COVID-19: The Road To Recovery

Economic development organizations and government officials have joined forces with local businesses to keep creating inspiring and innovative ways to meet the most urgent needs of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are their stories.


https://businessfacilities.com/2020/12/covid-19-the-road-to-recovery/
Economic development organizations and government officials have joined forces with local businesses to keep creating inspiring and innovative ways to meet the most urgent needs of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are their stories.
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COVID-19: The Road To Recovery

Economic development organizations and government officials have joined forces with local businesses to keep creating inspiring and innovative ways to meet the most urgent needs of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are their stories.

COVID-19: The Road To Recovery

By the BF Staff
From the November/December 2020 Issue

In March, as the catastrophe that is the COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold in the United States, Business Facilities posted its Coronavirus Mission Statement. Here’s part of what we said: “Our platform is your platform and we are your voice. Tell us what you are doing to confront this crisis and help us showcase the best practices so that everyone can adopt them. Use us to communicate with each other. We’ll shine our spotlight on the locations who’ve found innovative ways to maintain the viability of their communities while we all hunker down.”

COVID-19 economic development
(Image: Delpixart)

The response has been overwhelming, filling the pages of our special cover story in the May/June issue of BF, entitled COVID-19: Response and Recovery, with inspiring reports or heroic efforts by EDOs across the country to provide financial lifelines to small businesses and to create new supply chains for desperately needed medical equipment, including personal protection gear used by frontline healthcare workers.

In our July/August and September/October issues we published updates entitled The Road to Recovery, and we do so again on the pages of this issue. However, at presstime, we are pleased to report that at least three effective vaccines are poised to be distributed throughout the world, with more on the way.

BF will keep its online form for COVID-19 response submissions open for the duration of this crisis. We’ll keep giving you updates in each of our issues until this hideous disease is wiped out. Here’s the latest, and as the end of a dismal year approaches, here’s hoping we can remove the mask from Lady Liberty when we publish the next one.

HELPING SMALL BUSINESSES IN UTAH

Based on a new impact report commissioned by the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) and conducted by the Sorenson Impact Center, the $12 million Utah Leads Together Small Business Bridge Loan Program helped 1,150 small businesses and nonprofits with 50 or fewer employees across the state weather the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Utah
In April, Gov. Gary Herbert unveiled a program called “A Mask for Every Utahn,” which used funds from the federal CARES Act to purchase two million masks from manufacturers based in the Beehive State.

In the second of a series of two impact reports, the Center analyzed the geographical reach and types of businesses that benefited from the program, how funding was used, and whether applicants secured other forms of financial support. Throughout the summer, the Center surveyed businesses and nonprofits that benefited from the bridge loan program (32 percent of bridge loan recipients responded). Here were some key findings:

  • About 27 percent of loans were deployed to small businesses in rural counties (the goal was 25 percent).
  • Most Utah businesses used the Bridge Loan to maintain their payroll (30 percent); pay their business rent, mortgage, or utilities (27 percent); and pay for other business operating costs.
  • More than 66 percent of businesses were able to keep or increase staff hours and avoid layoffs and furloughs.
  • Approximately 13 percent of the businesses receiving loans were owned by Black, Indigenous, or other people of color; 33 percent of businesses receiving Bridge Loans were owned by women; and 9 percent of business owners that received the Bridge Loan were veterans.

The survey conducted by the Center also identified areas where businesses and nonprofits need additional support to navigate ongoing instability. More than one-third of companies identified new business grants as being helpful, with 18 percent of respondents identifying flexible loans as being helpful moving forward. Respondents also identified long-term low-interest capital, loan forgiveness and lending options to support capital improvements, such as upgrades to air filtration and sanitation systems, as helpful.

“Based on our analysis of the program’s success, we have to commend GOED for its commitment to fairness and equity in disbursing funds,” said Sorenson Impact Center CEO Geoff Davis.

Davis added, “they exceeded expectations on support for rural communities and had a clear commitment and focus on supporting businesses owned by Black, Indigenous and other people of color, as well as women entrepreneurs and businesses owned by veterans. Targeted and purposeful interventions of this nature save jobs and businesses.”

