Small Business Administration with support from the U.S. Treasury, has small businesses in mind, and she encourages those interested to find out more.

“There’s a lot of sense that these programs aren’t going to be for these really small businesses,” Martin said. “There are tons of small businesses and these programs are trying to address them. The other thing I want to put out there is don’t assume that these programs aren’t for you. The FDA Disaster Recovery Loan is a two-page online application that’s pretty streamlined.”

Small business owners can feel as if their company is an extension of themselves, making hard times even more personal, one of the many reasons why BUS is trying to reach as many as possible, said Martin.

“It would break my heart if someone didn’t try to reach out to the (aid) program,” she said.

Martin also shared some advice for business owners who are struggling financially.

“The first thing we want people to do is definitely call their lenders,” she said. “They’re on your team and they want you to succeed. They’re trying to work through the programs and they’re there to help people with personal, individual questions. Sometimes you need to ask for what you need, and if you say, ‘I can’t make the April mortgage. Can we do something about that?’ you may be surprised about how they may work with that.”

BUS will help business owners go through forms, applications, and federal and state guidelines, as in many instances “the devil is in the details,” said Martin.

“We’re trying to highlight some things that are more nuanced that you may not see in the general summary,” she said. “An example would be, ‘What if I already laid off my employees, and I want to take advantage of the paycheck program? Can I hire them back?’ And the answer is yes. So we’re just digging through and helping them find the right pieces of information.”

Martin said that the Zoom meetings have also been a place for people to share ideas and show what’s been working.

SEDCO’s website, sedcomaine.com, also contains information about BUS, and the program’s Facebook page, UpdateScarborough, shares highlights and updates from local restaurants, shops, and others each day, Martin said.

She said that Town Manager Tom Hall was planning to attend a Zoom meeting the week of April 6, and the Planning Board is back this month with remote meetings, so projects are getting back on track.

While change has been rapid these past few weeks, Martin said that she’s proud of how local businesses are adapting, especially Abbott Labs, on Southgate Road, which has begun developing rapid testing kits for Covid-19.

“That’s a bright spot in a world where it seems like every piece of news is bad and they’re working hard to get those tests out,” she said.

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