Viewpoint: Road to relief may be long but coming together is key
By Katie K. Wilkinson
As families prepare to celebrate the holidays together, Gov. John Carney has announced additional COVID-related restrictions, in direct response to the growing number of positive tests, increasing hospitalizations, and unfortunately, deaths in Delaware and around the country.
The economic impact of the pandemic and the ongoing, crushing effects of further restrictions will be felt across the state for an extended period of time. Recovery will take time but not without devastating losses; sadly, we will lose more people and businesses. That is what makes this all so hard. There is no crystal ball telling us the right decisions and no way of knowing when our “new normal” will begin. Until it does, we must continue to show resolve and stay connected as a state and a community in order to stay healthy, mitigate the spread of the virus, and support our business community and health care industries across the state.
On June 1, Gov. Carney announced the creation of the Pandemic Resurgence Advisory Committee (PRAC). The goals of the PRAC were clearly outlined for each of the subcommittees named:
- For the Health subcommittee: Develop a health care and public health strategy that is ready in the case of a resurgence.
- For the Business subcommittee: Identify tactics and resources to help manage a resurgence on topics to include testing capabilities, personal protective equipment (PPE), social distancing, and economic recovery.
- For the Equity subcommittee: Assess methods to protect vulnerable populations and consider disproportionate effect on minority-owned business.
Throughout the summer, the PRAC collaborated to address these concerns and did so in a way that recognized the need to be nimble and responsive. The purpose of the PRAC was not to advise the governor on specific actions that should be taken in the event of a resurgence. Instead, all of us operated with a single goal in mind: another complete shutdown is simply not an option!
The work of the PRAC – particularly the business subcommittee, which I chaired – resulted in programs and resources aimed directly at providing timely, accessible, and meaningful programs for financial support for all businesses and nonprofits impacted by COVID-19. This came in the form of grants, and not loans. To date, the Delaware Relief Grants program has distributed more than $67 million in grants to 2,100 awardees. More than 75% of funding has been awarded to industries most disproportionately impacted, including hospitality, retail, personal services, and restaurants which received $20 million in grants.
Grants are still available through Dec. 4. The governor announced on Nov. 17 he would allocate another $25 million in CARES Act funding toward the DE Relief Grants program in response to his recent restrictions. This allows the state to provide “bonus money” to impacted businesses that already received grants, so funding arrives quickly and seamlessly.
We know these grants will not solve every problem, and sadly, by themselves they will not keep businesses from shuttering permanently. However, we are a strong and resilient community, and we can, should, and will come together to do the right thing as we navigate this uncertain health challenge and economic devastation.
Wear your mask. Watch your distance. Wash your hands.
Order takeout meals. Be kind. Shop local. Show grace.
Katie Wilkinson is the senior vice president and commercial market executive at Fulton Bank. She also is also chair of the board of directors at the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce.