Perhaps the biggest stressor of this time is the uncertainty about how long this will last; how long we’ll remain socially distanced, when our health care facilities will experience manageable crowds and when employees can return to work. For many businesses, the slowdown is already being felt while others are bracing for impact. This is a type of economic uncertainty we haven’t faced before.
But Oklahomans are known for our resourcefulness and coming to the aid of our neighbors in times of hardship. There are resources available now and more are being developed to help businesses maintain payroll and operations.
A financial safety net for companies and nonprofits is the SBA Disaster Relief Loan Program that provides low-interest loans, up to $2 million, to help pay bills or meet payroll. The program offers loans with interest rates of 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for nonprofits. Businesses can start the application at www.sba.gov/disaster. Ray Little at the Oklahoma Department of Commerce can assist (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber’s COVID-19 page offers resources and industry-specific links to help organization leaders better understand and respond to COVID-19 (okcchamber.com).
For employees who are being laid off, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission provides unemployment benefits to qualified, unemployed individuals. Citizens can access the OESC claimant website at www.covidresources.ok.gov along with other state resources and links to related to COVID-19 response.
The United Way and Oklahoma City Community Foundation have both established new response funds to assist those in our community impacted by the virus, particularly those who are most vulnerable.
U.S. Congress signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act last week to provide paid sick leave, expanded food assistance, unemployment benefits and more. The Department of Labor has an explanation of the act www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employee-paid-leave.
One way we can all help small businesses in the weeks and months ahead is to order takeout from locally owned restaurants. The Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau has compiled a list of restaurants offering curbside and to go: visitokc.com/support-okc/restaurants. It seems like a small thing, but for these small businesses, just 10 more to-go orders a night can mean they keep one more worker employed.
And that is what has become known as the Oklahoma City standard: the compassion and help we offer each other. It’s how I know we’ll emerge from this time stronger than before.
Originally published in the Journal Record