Dear Bend Business Owner,
There’s no getting around what an awful week this has been. I’ve been in touch with so many of you who have had no choice but to lay off valued employees and friends while confronting an uncertain future for your business.
I woke up last Tuesday morning to well over 150 responses to my Monday newsletter, plenty more have come in since. I’ve worked to respond to all of you; if I missed your message, please let me know by hitting reply to this email.
Let’s start with some good news: Access to Small Business Administration Disaster Relief Loans were approved for the State of Oregon this morning. Additional financial assistance from the federal government, including other loan programs, will also be accessible shortly for businesses in Bend. These updates hit my inbox while writing this message, as specifics come out I’ll have the details posted for you on bendoregon.gov/business/coronavirus-business-resources.
Here’s a rundown of things to know right now; expect plenty more as we work through this together:
What Should Your Business be Doing Now?
If you’re in a brick and mortar location, I know rent is on your mind. Our staff has spoken with a number of the region’s landlords and property managers; many have already reduced or waived rent due to the upheaval. If you haven’t already, please get in touch with your landlord to start these discussions — the sooner the better.
While access to federal loans is a good sign, these programs take time to release funds. If you have an existing relationship with a lender and need access to capital immediately, they’re your best bet. Banks have been responding to this crisis quickly: US Bank and Bank of America have already rolled out low-cost loan programs. We’re also hearing about payment and late fee waiver options from many financial institutions. Reach out to your lender to see what they can do for you.
City Council’s Emergency Declaration
Last Wednesday, the Bend City Council ratified an Emergency Declaration granting the City more leeway on a number of fronts including fee waivers, relaxation of city code or requirements and the development of business assistance programs.
Expect more news on business assistance. Right now, your city utility bills can be deferred with no late fees. Please call utility billing directly to discuss your account. The City has also waived requirements for temporary signs (banners and A-frames) if your business is still operating.
There’s more being done here. In the meantime, if you find a local barrier that’s hurting your business, please reach out to me and I’ll work to address your issue.
A message from Healthcare Providers
While we’re in the midst of an economic crisis, our healthcare providers are overwhelmed. We’ve been asked to share a few key points that employers can take to help reduce the demand on the health system:
- Instead of requiring return-to-work notes from healthcare providers, please follow CDC guidelines for employers about when a sick employee should return to the office.
- Encourage sick employees to stay home. If they’re experiencing the kind of symptoms that would normally lead to them seeking medical care, they should start with their primary care provider unless it’s an emergency.
- Asking to receive proof of negative COVID-19 test results before an employee returns to work is not feasible right now due to testing capacity. If your employee is showing symptoms, they should follow guidance from the CDC on staying isolated until no longer contagious.
Staying in Touch
I know many of you feel overwhelmed right now. We’re working to contact as many affected businesses directly to talk through what’s going on and connect you with resources. Right now, your feedback matters. The Economic Development department is working with local state legislators to provide initial input on state assistance for Bend businesses, and these conversations will continue.
If you have specific questions or just need to speak with someone, please send me a message. I, or another staff member on our Economic Development team, will follow up with you.
Thank you for all you do for Bend and the support you’re providing for each other during this trying time.
We’re all in this together,
Ben Hemson, Business Advocate, City of Bend