A community rising to the challenge of COVID-19

The global COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything our community has experienced since, perhaps, World War II. The scale of the economic and social upheaval is far and wide, and more than a little unnerving for us all. Many families are struggling during this time.

But in the same way our parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents rose to meet the challenges of their day, we must do the same.

At the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, we have marshaled our collective resources to assist our elected officials, and business and community leaders in safely navigating these turbulent conditions. That means serving as a repository for the latest information for employers, businesses and residents; as a matchmaker, working to link financially stressed organizations with economic relief programs; and as a convener by hosting online forums for leaders and experts to engage directly with the public.

On the business front, the Economic Development (ED) Group has worked closely with the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and the I-69 Thumb Region to the deliver emergency grants and loans to the local businesses. Last week, 52 small businesses in Flint and Genesee County were awarded $5,000 grants each from the Michigan Small Business Relief Program. The recipients were from a variety of industries, including construction, childcare, food and beverage, retail, professional services, manufacturing, automotive repair and recreation.

That was just a start. Our ED team is a tireless advocate for helping small businesses tap other resources to mitigate the financial damage caused by the COVID-19 virus, such as the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, each administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

However, the Chamber’s advocacy and mobilization efforts extend beyond serving the interests of business and employers. We are monitoring state and federal agencies to collect and share information about expanded unemployment benefits for workers, including self-employed individuals, affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

And although the Chamber suspended its robust YouthQuest and TeenQuest programs indefinitely following the statewide closure of all K-12 school 10 buildings, our Education & Training Group remains in communication with the students and families that we serve.

The most recent issue of Afterschool Download, the Chamber’s monthly electronic newsletter for families in the program, contained a wealth of information about community resources, including:

Meals

• Genesee County Intermediate School District – GISD is distributing breakfast and lunch at multiple sites. Additionally, the district is maintaining a list of different distribution locations and times from schools/districts throughout Genesee County. • Flint YMCA Feeding Our Community – Operating seven days a week, the

YMCA provides dinner for anyone in need at eight locations.

Educational Resources

• Khan Academy – This free resource is designed for learners of all ages. In light of the recent school closures, the website now offers schedule templates that can adopt as is or modified to better suit the needs of children.

Internet

Qualifying families are eligible for 60 days of free Internet through Comcast Internet Essentials and Charter Spectrum.

Personal Care Items

Catholic Charities of Shiawassee and Genesee County – This local nonprofit offers a variety of services and resources, ranging from toiletries to household goods.

In addition, the Greater Flint Urgent Relief Fund was established by the Community Foundation of Greater Flint in partnership with United Way of Genesee County in mid-March by a coalition of philanthropic, government and business partners, in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The fund recently awarded $120,000 to four nonprofit organizations providing services to vulnerable populations in our community.

I also want to acknowledge the outstanding, heroic work of our healthcare workers, who are on the frontlines in combatting the virus. Their selfless service is greatly appreciated.

This sampling of our pandemic-response efforts is not simply a matter of us just doing our jobs. This is our community, too – home to our families, friends and colleagues. And because we care deeply about the people of Genesee County, we are inspired to meet the challenge of our day.

Tim Herman is the CEO of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.