COVID-19: Business Triage

A Letter from President & CEO of Pickens County Chamber of Commerce


Dear Community of Pickens County, 

With the spread of COVID-19, it is imperative for our business community to make fact-based decisions to keep our local economy strong while also taking precautions to protect all employees and the Pickens County community.

-   Below you will read a Coronavirus Update with guidelines of protecting your business and workforce during the COVID-19 Outbreak.

-   Below you will also read a statement from the Small Business Development Center and how they can help small businesses during this time.

The Pickens County Chamber of Commerce will continue to communicate innovative ways many local businesses are adapting during this time. Please send us your updates by calling directly or email to info@pickenschamber.com.  Also, allow us to serve you in these days with information and connection to other businesses. Contact us at 706.692.5600 as we are ready and eager to continue to serve you during these times.

Please consider continuing to support our small business community during this time while also protecting yourself and others in the community. Some considerations are:

  • Purchase a gift certificate from a small business over the phone for later use.

  • Purchase an item over the phone and pick-up curbside.

  • Purchase meals for curbside pick-up or have them delivered to you.

     

Thank you for your continued support of the Pickens County Chamber of Commerce. It is our honor and privilege to serve you.

 

Sincerely,

Amberle Godfrey

President & CEO

 

 

  • Local Assistance 

    SBA works with a number of local partners to counsel, mentor, and train small businesses. The SBA has 68 District Offices, as well as support provided by its Resource Partners, such as SCORE offices, Women’s Business Centers, Small Business Development Centers and Veterans Business Outreach Centers. When faced with a business need, use the SBA’s Local Assistance Directory to locate the office nearest you.

  • Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program

    Find more information on the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans at: SBA.gov/Disaster.

    The SBA will work directly with state Governors to provide targeted, low-interest loans to small businesses and non-profits that have been severely impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million that can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing. 

     

  • Access to Capital

    SBA provides a number of loan resources for small businesses to utilize when operating their business. For more information on loans or how to connect with a lender, visit: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans.

    How to get access to lending partners?  SBA has developed Lender Match, a free online referral tool that connects small businesses with participating SBA-approved lenders within 48 hours.

    • 7(a) program offers loan amounts up to $5,000,000 and is an all-inclusive loan program deployed by lending partners for eligible small businesses within the U.S. States and its territories. The uses of proceeds include: working capital; expansion/renovation; new construction; purchase of land or buildings; purchase of equipment, fixtures; lease-hold improvements; refinancing debt for compelling reasons; seasonal line of credit; inventory; or starting a business.
    • Express loan program provides loans up to $350,000 for no more than 7 years with an option to revolve. There is a turnaround time of 36 hours for approval or denial of a completed application. The uses of proceeds are the same as the standard 7(a) loan.
    • Community Advantage loan pilot program allows mission-based lenders to assist small businesses in underserved markets with a maximum loan size of $250,000. The uses of proceeds are the same as the standard 7(a) loan.
    • 504 loan program is designed to foster economic development and job creation and/or retention. The eligible use of proceeds is limited to the acquisition or eligible refinance of fixed assets.
    • Microloan program involves making loans through nonprofit lending organizations to underserved markets. Authorized use of loan proceeds includes working capital, supplies, machinery & equipment, and fixtures (does not include real estate). The maximum loan amount is $50,000 with the average loan size of $14,000.

     

  • Exporting Assistance

    SBA provides export loans to help small businesses achieve sales through exports and can help these businesses respond to opportunities and challenges associated with trade, such as COVID-19. The loans are available to U.S. small businesses that export directly overseas, or those that export indirectly by selling to a customer that then exports their products.

    • Export Express loan program allows access to capital quickly for businesses that need financing up to $500,000. Businesses can apply for a line of credit or term note prior to finalizing an export sale or while pursuing opportunities overseas, such as identifying a new overseas customer should an export sale be lost due to COVID-19.
    • Export Working Capital program enables small businesses to fulfill export orders and finance international sales by providing revolving lines of credit or transaction-based financing of up to $5 million. Businesses could use a loan to obtain or retain overseas customers by offering attractive payment terms.
    • International Trade loan program helps small businesses engaged in international trade to retool or expand to better compete and react to changing business conditions. It can also help exporting firms to expand their sales to new markets or to re-shore operations back to the U.S.
  • Government Contracting

    SBA is focused on assisting with the continuity of operations for small business contracting programs and small businesses with federal contracts. For more information on federal contracting, visit https://www.sba.gov/federal-contracting/contracting-guide

    More specifically:

    • 8(a) Business Development program serves to help provide a level playing field for small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged people or entities, and the government limits competition for certain contracts to businesses that participate. The 8(a) program offer and acceptance process is available nationwide, and the SBA continues to work with federal agencies to ensure maximum practicable opportunity to small businesses. 8(a) program participants should stay in touch with their Business Opportunity Specialist (BOS).

