March 23, 2020
With 1 in 4 Americans and 80 million citizens in statewide lockdowns in 5 states (New York, California, New Jersey, Illinois and Connecticut), the nation is instituting dramatic measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Information is the key to knowing how to play our part in containing this threat, and ensuring that our concern over our loved ones doesn’t turn into fear. For our citizens here in Southern Arizona, it may be confusing to know where to turn for information so I wanted to make some information available in one convenient location. For information from our key levels of government:
- US Government: https://coronavirus.gov;and https://www.cdc.gov/;
- State of Arizona: https://az.gov/government-0;
COVID-19 State Hotline: 1-844-542-8201 to reach a health care professional, or dial 2-1-1 for the most up-to-date information available
- Pima County: https://Pima.gov/covid19;
- City of Tucson: https://www.tucsonaz.gov/manager/covid-19-updates
Most immediately, I want to provide direction to help for our small business community in Southern Arizona, which has been crippled by restrictions related to curbing the spread of the pandemic. Never has this critical part of our community been hit with a more devastating perfect storm – a global national disaster where government itself has required much of the small business sector to shut down. As citizens, we ALL need to consider how to support our small business community – especially our hospitality industry where so many businesses are small and family-owned. Here are some resources, and I will post more as time goes by.
The Congress and the President have been working on relief for businesses in light of the pandemic restrictions. This is coming in 3 different legislative actions.
On March 4th, the US House passed the first emergency coronavirus spending act – the bill includes $8.3 billion in new discretionary spending to bolster vaccine development, research, equipment stockpiles and state and local health budgets. $400 million+ would be shipped to state and local governments and provides $3.1 billion for medical supplies, including $100M for community health centers. About $826 million goes to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to develop coronavirus vaccines, treatments and tests. The Centers for Disease Control gets $2.2 billion, including $950 million to support the response efforts of state and local health agencies. Importantly, the Small Business Administration would receive $136M to increase loans given to businesses affected by the outbreak. $300M is also goes to ensure that any vaccine is available to all Americans regardless of their ability to pay.
On March 18th, the US Senate passed and President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that ensures free COVID-19 testing for all, provides $1B in additional funding for food assistance programs (school lunch, emergency food assistance, aging and disability programs, and women, infants and children nutrition programs), provides 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for employees of companies with less than 500 employees – if they have COVID-19, are adhering to quarantines or caring for an afflicted family member, or for a child whose school or child care is closed. It provides tax credits to employers to offset the costs of emergency sick leave.
Last afternoon, the US Senate failed to pass a $1.8 trillion package that Democrats unanimously opposed and failed because 5 GOP US Senators were not on hand to vote largely due to coronavirus quarantines, including US Senator Rand Paul and others. Republicans had sought for $1200 rebate checks to Americans, with 3 months of unemployment insurance, while Democrats sought 4 months and used that to hold up the Senate passage. I’ll keep you posted on developments but hopefully Senator McSally can help bring this home for us! More information on resources available to small businesses affected by the crisis can be found at:
- US Government: https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources
- Tucson Chamber of Commerce: https://tucsonchamber.org/covid19/
- Sierra Vista Chamber of Commerce: https://www.sierravistaareachamber.com/covid-19.html
- Cochise County: Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation, https://www.aredf.org/;
I also want to encourage folks to consider making blood donations (https://www.redcrossblood.org) and contributing cleaning supplies to the Easter Seals/Blake Foundation (https://www.easterseals.com/blakefoundation/)!