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Column: Supporting local businesses is crucial

The efforts to suppress the coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease it causes, are having an unprecedented effect on our local businesses, nonprofit organizations and communities. As businesses temporarily close, whether due to customers self-quarantining or state government orders (as in the case of restaurants), our local economy is being impacted greatly. Now more than ever, supporting local businesses is crucial.

How can you support local businesses when you are practicing social distancing and avoiding public spaces?

In many cases, you can still shop local. Many restaurants are offering delivery or curbside pick-up. Many shops are also offering to deliver items purchased online or via telephone to a curbside pick-up, by mail or by delivery.

If you don’t need an item now, consider purchasing a gift card from your favorite restaurant, shop, gym, hairstylist or other service. The businesses receive some money now to help them bridge the crisis, and you can use your gift card later when this crisis passes.

Be understanding of a business that has limited hours. Business owners are facing the same restrictions as everyone else — their kids are home from school, and they may have had to reduce their staff. If they don’t answer quickly, try them again in a few hours. Watch their social media or websites for updates.

If you have purchased tickets to a show or fundraising event that has been canceled, consider not asking for a refund. The nonprofit organizations coordinating the events likely have contracts and deposits that still need to be paid, whether the event happens or not — and they were counting on the funds raised to serve their mission and keep their doors open. The loss of revenue from a canceled event can devastate an organization. These organizations are often the backbone of our communities. They provide for our neighbors in need and they raise the quality of life for us all. Indeed, they may be working double time to address issues during this crisis. Instead of a refund, consider your ticket a donation. When this crisis passes — and it will — we need these organizations to resume their operations.

Several local organizations in the Upper Valley have partnered to support and assist our business community. Together, we are working on providing resources and information to our businesses and organizations. Our efforts add to those of municipal, state and federal governments. Our goal is to help our businesses and local economy survive this crisis and recover when the crisis is over. But we need everyone’s help to keep our businesses vital. Together, we are stronger.

Elyse Crossman is executive director of the Greater Claremont Chamber of Commerce. Ruth Ann Hacking is executive director of the Cohase Chamber of Commerce. PJ Skehan is executive director of the Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce. Ashlee Rowley is director of member and visitor services for Lake Sunapee Region Chamber of Commerce. Monique Priestley is executive director of The Space on Main in Bradford, Vt. Caitlin Christiana is executive director of the Springfield (Vt.) Regional Chamber of Commerce. Tracy Hutchins is executive director of the Upper Valley Business Alliance. Tom Roberts is executive director of Vital Communities and Elizabeth Finlayson is executive director of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce.

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