By Joshua Manning
With many businesses reeling from the economic damage accompanying the COVID-19 virus pandemic, local chambers of commerce have stepped up to assist in any way they can.
“Our biggest focus right now is on our members and getting them the most up-to-date information — not only on COVID-19, but the financial assistance that the state and federal government is supplying,” said Mary Lou Bedford, CEO of the Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce.
Examples of this are the Governor’s Bridge Loan program and the Small Business Administration Loan program.
“On our web site, we have the applications right now on the landing page,” Bedford said. “We’ve also been sending out information on a daily basis with updates, and we’ve been offering webinars that the SBA has been putting on regarding how to complete the application.”
Like the rest of her staff, Bedford has been working remotely, with chamber’s office shut down for safety reasons. Nevertheless, she is doing her best to keep up with the fast-moving situation.
“I’ve been partaking in weekly conference calls from the Western Communities Council with local governments so that we can make sure that we are sending out similar messages, and they can utilize the chamber’s resources as well to get loan application messages out to our businesses,” she said.
The Central Palm Beach County Chamber is also participating in a weekly conference town hall put together by the Business Development Board.
“Last week, we had Sen. Rick Scott, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, Superintendent Dr. Donald Fennoy from the school district, County Administrator Verdenia Baker and others,” Bedford said. “These phone calls are giving weekly updates, so the chamber is aware of the assistance that is out there for businesses.”
She is also working closely with CareerSource Palm Beach County, which is helping employees and employers navigate this emergency. There are links to these services as well on the chamber’s web site at www.cpbchamber.com.
“We just want everyone to know that the chamber is here to help and support all businesses as we go through these challenging times,” Bedford said.
Michela Green, executive director of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, has been urging her member businesses to stay calm and continue operating to the best of their abilities under difficult circumstances.
“This is affecting everyone, and certainly do what you can to support your employees,” Green said. “A lot of people are running off skeleton staffs. We are trying to support restaurants through a takeout initiative. We are sending out a list of restaurants who do takeout at least twice a week.”
The Wellington Chamber is also running a campaign called “open for business,” she said.
“We are asking businesses to send us videos and/or graphics letting everyone know that they are open for business and what their new hours are, how to contact them, as well as anything special they may be doing right now,” Green said.
She has suggested that businesses keep in touch with current and potential clients so that they are ready to fully resume operations once the virus emergency has passed.
“Reach out to current client lists and potential client lists, and make sure they know that you are still available and there for them,” Green said.
Now is not the time to stop marketing campaigns, she added.
“We are urging people not to stop their advertising and marketing efforts,” Green said. “If you can, continue your social media outreach, continue your advertising and marketing, so that when this does pass, you are still on the forefront of everyone’s mind.”
Like the other chamber, Green has been referring businesses to state and federal assistance that may be available.
“We are referring people to the SBA disaster loan assistance program and asking them to please comply with all Palm beach County, State of Florida and Village of Wellington recommendations and safety precautions they have put into place for us,” Green said.
Visit www.wellingtonchamber.com to learn more about resources available through the Wellington Chamber of Commerce.