“The report shows that the program was able to help many businesses in need, and we’re grateful it was able to make an impact on so many,” said Val Hale, GOED’s executive director.

The Utah GOED team has been at the heart of the state’s COVID-19 response, contributing to the state’s unified command, task force, committees and subcommittees, and supporting policies that look after the health of Utahns and the strength of Utah’s economy.

Supporting 10 different programs, to-date, GOED has disbursed $163,563,817 of state and Legislature-allocated federal CARES Act funds.

In the early months of the pandemic in the U.S., Utah marshaled an impressive array of COVID-19 relief programs. As the pandemic began to surge across the United States in April, Gov. Gary Herbert took a leadership role among U.S. governors in getting people of his state to understand the gravity of the public health emergency.

On April 29, Gov. Herbert unveiled a project that involved a type of veil: Herbert called it “A Mask for Every Utahn,” using funding from the federal CARES act to purchase two million face masks from the Utah Manufacturers Association and Cotopaxi, a Utah-based outdoor retailer (The masks were all made in Utah, keeping 200 Utahns employed during the dark early days of this continuing crisis).

“We want to do everything we can as we work together as a state to combat COVID-19,” Herbert said in a statement when the program was announced. “Wearing a mask when we are out in public may not be convenient, but it can help slow the spread of the virus. Let’s all do our part in stopping the spread and helping to protect those around us,” Herbert said.

In addition to the Utah Leads Together Small Business Program, Herbert’s Administration rolled out a cavalcade of relief-oriented programs, including: COVID-19 Commercial Rental Assistance Program (ComRent); Displaced Worker Grant Program (Learn & Work In Utah); COVID-19 Impacted Businesses Grant Program (Shop In Utah); COVID-19 PPE Support Grant Program (Safe In Utah); Tourism COVID-19 Recovery Program (Meet In Utah); COVID-19 Oil, Gas and Mining Grant (OGM Grant); and Utah Hospital Grants.

Although all grant programs are currently closed—with final Shop In Utah grant distributions going out last month—more than 5,600 COVID-19 grants were awarded to Utah businesses; for all programs, an average of nearly 30 percent of funds went to rural Utah businesses.

GOED administered these programs using its Salesforce platform. For example, GOED opened the Utah Leads Together Small Business Bridge Loan program application five days after receiving approval to proceed. Throughout the eight months of deploying CARES Act funding, GOED managed a 12,000% increase in grant applicant demand compared to 2019.

GOED’s COVID-19 programs helped support companies across the state, especially in Utah’s hardest-hit industries, including leisure and hospitality, food and beverage and retail.

Since its launch in July, the statewide In Utah outreach and education campaign has achieved over 357 million impressions on all media types, including television, radio, social media, print and outdoor advertising.

Particularly noteworthy is how quickly the GOED team moved to action. Utah’s first COVID-19 business restrictions occurred on March 20. On March 31, GOED opened the intermountain west’s first bridge loan program to support small businesses in the state. By the end of the following week, companies had much-needed checks in-hand.

GOED’s Small Business Bridge Loan amounts ranged from $5,000 to $20,000 and were offered 0% interest for up to 60 months. Loans were for businesses and nonprofits and could not exceed three months of demonstrated operating expenses. Loan payments are deferred for 12 months. The Bridge Loan activity occurred before Congress acted, and the state received federal CARES Act funding.

Beyond the figures and the statistics, GOED’s COVID-19 work ultimately supported Utahns, their businesses and their families. That’s where any sense of pride or accomplishment, from frequent, repeated long hours, evenings and weekends’ work is achieved: knowing lifelines were provided to so many in such unprecedented circumstances.

Here are just a few acknowledgments of GOED’s pandemic work:

“Thank you to everyone responsible at GOED for their assistance and the administration of the funds your group has been tasked to disseminate. I want to let yourself and those in your team, including up to Gov. Herbert, know how much of an honor we consider bestowed upon our shoulders during this time of uncertainty,” said Bryan Clifton, owner of Redman Movies and Stories.

