The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on millions of people across the nation and has caused massive damage to the national economy.
Its impacts on the local economy have also been enormous — from much needed revenue lost from the ensuing shutdowns, fear of the virus to sharp and sudden increases in expenses to comply with ever-changing safety mandates.
Local leaders say that while social distancing and quarantines have helped to keep many safe, they have also significantly curtailed local business operations, many of which are now at risk of going out of business. To help small businesses that may be struggling, the Rome Area Chamber of Commerce has begun a grant program, said Adam Hovak, chairman of the chamber’s Board of Directors.
Although the program, unveiled Tuesday, is new; helping the community in times of need is not for the chamber or its membership. Since its inception in 1912, the Rome Area Chamber of Commerce’s mission, has been to provide business advocacy and to promote and encourage economic growth in the Rome area.
“As an organization, we believe it is within our mission and duty to help businesses struggling through the pandemic, which is why we are introducing the Rome Area Chamber of Commerce Business Assistance Fund (BAF),” said Hovak. “We’re excited that the BAF will provide monetary grants to member businesses who can demonstrate a financial hardship caused by the pandemic.”
The BAF is designed to be a streamlined application process to efficiently get funds to those who need it as quickly as possible.
To kick off this effort, the chamber has seeded the BAF with $5,000 and raised nearly another $25,000 from individuals and businesses that are fortunate enough to be able to help, Hovak said, adding that 100% of all contributions will go directly to local struggling small businesses that need help the most.
Contributions are still being accepted, Hovak said, and businesses are encouraged to contact the chamber office for more information.
“Awards will likely range from $500 and up, and our executive committee will evaluate applications and make awards based on the needs and funding available,” said Hovak. “All Rome area employers facing pandemic-related hardships are encouraged to apply. Preference will be given to those with a current or past chamber relationship.”
Chamber President William K. Guglielmo said the chamber established the fund because small businesses and organizations are essential to the continued viability and long-term growth of Rome.
“In addition to being fundamental sources of employment, they add significantly to the economy of our community and its desirability as an attractive place to live, work, thrive, and raise a family,” Guglielmo said. “Business people and individuals in our community have a long and proud tradition of stepping up and assisting when help is needed, and the chamber is proud to be administering the Business Assistance Fund in furtherance of its motto: ‘Our Business Is Helping Your Business.’”
Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo commended the chamber’s efforts in stepping up to help local small businesses, which are the “backbone” of not only the community, but the nation’s economy.
“I think it’s terrific that they put this program together and it’s all private funding,” said Izzo. “Small business is definitely the backbone of Rome, but also the country.”
Small business “has been hurt very badly throughout the pandemic, from opening and closing to the many restrictions — so it’s very comforting to know that representatives of the business community stepped up in big way to help out. It’s something government is not able to do with direct funding. So now we can get real relief to more local business people.”
To apply, the application is available at http://www.romechamber.com/BAF.