The COVID-19 pandemic is not ending anytime soon. The summer lull in the pandemic has given way to a viral vengeance due to the new Delta variant. Case counts continue to rise across the United States with North Dakota coming in second in the number of per capita cases.
The Delta variant has created further uncertainty for many small businesses that were slowly returning to normal – or, at least, a new normal – earlier this year. As case counts rise, many business owners are reintroducing mitigation strategies to protect employees and customers from getting ill. This would be a priority under normal circumstances. But, as we all know, nothing has been normal since March 2020.
The pandemic’s new wave comes at a time when almost every business is grappling with severe, persistent, and growing worker shortages. Many service sector businesses – restaurants, bars, and grocery stores especially- are cutting back on hours due to inadequate staffing so keeping the staff a business already has safe and healthy takes on even greater importance.
Funds available for small businesses in ten-county region
Lewis & Clark Regional Development Council (RDC) was awarded $400,000 through the federal CARES ACT to help coordinate a response to the pandemic’s economic effects within Burleigh, Emmons, Grant, Kidder, McLean, Mercer, Morton, Oliver, Sheridan, and Sioux counties.
Ashley Hruby, LCD Group CARES Act coordinator, says CARES Act funds are still available to help small businesses tackle COVID-19.
“There was an urgency at the start of the pandemic last spring that carried through the summer of 2020. As conditions temporarily improved, we saw a decrease in applications from small businesses for assistance. The Delta variant is forcing many businesses to go back to adopting mitigation strategies,” says Hruby.
Possible uses for funds
While mitigation strategies are not necessarily the same as they were for many small businesses at the start of the pandemic, Hruby says CARES Act funds cover a range of approaches, among them:
- Remodeling businesses to promote social distancing;
- purchasing equipment to allow for remote work; and
- buying and installing equipment and barriers to limit personal contact.
Hruby adds there is some degree of flexibility built into the program to allow for small businesses to use funds to meet their unique needs.
“What works for one business may not work for another. It doesn’t matter. We will visit with businesses to discuss ways in which the funds may be used to help keep their employees and customers safe and their businesses open,” says Hruby who adds funds are available until they are used up.
Small businesses in the ten-county region are encouraged to contact Hruby at (701) 667-7607 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.