“Thank you very much! These funds come at a time of great need and will go far to buoy my practice during this down period. Please pass along my gratitude to all in the governor’s office who are part of this excellent program!” said Gary Tremayne of Clarity Vision

“We are very grateful for the offer of this bridge loan. This will give us a good boost to keep our business going through these difficult times. We appreciate your confidence in us,” said Angela and Shaun Heaton of Bonneville Asphalt.

MARYLAND PROTECTS ITS TEACHERS

In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan has acted to provide personal protective equipment to teachers, faculty members and staff members of school systems across the state.

Hogan accepted a donation of 200,000 face shields from Maryland manufacturer Hardwire, LLC to the Maryland State Department of Education. Hardwire’s donation of top-quality face shields provided an additional layer of protection for educators in MD. The governor accepted the donation at Annapolis High School, where he was joined by Hardwire CEO George Tunis, Hardwire President and Chief Operating Officer Emily Tunis, and State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon.

Maryland COVID-19 economic development
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan accepted a donation of 200,000 protective face shields from Maryland manufacturer Hardwire LLC. The face shields were distributed to teachers and staff members in school systems across the state.

Maryland COVID-19 economic development“After spending months ramping up our stockpile of PPE, Maryland now has a 90-day emergency supply of the most critical resources and has distributed more than 78 million units of PPE,” Hogan said. “This donation of face shields from Hardwire will help Maryland further boost our critical stockpile and prepare our state to face this surge of COVID-19.”

“As a working father of four with a working spouse, and as an employer of essential workers who have families of their own, we understand how important it is to ensure schools are open, safe and functional for teachers, staff, students and their families,” Tunis said. “Our goal is to help offer another line of defense to ensure they remain safe and operational as long as possible.”

Hardwire supported its local economy on the Eastern Shore by employing displaced local workers, and achieved a daily production rate of over 100,000 units per day, surpassing much larger Fortune 500 companies in capacity. Hardwire’s manufacturing capability in Pocomoke City remains ready to produce additional PPE as needed.

Hardwire is a leading provider of life-saving armor solutions to the military, law enforcement, schools and businesses. The company has armored police vehicles for large cities and municipalities, covered miles of the nation’s critical bridges with armor, outfitted countless police officers and supplied body armor to the U.S. Special Operations Command, U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Army.

More than 300 Maryland businesses have responded to Hogan’s call to action and supported the state’s fight against the spread of COVID-19.

Gov. Hogan has issued a Maryland Strong Roadmap to Recovery, which was developed based on the recovery plans issued by the federal government, the National Governors Association and premier institutions like Johns Hopkins and the American Enterprise Institute; shaped by the expert advice of the scientists and public health officials on Maryland’s Coronavirus Response Team and tailored to the situation in MD.

Hogan has been a national leader in creating the kind of guidance found in the Roadmap to Recovery.

“As Chairman of the National Governors’ Association (NGA), I am leading the nation’s governors in our partnership with the federal government to beat COVID-19 and get our economy back on track,” Hogan said, when he released the Roadmap in April.

“Part of this leadership effort was releasing the NGA’s Roadmap to Recovery: A Public Health Guide for Governors providing recommendations to help my fellow governors across the country reopen their states safely—just as we used it in designing Maryland’s own Roadmap to Recovery,” Hogan continued.

“My administration worked to set up the building blocks needed to put Maryland in a position to attack the virus from every direction. This put us on solid footing to begin our reopening and recovery as soon as we reach the necessary downward trends in the critical gating metrics required in all of the experts’ plans before states should reopen,” he said.

GUIDING NEW JERSEY’S RECOVERY

Gov. Phil Murphy recently announced the first phase of the New Jersey Small and Micro Business PPE Access Program, designed to ensure that the state’s small businesses and non-profits have access to the fairly priced personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to facilitate safe working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The phase was approved by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) Board, advancing this initial step of a $15 million initiative to address ongoing demand for PPE.

