Supporting Your Community During COVID-19

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By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

Constantly refreshing CNN.com and other outlets for the latest updates on COVID-19 can create enormous distress as the number of people infected and killed by this terrible outbreak steadily climbs. More coverage is now also focusing on the massive number of small business owners and employees that are losing their jobs and income streams due to the pandemic. Small business is the backbone of our communities and it’s in real trouble.
What You Can Do

Countless restaurants, coffee shops, gyms, and downtown store fronts are closely monitoring their resources and calculating how long they can weather the storm. The good news is that there are ways to support these groups even during social isolation measures. This includes:
- Purchase gift cards now for later use. The Gannett company (owners of USA Today and other media outlets) introduced the website supportlocal.usatoday.com to encourage patrons to purchase gift cards from their favorite local establishments to use at a later time once social distancing measures are no longer in place.
- Order delivery from restaurants that no longer offer in-house dining. Many restaurants are now offering delivery that didn’t in the past. This includes deliveries to more rural areas.
- Seek out local businesses when shopping online. Search for local vendors before defaulting to mass distribution websites. A number of local bookstores and clothing stores have gone to 100% online sales.
- Take virtual classes offered in your area. Many of these are set up as donation-only services so your dollars go to worthy local entities.
- Donate online to local charities. Use Go Fund Me and other sites to donate money to needy individuals and groups in your area.

The Role of Corporate Leaders to Support Their Employees

Corporate leaders have a special responsibility to support the communities that support them. A number of executives are enacting new policies to help their employees in their areas (https://abcnews.go.com).
- Kroger is offering bonuses to employees working during this crisis and paid time off for any testing positive for COVID-19.
- Darden restaurants are providing paid sick leave for every one of its hourly team members not already covered by a policy.
- Chipotle is offering wellness checks, paid sick leave starting on the first day of employment, air treatment systems, and Purell sanitizer for employees and guests. –
- Starbucks is offering catastrophe pay for baristas exposed to the virus which may extend to 26 weeks.
- Walmart is implementing an emergency leave policy for the company's 1.4 million hourly workers effective immediately.
- CVS is now offering bonuses to all people working in stores during this time.


We all play a role in supporting our communities during this difficult and dangerous time. As individuals, we can take the steps outlined above to support local business. Corporate executives can also follow the examples listed here to support their employees. Together we can do our part to try and sustain local businesses in our communities during this pandemic.