Daytonians are settling into the new normal of life during the coronavirus outbreak. Now that millions of Ohioans have been ordered to stay home, many businesses that rely on foot traffic face an increasingly uncertain future.
Gov. Mike DeWine’s Stay at Home order excludes what the state deems as essential businesses and services, such as medical care, food, shipping, and deliveries.
The exemptions were welcome news for C.J. Pennington, who manages a UPS Store in Fairborn.
"It was a relief because we're a small business, this is our livelihood, it's a family business here, too. The owners are my in-laws," he says, adding that the store has reduced some staff hours. "Some business is at least better than no business at all, right?"
Other small businesses in the Miami Valley aren’t so lucky right now.
"We're telling businesses, make sure you talk to every expert you have available to you and get a full picture of what is possible and where you can defer payments," says the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce’s Holly Allen.
The Chamber represents more than 2,200 large and small businesses in the Dayton metro region and the organization regularly updates a list of available employer-focused assistance on its dedicated coronavirus resource page.
Among the available resources are federal economic injury disaster loans from the United States Small Business Administration, which is offering shutdown-affected businesses up to $2 million. There are also lines of emergency credit.
Allen also points to the Chamber's list of subject-matter experts, including in the areas of employment law, taxes and human resources, who are available to assist business owners with any questions related to the coronavirus emergency.
To learn more about what’s being done to help struggling businesses survive the Coronavirus era of social distancing, WYSOs Jess Mador spoke with Allen, who says advocates are working as quickly as possible at the Ohio legislature and on Capitol Hill to mitigate the losses, particularly to the Dayton region’s hard-hit small business community.
What follows is a transcript of their conversation, edited for length and clarity.
ALLEN: A lot of the small businesses, restaurant, retail, they're really suffering, they're trying to figure out will they be able to keep their doors open when this is all said and done? And we're trying to get them every tool available to them so they can get through this and come out on the other side stronger.
MADOR: What are you hearing from some so-called essential businesses in your network? We've seen some job listings from manufacturing and logistics companies, retail giants like Kroger, Amazon, ALDI, they’re in a dramatically different situation. What are you seeing?
ALLEN: I can tell you about one example, one of our distributors just north of town, they were desperate to hire workers. So we put them in touch with our partners in the government sector because they are taking in those folks who are now applying for unemployment. I think we've seen those numbers because they've spiked over the last week or so in the state of Ohio, the number of people who are applying for unemployment, to make those connections with those organizations that are directly in contact with folks who are in need of unemployment right now. Hopefully they'll be able to make those connections with the industries that are hiring. So I think those industries not only number one, want to make connections with workers who are now in the job market, but then how do we get them in touch with the resources they need to quickly prepare those workers and train them so they can get them on the job as quickly as possible.
MADOR: I know the chamber's been in touch with businesses in this situation. So what are you hearing about how they're balancing the need to hire in great numbers to meet the demand for things like food, medicine and critical supplies while also keeping workers safe on the job?
ALLEN: What we've seen from businesses who've been really successful is, number one, you have someone who has been nominated as the person who is overseeing these efforts -- sanitation and keeping that personal distance -- and then they have someone enforcing it. You've got to make sure that you have one point of contact who is well-versed on what are the best practices and they're in charge of making sure that it's carried out. So the role we have played as we've we've gone to our member businesses and said, what have you learned along the way? What are some best practices that you can share? And then we've shared that with fellow business members.
MADOR: Even with some of the hiring we're seeing in the Miami Valley, I mean, there's no doubt the Coronavirus outbreak will have a major impact on the economy across southwest Ohio. Has the Chamber of Commerce managed to put a finger on what that number could be in terms of lost jobs, lost revenues, unemployment?
ALLEN: At this point we are just not able to quantify it. We don't know how long this [Stay At Home order] will go on. We know that April 6 is a date that's been set forth by the governor's office. But as we've seen from other countries around the world, those dates have been pushed back and we haven't ruled that out as a possibility. So I think it's just too soon to be able to put a number on it. I think what we have in our corner is the fact that our business community is, considering where Dayton has come from in the last year or so, unfortunately, I think the people who live in this region are even more so than other areas, conscious of the fact that it's up to us to support our small businesses. So, we have put the call out to everyone in the Dayton region: if you are in a position where you can support one of these small businesses, whether it's ordering carryout or buying a gift card or placing an online order, just make sure we're doing everything we can to support them. And every little step, every little thing you can offer will help these businesses to pull through.