New Jersey
Gov. Phil Murphy held a roundtable to discuss a COVID-19 spike in Ocean County in October. Murphy, a former U.S. ambassador to Germany, has consulted with German health experts regarding Germany’s contact tracing system.

In May, Gov. Murphy established the Restart and Recovery Commission and Restart and Recovery Council to guide New Jersey’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Both the Commission and the Council highlighted the need for readily available, reasonably priced and equitably distributed PPE to accelerate a safe and robust economic recovery. The NJEDA also received input on the PPE Access Program from the Senate Fiscal Strategists Committee.

“Business owners and company leaders have enough on their plates as they navigate operating with new protocols in place to safeguard the health of their customers and staff,” Murphy said. “We are taking this step to make finding and securing PPE and other safeguarding supplies easier for business owners, so they can focus on rebuilding their businesses and ensuring their future success.”

The program’s first phase includes the launching of a new website that provides micro and small businesses with the information needed to make easier and better PPE sourcing decisions. The website will also offer a vetted list of online retailers that have agreed to verify the quality of the PPE they are selling and offer at least a 10 percent discount to businesses who enter through the state’s website.

Online retailers will be vetted on a first-come, first serve basis by the NJEDA, and must agree to certain performance standards for their site (e.g., transparent pricing, high-quality products, etc.). Vetted online retailers will also be eligible to access an NJDEA grant pool of up to $3.5M to support the purchase of PPE that is manufactured in New Jersey or sourced from a small wholesaler based in a historically underserved community.

Assuming the first phase of the program is successful, the NJEDA intends to expand the program with $11M of support for micro and small business PPE purchases. The intent is for this support to flow directly through the vetted online vendors, allowing users to access the grant funds at the time of their online checkout. Through this innovative public-private approach, the state anticipates that it could support more than $45 million in PPE purchases and more than 50,000 small and micro businesses.

“The NJEDA’s top priority throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been helping the smallest of businesses face the unique challenges posed by this public health and economic crisis, including keeping their employees and customers safe,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “Ensuring sufficient access to quality, affordable PPE is essential to allowing businesses of all sizes to reopen safely.”

During March and April, New Jersey saw an unprecedented spike in the demand for PPE, largely driven by the healthcare sector. Today the availability of PPE has improved, but as more parts of the economy reopen and other U.S. States face spikes in COVID-19 cases, demand for PPE to protect employees and customers has surged. The resulting shortages and increased prices disproportionately affect small businesses and organizations and those in historically underserved communities.

“Dependable, convenient access to PPE supplies is a key determinant of our ability to manage the spread of COVID-19 and the viability of any plan to reopen the state’s small businesses,” said New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “This proactive approach will help to alleviate the burden on business owners of finding reliable providers so they can focus on getting back to work.”

In June, the NJEDA issued a Request for Information (RFI) to gather input and suggestions that could help to shape a possible program to ensure small businesses had sufficient access to PPE. Taking this feedback into account, the NJEDA crafted the NJ Small and Micro Business PPE Access Program to ensure access to affordable PPE, help business owners understand the specific safety equipment they need and support the state’s manufacturing sector by encouraging PPE suppliers to manufacture products in New Jersey.

“The NJ Small and Micro Business PPE Access Program will help businesses identify and acquire the safety equipment they need while providing a much-needed boost for New Jersey’s manufacturers and smaller wholesalers,” said Tony Coscia, Partner and Executive Committee Member, Windels Marx Lane & Mittendorf, LLP. “The program will ensure increased efficiency and equity on both the distribution and procurement sides of the PPE equation.” Coscia serves as Co-Chair of Governor Murphy’s Restart and Recovery Commission Economics and Fiscal Policy Working Group.

To support the expansion of local PPE manufacturing in New Jersey, the NJEDA will provide grant funding to subsidize up to 20 percent of the purchases of PPE that has been manufactured or assembled in New Jersey or sources from a wholesaler with less than 25 employees and is located in a historically underserved community (Opportunity Zone Eligible census tracts).

