The drastic economic downturn communities are feeling is accelerating by the day as the spread of COVID-19 continues.
Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jason Smith says nowhere is this more true than local small businesses which have struggled in the past week, many shutting their doors to provide about half the service they would otherwise.
“Collectively, we have to figure out not just in Manhattan, but across the country, how do we come together and keep those businesses open. They’re so important to the social fabric of our community. We have to find a way to help those businesses, help them stay open and keep people employed,” he said.
Smith says the chamber supports the stimulus bill that’s been debated this week in the U.S. Senate with measures to help businesses keep from going under.
“We’re hopeful they’ll move forward on that, in some manner, whether it’s loans for small business to help them through and that does provide a lot of flexibility, or not paying the with-holdings so that they can continue to try to keep people on. We have to move and we have to move now,” he said.
The Chamber says most Manhattan businesses are taking things day-by-day, awaiting the response from the federal government.
Businesses have seen their models altered within the past week, some closing doors to providing online service only to some shutting down altogether to save overhead costs, hopeful for things to calm down. As for retailers and grocers, Smith says he believes they’ll still be able to meet customers’ needs, despite shortages of key items.
“Part of the information that we signed onto that the U.S. Chamber put out in terms of putting a relief package out has to do with making sure the supply chain stays where people can deliver. Yes in the short-term there are some challenges but there’s nothing that should prevent being restocked. But things change on a daily basis, so I’d encourage people to be aware,” he said.
Smith says he discourages panic buying, saying it hurts the community more than it helps.
The Chamber also announced late Thursday plans to close its lobby to walk-in traffic beginning Friday after urging from the Riley County Health Department and government officials.