    • HUBZone program offers eligibility assistance every Thursday from 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET at 1-202-765-1264; access code 63068189#.  Members of the HUBZone team answer questions to help firms navigate the certification process.  For specific questions regarding an application, please contact the HUBZone Help Desk at hubzone(at)sba.gov.

    • Women-owned Small Business firms who have questions, please visit www.sba.gov/wosbready or write to wosb(at)sba.gov.

    If a situation occurs that will prevent small businesses with government contracts from successfully performing their contract, they should reach out to their contracting officer and seek to obtain extensions before they receive cure notices or threats of termination. The SBA’s Procurement Center Representatives can assist affected small businesses to engage with their contracting officer. Use the Procurement Center Representative Directory to connect with the representative nearest you.

    Gov. Kemp submitted U.S. Small Business Administration disaster declaration paperwork to help small businesses. Read more here.

Click here to learn more about Georgia Power's press release!

The Small Business Development Center understands that many small businesses will suffer a decline in business as a result of  COVID-19.  Social distancing protocols are an important part of controlling the spread of the virus, but may also have an unintended significant negative impact on business activity.   We are here to help with no-cost, one-on-one counseling services and can accommodate with teleconferencing in lieu of face-to-face meetings. As we are funded by the SBA and the University of Georgia, these services are provided at no cost to the business owner.   Our focus during this unique and challenging time is helping small businesses with a tactical plan, cash flow issues, and connecting them with the resources that may be of help.   We have three experienced business consultants on staff who have the experience to help small business during challenging times.  Appointments may be scheduled by calling 706-622-2006 or by emailing rome@georgiasbdc.org.  Other resources are available at https://georgiasbdc.org .

Recommended strategies for employers to use now:

 

 

  • Actively encourage sick employees to stay home: Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F [38.0° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants). Employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
  • Ensure that your sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies.
  • Talk with companies that provide your business with contract or temporary employees about the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive leave policies.
  • Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work, as healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.
  • Employers should maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member. Employers should be aware that more employees may need to stay at home to care for sick children or other sick family members than is usual.
    • Separate sick employees: CDC recommends that employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately. Sick employees should cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or an elbow or shoulder if no tissue is available).
     
    • Perform routine environmental cleaning: Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.
    • No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended at this time.
    • Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks) can be wiped down by employees before each use.
    • Additional Measures in Response to Currently Occurring Sporadic Importations of the COVID-19: Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
    • If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employees exposed to a co-worker with confirmed COVID-19 should refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
    • Emphasize staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees: Place posters that encourage staying home when sickcough and sneeze etiquette, and hand hygiene at the entrance to your workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.
    • Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees.
    • Instruct employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95% alcohol, or wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty.
    • Provide soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs in the workplace. Ensure that adequate supplies are maintained. Place hand rubs in multiple locations or in conference rooms to encourage hand hygiene.
    • Advise employees before traveling to take certain steps: Check the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices for the latest guidance and recommendations for each country to which you will travel. Specific travel information for travelers going to and returning from China, and information for aircrew, can be found at on the CDC website.
    • Advise employees to check themselves for symptoms of acute respiratory illness before starting travel and notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
    • Ensure employees who become sick while traveling or on temporary assignment understand that they should notify their supervisor and should promptly call a healthcare provider for advice if needed.
    • If outside the United States, sick employees should follow your company’s policy for obtaining medical care or contact a healthcare provider or overseas medical assistance company to assist them with finding an appropriate healthcare provider in that country. A U.S. consular officer can help locate healthcare services. However, U.S. embassies, consulates, and military facilities do not have the legal authority, capability, and resources to evacuate or give medicines, vaccines, or medical care to private U.S. citizens overseas.