Throughout the pandemic, NJEDA has been working closely with the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program (NJMEP) to identify and support companies that make or have pivoted to make PPE, many of which could supply New Jersey-made goods to the Program’s vetted online vendors. The NJEDA is setting aside an additional $500,000 for program development, marketing, administration and compliance.

LOUISIANA ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT HOSTS VIRTUAL CAREER FAIR

In December, LED FastStart® and nine Louisiana technology employers conducted a Virtual Career Fair for job candidates in the software and IT services industry. Job seekers who registered in advance at the event landing page could view positions available in eight cities across Louisiana.

“Louisiana’s growing software and IT sector is ideally suited for computer science and STEM professionals, as well as individuals who are certified in high-demand technology skills,” said LED FastStart Executive Director Paul Helton. “Our LED FastStart team is supporting the recruitment, screening and orientation process for this initiative. That enables the participating employers and their job candidates to experience a seamless process for advancing tech careers throughout Louisiana.”

The Virtual Career Fair followed the format of a previous digital career fair conducted in October. Approximately 150 positions are available for well-qualified mid-level professionals in the field. Once logged in at the Brazen.com landing page, job seekers connected with company representatives in one-on-one virtual booths.

Participating companies and their Louisiana locations included: CDIT Solutions (Slidell); CGI (Lafayette); DXC Technology (New Orleans); GDIT (Bossier City); Globalstar (Covington); IBM (Baton Rouge, Monroe); L3 Harris Technologies (Lafayette); SchoolMint (Lafayette); and Praeses (Shreveport).

Positions are available for software developers, software engineers, DevOps, system engineers, web developers, information security analysts, network administrators and cybersecurity engineers, among others.

“Participants will find this digital job fair to be a user-friendly experience,” said Director of Recruiting Jamie Nakamoto of LED FastStart. “They can pre-register and explore the kinds of career and management skills being sought. During the event itself, they will be able to go from virtual booth to virtual booth and visit with representatives of each company about the job opportunities available across Louisiana.”

Through strategic partnerships linking Louisiana’s higher education campuses with leading technology employers, Louisiana has created more than 20,000 new technology jobs in the past decade. Those partnerships are being funded through more than $300 million in investments beyond regular funding at Louisiana’s colleges and universities.

ONTARIO STRENGTHENS FRONT LINES

The Ontario government in Canada is investing $52.5 million to recruit, retain and support over 3,700 more frontline health care workers and caregivers to ensure its health care system can meet any surge in demand, while continuing to provide safe and high-quality care to patients and long-term care residents. This investment is part of the province’s COVID-19 fall preparedness plan, Keeping Ontarians Safe: Preparing for Future Waves of COVID-19.

Details were announced by Premier Doug Ford and Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

“It’s the thousands of nurses, personal support workers, and other frontline workers who have made the difference in the fight against COVID-19,” said Premier Ford. “[This}significant investment will allow us to recruit, retain and quickly deploy a militia of health care heroes, caregivers and volunteer professionals to care for our seniors and most vulnerable and ensure our health care system is prepared to deal with any outbreaks or surges in cases.”

“Retaining and increasing the number of frontline health care workers in our continuous fight against COVID-19 is critical,” said Minister Elliott. “We are taking further action to ensure our frontline health care workers are supported, and the health care sector has the staff to provide timely, high-quality care.”

In order to increase and stabilize the health care workforce, the province is investing an additional $26.3 million to support personal support workers (PSWs) and supportive care workers, including: $14 million for the Personal Support Worker training funds to continue training PSWs in the home and community care and long-term care sectors; $10.3 million for the new Personal Support Worker Return of Service Program, to recruit and retain recent graduates to work in long-term care homes and in the home and community care sectors (this program will provide a $5,000 incentive to 2,000 recent graduates for a six-month commitment to work in these settings); $1.3 million to train 160 supportive care workers to provide basic home support services; and $700,000 in accelerated PSW training for 220 students with prior health experience to practice in Ontario.

