It is a difficult time. That is undeniable. It is in these difficult times that the ingenuity of Eagle County business owners and public officials must be harnessed to arrive at a solution that prioritizes human life and the general social and economic welfare.
The federal government took unprecedented steps to support employers and individuals during the current shutdown. These programs will need to be modified and to some extent extended and targeted to assist those businesses and individuals who will remain under distress during a phased or gradual reopening.
As I write this, the funds in the Paycheck Protection Program, the emergency small business lending program, have run out – for now. Yet we know how important this funding and assistance is to small businesses. We hear from them every working hour of every day.
The scale of the crisis demands another economic relief package. In addition to fighting today’s battles, we continue to inform our congressional and senate leadership about how CARES is coming to ground, and advocate for additional investments in small business relief, worker support, and local and state government fiscal stabilization in the next package.
Given early indications of the way the CARES Act is being implemented across the country, additional funds are needed. The staggering unemployment figures underscore the need for bridge funding to keep more Americans on the job and more businesses afloat during the coronavirus economic crisis. There is absolutely no excuse for failing to get these funds approved immediately.
We expect Congress to display the kind of bipartisan cooperation they displayed in getting the CARES Act done, because we know that every hour, every day counts for small businesses in Eagle County and around the nation in trying to pay their employees and stay afloat. Now is not the time for partisan politics; now is the time to get support to our people and our businesses so folks can get back to work.
What will a return to work look like? That is the question weighing heavily on the minds of government leaders and public health officials, employers and their employees, and those striving for the delicate balance of staying safe and making ends meet. We applaud local officials decision and Governor Polis’ support to ‘re-open’ Eagle County in a thoughtful, pragmatic, and phased approach.
Opening our economy is a question that begs more questions. But this much is increasingly certain: returning to work will be gradual, phased-in, and will vary by factors such as location, sector, business type or size, and the health status of workers. It also will require continued social distancing, expanded use of personal protective equipment, and other counter measures.
A return to work and our economic re-opening boils down to the ‘Four C’s’ of cash, customers, communication and confidence. Public officials need to understand the importance of the Four C’s to our business community; and our business community needs to understand the importance of maintaining social distancing and following public health guidelines. During the period where occupancy and gatherings are numerically restricted, our businesses should be provided with Federal bridge assistance and local/state support to enable them to remain viable. Together, we can build confidence and follow the data to thoughtfully guide our decisions.
At Vail Valley Partnership, we lead these advocacy efforts because the chamber is community. Whether in times of prosperity or times of crisis, we are with you on the front lines, leading the way and making sure our community emerges stronger than ever.
Chris Romer is president & CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com