The following is a letter sent by Jamee Haley, executive director of Lowcountry Local First, to supporters on Monday:
We may not be able to choose the hurdles that we face as individuals, as business owners, or as a community — but we do have the ability to choose how we respond. It is possible to lessen the burden that our small businesses will face due to COVID-19. It will call for intelligence and a willingness to consider kindness from both the business and government sectors. We hereby challenge our community to support each other through kindness and intelligence in the following ways:
- If you are a property owner (commercial or residential) and have the ability to defer the rent of a tenant experiencing a hardship, do so. This isn’t simply the right thing to do but will cost you less money in the long run. If we have a recession, there will be fewer people willing to pay the skyrocketing rents imposed on businesses and individuals.
- If you are a lender, bank, CDFI, or SBA, consider interest-only payments until your clients land back on their feet.
- If you are a municipality, create an emergency leave and income assistance fund to support people who lose income in circumstances directly or indirectly related to the spread of coronavirus. Expedite permitting for small businesses who are overburdened by regulations and arbitrary design requirements. Multiple government agency hurdles can be the death of a small business.
- And finally, but most importantly, if you are a community member … spend your dollars locally. If you have purchases to make, food to buy, or need services like help filing your taxes — think local first! Many restaurants are offering delivery and take out, farmers are delivering and offering shares in Community Supported Agriculture, consultants are providing virtual meetings, artists are having shows online, retailers are offering gift cards, and more. Let’s be safe yet smart in how we’re supporting our neighbors right now!
P.S. – We’re going to make it easy. We’re currently building out buylocalchs.com as a place to house our local business’ offerings and shifted services.
Payroll tax breaks and more loans to small businesses are not enough. It’s promising that the House has passed the Families First Relief Bill and we are hopeful the Senate will do the same. The Bill as written provides free coronavirus testing for everyone who needs a test (including the uninsured), two weeks of paid sick leave, and increased unemployment benefits.
We need to gather around the businesses that make Charleston the No. 1 City in the World to visit and make sure that they are here when the next Conde Naste survey comes around. As locals, let’s do all we can to make sure that our friends and neighbors who own businesses are still here when the coronavirus is old news. This is what ‘resiliency’, ‘livability’, ‘quality of life’ and all the other buzzwords really sum up to, and that’s one word — community.