The province is investing an additional $26 million to support nurses, including: $18 million for Ontario’s Nursing Graduate Guarantee program, which provides full-time salary and benefits for over 600 nurses with a focus on recruiting in areas of need such as long-term care homes and acute care settings; and up to $8 million to add over 800 nurses to the health system in areas of need across the province.

The province is supporting frontline workers, families and caregivers by investing $200,000 to improve the matching algorithm for the Ontario Matching Portal, which will enable employers to get faster matches that best meet their needs.

Ontario is expanding training, tools and resources available to frontline workers across the social services sector. The province continues to update visitor policies for congregate care settings, including long-term care, that promote family and caregiver involvement to support better care and reduce isolation.

The Keeping Ontarians Safe: Preparing for Future Waves of COVID-19, will recruit, retain, train and support health care workers, while also continuing to engage families and caregivers; implement the largest flu immunization campaign in Ontario’s history; and maintain strong public health measures, including continued expansion of testing and case and contact management, among other goals.

Ontario has developed a health workforce matching portal which has helped match skilled frontline health care workers with over 1,100 matches (including over 650 in long-term care) across the health system in need of assistance. The portal also has strengthened infection prevention and control supports to help providers and care settings in greatest need, including tools, training and resources to support long-term care and other congregate settings.

The portal also is issuing guidance and directives from the Chief Medical Officer of Health to ensure consistent approaches to protecting health care workers and patients, based on the best evidence available.

WASHINGTON NO. 1 IN WORKER PROTECTION

Washington, one of the first U.S. states to experience the onslaught of COVID-19, has been the best state in responding to the needs of workers during the pandemic crisis, according to a ranking released by Oxfam America. The organization based its findings on wages, worker protections and workers’ rights in all 50 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico during the pandemic.

Washington COVID-19 economic development
Washington recently launched WA Notify, a simple, anonymous exposure notification tool to help stop the spread of COVID-19. By adding WA Notify to their smartphones, WA residents will be alerted if they spent time near another WA Notify user who later tests positive for COVID-19.

“COVID-19 is not only a health crisis, but an economic one. This has dramatically impacted everyone in our state, businesses and workers alike, particularly those most vulnerable. This crisis has shined a light on the importance of strong worker protections and the far reaching impacts of income inequality. We must continue to do whatever we can to ensure that workers and families have what they need,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “In Washington we believe you can recover a strong economy, without sacrificing the health and safety of workers.”

Washington consistently appears at the top of favorable rankings, especially those related to economic opportunity.

Overall, the index examines how states are helping working families cope —and survive—the pandemic, including:

  • Worker Protections. Are states taking proactive measures to protect workers and their communities amidst a pandemic that involves a deadly airborne virus?
  • Healthcare. How are states protecting the health of their residents during a pandemic, especially given the limitations of employment-linked health insurance?
  • Unemployment Supports. How are states accommodating the millions of people who are suddenly, through no fault of their own, unemployed and without a steady income?

Each state/territory earns a score from 0–100 for each area, which are totaled to create the score. No state or territory scores above 80 overall. Washington scored 76.41, with its highest score in worker protections.

The report calls out Washington’s effort to protect workers with mandatory face coverings and personal protective equipment, as well as a moratorium on evictions during the pandemic, relief from utility shutoffs, increased food assistance and a fund for undocumented workers.

Oxfam also gave Washington high marks for its paid family and medical leave program, which began paying benefits earlier this year and provides some of the most progressive benefits in the nation.

“The pandemic has revealed the harsh challenges low-wage working families face in the US,” said Minor Sinclair, Oxfam America Director of US Domestic Program. “Washington leads the way in providing most families a cushion from the fall by offering unemployment support, worker and healthcare protections. But the federal government and many other states in the country have failed to provide any support for working families who risk falling into poverty, hunger and homelessness.”

Inslee, along with the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), recently announced the launch of WA Notify, a simple, anonymous exposure notification tool to help stop the spread of COVID-19. By adding WA Notify to their smartphones, Washington residents will be alerted if they spent time near another WA Notify user who later tests positive for COVID-19.

