March 20, 2020
As our country and our community quiets itself in an effort to “reduce the curve”, we are all concerned about how this worldwide pandemic will play out, both globally and locally. We are reminded to slow down, take pause, reduce our outward-facing, in-person connections, and focus on keeping our families and our community healthy. The Downtown Missoula Partnership will continue to be a source of information, helping people and businesses connect in ways that will help each other through this unprecedented period of time. This week the Missoula Economic Partnership and Missoula economist Bryce Ward offered some insight that might help us understand the impact on the local level and what we might do to help each other.
According to Ward, the impact for businesses will generally fall into one of these categories:
- Lost Business: think arts & culture, food & beverage
- Delayed Loss of Business: think of things we’ll consume after its over
- Unaffected Business: think mortgage, rent, utilities
- Boosted Business: think health care, financial services, groceries
The anticipated change could range somewhere between 3-12%, depending upon the business type and response. Arts and entertainment, hospitality, and retail – the frontline of the tourism industry – will likely see some of the most significant impacts. However, people will still consume the necessities.
Here are some suggestions for how we can help ourselves and each other over the coming weeks:
- It’s good to have a Rainy-Day Fund that can cover your expenses for about 12 weeks. Assemble your financial resources and planning with that goal in mind.
- Consider and consult with your current bankers, partners and vendors. Work together to help alleviate cash flow issues. Improve access to capital; pause mandatory payments; make it easier to borrow funds or refinance.
- Consider unemployment benefits, furloughs, comp time or other payroll arrangements to keep people employed.
- Look for new opportunities to build capacity for your business. What restaurants are currently doing in the realm of take-out and delivery is a good example. There will be new community needs as we navigate the next few months together.
As we pull together a list of the resources for small businesses negatively impacted by the spread of COVID-19, we anticipate there will be a trickle out of multiple sources over time. We anticipate the Missoula Economic Partnership will be a great resource in this area. In the meantime, here’s what we know so far: Governor Bullock has declared a State of Emergency to access additional funds. He has created a Coronavirus Task Force and website here.
It is recommended that anyone losing their jobs, temporarily or permanently, should apply for unemployment benefits. Please share this information with your employees and remind them to list COVID-19 as the reason for displacement. For more information on the Montana Department of Labor & Industry, or to apply for unemployment benefits. The State of Montana has modified the regulations to make the funds more accessible. You can learn more about that here.
The Montana Department of Commerce has acquired some emergency funds for small businesses. More information is provided here.
The Small Business Administration is offering both guidance and loan assistance. More information can be found here, or for the direct link to the disaster assistance loan program.
As in years past, United Way of Missoula County has an Emergency Fund and will be both collecting and distributing funds for those in need.
In summary, there is no one recommendation for all businesses. Each owner needs to assess and determine what’s best for his/her business. Creative entrepreneurship, adaptability, and resiliency are necessary right now, and our community’s health is the No. 1 priority. This is a good time to catch up on those bigger projects on your list, do your annual inventory, spring cleaning, or soak in some downtime with your families.
The Downtown Missoula Partnership will continue to communicate both with you and with our community about what our Downtown businesses are up to. Thank you for your continued care for our community.
Linda K. McCarthy