 

 

 

Planning Considerations

All employers need to consider how best to decrease the spread of acute respiratory illness and lower the impact of COVID-19 in their workplace in the event of an outbreak in the US. They should identify and communicate their objectives, which may include one or more of the following: (a) reducing transmission among staff, (b) protecting people who are at higher risk for adverse health complications, (c) maintaining business operations, and (d) minimizing adverse effects on other entities in their supply chains. Some of the key considerations when making decisions on appropriate responses are:

  • Disease severity (i.e., number of people who are sick, hospitalization and death rates) in the community where the business is located;
  • Impact of disease on employees that are vulnerable and may be at higher risk for COVID-19 adverse health complications. Inform employees that some people may be at higher risk for severe illness, such as older adults and those with chronic medical conditions.
  • Prepare for possible increased numbers of employee absences due to illness in employees and their family members, dismissals of early childhood programs and K-12 schools due to high levels of absenteeism or illness:
    • Employers should plan to monitor and respond to absenteeism at the workplace. Implement plans to continue your essential business functions in case you experience higher than usual absenteeism.
    • Cross-train personnel to perform essential functions so that the workplace is able to operate even if key staff members are absent.
    • Assess your essential functions and the reliance that others and the community have on your services or products. Be prepared to change your business practices if needed to maintain critical operations (e.g., identify alternative suppliers, prioritize customers, or temporarily suspend some of your operations if needed).
  • Employers with more than one business location are encouraged to provide local managers with the authority to take appropriate actions outlined in their business infectious disease outbreak response plan based on the condition in each locality.
  • Coordination with state and local health officials is strongly encouraged for all businesses so that timely and accurate information can guide appropriate responses in each location where their operations reside. Since the intensity of an outbreak may differ according to geographic location, local health officials will be issuing guidance specific to their communities.

 

Important Considerations for Creating an Infectious Disease Outbreak Response Plan

All employers should be ready to implement strategies to protect their workforce from COVID-19 while ensuring continuity of operations. During a COVID-19 outbreak, all sick employees should stay home and away from the workplace, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene should be encouraged, and routine cleaning of commonly touched surfaces should be performed regularly.

 

Employers should:

  • Ensure the plan is flexible and involve your employees in developing and reviewing your plan.
  • Conduct a focused discussion or exercise using your plan, to find out ahead of time whether the plan has gaps or problems that need to be corrected.
  • Share your plan with employees and explain what human resources policies, workplace and leave flexibilities, and pay and benefits will be available to them.
  • Share best practices with other businesses in your communities (especially those in your supply chain), chambers of commerce, and associations to improve community response efforts.

 

Recommendations for an Infectious Disease Outbreak Response Plan:

  • Identify possible work-related exposure and health risks to your employees. OSHA has more information on how to protect workers from potential exposures external icon to COVID-19.
  • Review human resources policies to make sure that policies and practices are consistent with public health recommendations and are consistent with existing state and federal workplace laws (for more information on employer responsibilities, visit the Department of Labor’s external icon and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s external icon websites).
  • Explore whether you can establish policies and practices, such as flexible worksites (e.g., telecommuting) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts), to increase the physical distance among employees and between employees and others if state and local health authorities recommend the use of social distancing strategies. For employees who are able to telework, supervisors should encourage employees to telework instead of coming into the workplace until symptoms are completely resolved. Ensure that you have the information technology and infrastructure needed to support multiple employees who may be able to work from home.
  • Identify essential business functions, essential jobs or roles, and critical elements within your supply chains (e.g., raw materials, suppliers, subcontractor services/products, and logistics) required to maintain business operations. Plan for how your business will operate if there is increasing absenteeism or these supply chains are interrupted.
  • Set up authorities, triggers, and procedures for activating and terminating the company’s infectious disease outbreak response plan, altering business operations (e.g., possibly changing or closing operations in affected areas), and transferring business knowledge to key employees. Work closely with your local health officials to identify these triggers.
  • Plan to minimize exposure between employees and also between employees and the public, if public health officials call for social distancing.
  • Establish a process to communicate information to employees and business partners on your infectious disease outbreak response plans and latest COVID-19 information. Anticipate employee fear, anxiety, rumors, and misinformation, and plan communications accordingly.
  • In some communities, early childhood programs and K-12 schools may be dismissed, particularly if COVID-19 worsens. Determine how you will operate if absenteeism spikes from increases in sick employees, those who stay home to care for sick family members, and those who must stay home to watch their children if dismissed from school. Businesses and other employers should prepare to institute flexible workplace and leave policies for these employees.
  • Local conditions will influence the decisions that public health officials make regarding community-level strategies; employers should take the time now to learn about plans in place in each community where they have a business.
  • If there is evidence of a COVID-19 outbreak in the US, consider canceling non-essential business travel to additional countries per travel guidance on the CDC website.
    • Travel restrictions may be enacted by other countries which may limit the ability of employees to return home if they become sick while on travel status.
    • Consider cancelling large work-related meetings or events.
  • Engage state and local health departments to confirm channels of communication and methods for dissemination of local outbreak information. When working with your local health department check their available hours.
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ADDRESS:    500 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Jasper, GA 30143

PHONE:        706.692.5600

FAX:              706.692.9453

Email:           info(at)pickenschamber.com

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