WA Notify uses privacy-preserving technology jointly developed by Google and Apple and works without collecting or revealing any location or personal data.

“Secure, private and anonymous exposure notification technology is an important tool for Washington,” Gov. Inslee said. “We’ve deployed WA Notify in 29 languages so as many Washington residents as possible can protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities. I encourage everyone to start using WA Notify today so we can continue to work together to contain this virus.”

WA Notify is free and can be enabled in iPhone settings or downloaded as an app from the Google Play Store for Android phones. Users can opt out at any time. Several states including Virginia, New York and Colorado are using this tool. Countries successfully using this technology include Ireland, Canada and Germany.

Inslee recently announced additional financial support funds for families and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor was joined by Lisa Brown, Department of Commerce director, for the announcement.

“We know this pandemic is taking an economic toll,” Inslee said during a press conference. “We [originally] announced $50 million in business supports, but after more discussions with legislators and our agencies, we’ve agreed on how to more than double that.”

The total new economic supports being provided by the state in Washington amount to $135 million. Included in that total is $70 million in business support grants; $30 million for the recovery loan program; $20 million for rental assistance; and $15 million for energy bills for low-income households. Included in the $70 million in business support grants is $50 million for a new round of Working Washington grants focused on the hardest-hit industries. Remaining funds will go toward historically disadvantaged businesses who applied for earlier business grants and bolstering Commerce’s business resiliency network.

“We know this is hard on these small businesses, and we know that this will not fully solve the burden so many business owners are shouldering,” Brown said. “But it will help get some of them get through a difficult period. We are going to keep working with legislators, congress and other partners on securing additional support.”

The grants will be allocated first to businesses most impacted by both COVID-19 and the most recent measures taken to address public safety. Equity will also be a priority in making allocation decisions. In addition to the new funds, there will also be separate business support programs coming from local governments.

“This is a significant relief effort,” Inslee said. “I can’t say it’s going to help everyone, but I can say we are not done yet collaborating with our partners to find more funds.”

FULL-SERVICE SUPPLIER STEPS UP IN NORTH CAROLINA

In December, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper visited Gilero, a medical device manufacturer in Morrisville and Pittsboro that began making personal protective equipment when COVID-19 reached the United States. Gilero began by making face shields and has expanded their efforts to constructing negative pressure environments for hospital beds and packaging nasal swabs.

“We are glad so many companies like Gilero answered our call to begin making personal protective equipment when the pandemic hit,” Cooper said. “These supplies help us slow the spread of the virus and keep people safe.”

Since the start of the pandemic, Missouri has distributed over 19 million face coverings, 12 million procedure masks, one million face shields and other PPE supplies. The state partnered with companies like Gilero to distribute PPE across the state. Gilero has produced over 800,000 face shields for North Carolina and others.

“When the pandemic hit, we felt it was our moral and civic duty to help in some way. We expedited the design and manufacturing of the face shield. We’re grateful to Gov. Cooper and the Departments of Emergency Management and Health and Human Services for the opportunity to help protect the front line workers of North Carolina who risk so much each day to battle this virus,” said Gilero CEO Ted Mosler.

“We continue developing products to protect these workers, and now, to improve the rapid detection of the virus because our work force wants to use their skills and capabilities to make a difference,” he added.

County EDOs have been as busy as their state counterparts in setting up COVID-19 relief programs. Mecklenburg County, NC has created a Small Business Emergency Stabilization Loan Fund, partnering with the Carolina Small Business Development Fund to initiate a relief effort aimed at small businesses in the county that have been profitable for two years with 50 or less employees.

Mecklenburg County also has established a Microbusiness Stabilization Fund to mitigate the economic impacts caused by COVID-19 for the county’s most vulnerable businesses. Mecklenburg County has committed $1 million of readily available, federal CDBG funds to create the Fund. Microbusinesses in the County (excluding Charlotte and Mint Hill) with five or less employees may be eligible.

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