This is all surreal. We’ve faced power-outages, ice storms, and heavy snowfall, taking hold of life as we know it and bringing it to a screeching halt. We’ve been through recessions – every generation has – with durations from six months to several years. We have had epidemics sweep through our nation, some taking tens upon thousands of lives in their wake. Through it all, humankind has arisen from the most trying and difficult seasons; ever emerging from the ashes, looking up, and beginning again. We came through it because we pooled our resources, shared our ideas, looked for ways to help the less fortunate, held on to a determination to thrive, and a belief that we would make it.
The unknown is always a frightening thing. Not having an ‘end’ in sight makes it worse. But one thing we can most certainly bank on: we are ALL in this together. We are all worried about our health, our kids, our businesses, our jobs, and our finances. We are all scrambling to learn about resources that may be out there to help. We want to help everyone around us but we don’t even know how to help ourselves.
Those in the county know me as the chamber director. And I am, proudly. I love this county, its business owners, and its residents. I feel protective over all of it. I want to advocate for everyone and keep them safe. I don’t worry about my health or my wellbeing, I’ve got my faith for that. But my heart is heavy for those with whom I have had the privilege of building relationship. If anything keeps me up at night – that’s it.
I think about my one staff person, my retail business owners, my restaurant owners, and my salon owners. I think about every single healthcare worker I know; those on the front lines of all of this and pray for them continually. I think about the seniors in high school and college who have been robbed of their senior-year experience, and possibly their graduation experience. I think about the moms and dads who are now navigating through applying for unemployment while trying to home-school their kids. If only algebra was still taught the way it was taught when we were in school (but that’s another conversation for another time). We feel inadequate, and we are worried.
Federal, state, and local government have taken action by working with the SBA for emergency, working-capital, disaster-relief loans; by allowing greater flexibility in Maine’s Unemployment Insurance Program, and through Maine lenders, including banks and credit unions, by working with FAME partners to provide financial assistance to sole-proprietors across the state who may not have the ability to file for general unemployment. The Retail Association of Maine has created an extensive list of resources in one place for retailers. The IRS is allowing a delay of most tax payments until July 15th (though extension needs to be filed by 4/15). Stimulus bills and plans are on the table to help small business owners keep their employees through the crisis. And hopefully, Congress will do what’s right and use their resources, to the tune of 50 billion dollars, to rebalance the economy when all is said and done.
While we wait for the social distancing standard to be lifted so we can get back to some semblance of a normal life, know this: your local chamber is HERE for you. All chamber directors in Maine are communicating on a regular basis, a couple of times a week through conference calls, and constantly over FB groups and email. As soon as we hear about a new resource or we have a new idea, such as our Take-out & Delivery spin-off FB pages for restaurant owners, we share it with you via email or post it on our FB page. Our chamber’s new website will list all COVID resources we are aware of on our COVID-19 Updates page.
Call us. Share your ideas. Share your concerns. If you are not sure who to call for what, ask! We are immediately notified when the office receives a voicemail and will call you right back – or you can email me here, or call my personal cell at 207-299-8196. Seriously – don’t hesitate.
Today, we have to keep our distance, physically. But emotionally, mentally, and digitally, we don’t have to! Facetime someone, speak to them through a window, give them a call, or find other ways to check-in. Share positive news on your social media platforms. Encourage one another.
We are so blessed to live in a county where people care about people. It’s unique, and it’s pretty awesome if you ask me.
We will make it.
We will make it.
We will make it. And we will be stronger for it.
I believe that right down to the bone.
Will you believe it with me?