COVID 19 Updates
ACCE Partners Continue to Support Chambers
During the past few week’s we’ve highlighted innovative chamber programs in the midst of a crisis. Just like our chamber members, ACCE’s corporate partners have showcased great leadership and the ability to adjust on a dime to assist the chamber community with thought leadership and other resources during challenging times. Here are some highlights:
- The Comcast Business Community page features lots of helpful content for businesses of all sizes. They also recently launched partnerships with several companies that provide small business tools along with a series of webinars to support businesses of all sizes.
- Facebook launched its Small Business Grants Program, offering cash grants and ad credits to help small businesses during challenging times. The company also launched its Business Resource Hub, which features tips and guides tailored to impacted industries.
- Constant Contact launched its Small Business Support Kit, which includes industry-specific action plans, live marketing advice and enhanced email packages that include free e-commerce and website builder tools.
- Power 10 shared guidance for chambers on how to proceed with ongoing fundraising campaigns. They also shared tips for managing remote work based on more than ten years of experience.
- MemberClicks is sharing practical tips to help chambers plan and execute effective virtual events and conferences.
- Grow with Google is hosting a livestream on May 6 to help small businesses discusover tools, tips and resources to help them manage their business remotely.
- Insperity’s blog is filled with HR advice and tips for supporting your chamber employees and member businesses during the crisis.
- Times are tough for the travel and tourism industry, but Collette shared eight ways to support tourism from home.
ACCE Weekly Update - Chambers Response to COVID-19
Chambers Being Told they are Ineligible for EIDL Program
We are hearing reports of the Small Business Administration telling chambers of commerce that they are not eligible for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program because chambers are considered “marketing cooperatives.” ACCE believes this designation is a mistake, and we are working with the U.S. Chamber to seek clarity from SBA. We will bring you updates as we get them.
U.S. Chamber Releases Guides to Federal Relief Programs
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released new guides for businesses of all sizes to secure relief under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
- Paycheck Protection Program: New emergency loans for small businesses and 501(c)(3) organizations.
- Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program: The CARES Act expands the Small Business Administration’s long-standing Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL). The EIDL program was created to assist businesses, renters, and homeowners located in regions affected by declared disasters. Chambers and other 501(c)(6) organizations are eligible for this program.
- Employee Retention Tax Credit: A new tax credit for employers who are closed, partially closed, or experiencing significant revenue losses as a result of COVID-19.
View all U.S. Chamber COVID-19 resources and updates.
Coordinating the Sourcing and Manufacture of Personal Protective Equipment
- The York County Economic Alliance, Hanover Chamber of Commerce, MANTEC, The Manufacturers' Association and many local partners are compiling information on available resources that can be donated, loaned out, or manufactured to meet the demands for critical supplies and expertise.
- The Huntsville/Madison County Chamber is coordinating with local hospitals to identify their needs and working with area businesses and manufacturers to coordinate donations of critical supplies.
Examples of Chambers Providing Access to Bridge Grants and Loans
- The Indy Chamber established its Rapid Response Loan Fund to provide fast and affordable bridge loans of $1k to $25k to help businesses until they can get additional funding from their bank or the SBA.
- The Greater Grand Rapids Chamber Foundation launched its Rapid Response Economic Relief Fund to deliver short-term financial support to small businesses in need.
- The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama worked with the Community Foundation of West Alabama to establish the Small Business Relief Fund to assist small businesses that have experienced a financial hardship as a result of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
- The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce worked with regional partners to create the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Small Business Resilience Grant to help small businesses.
Additional Chamber Outreach Examples
- We’re all in this together … six feet apart: The Huntsville/Madison County Chamber launched a community outreach campaign to promote social distancing and allow anyone in the community to receive chamber updates during the crisis.
- Business Response Helpline: The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber launched a business response helpline to help businesses navigate the COVID-19 outbreak and its aftermath, by providing access to resources and relevant information.
- Digital Signage: The Carroll County Chamber in Maryland is using the dip in inquiries for advertising on its local digital billboards to repurpose the signage to promote shopping local and share positive local business stories.
- Central Oregon SOS: The Bend Chamber partnered with several other chambers, local governments and other partners to launch a new website to serve as a one-stop resource hub for employers, employees, and the community in this time of unprecedented uncertainty.
- Virtual Tip Jar: The Greater West Chester Chamber launched a “Virtual Tip Jar” to collect tips for working in the local service industry, including bartenders, servers, aestheticians, stylists, barbers, retailer sand others.
- Corporate Catering Matters: The Spartanburg Chamber is challenging employers who must have employees on-site to consider placing multiple, in-advance catering orders. Corporate catering greatly reduces potential exposure by limiting the number of people team members come into contact with on a daily basis. A local restaurant gains badly needed business and morale is listed for the team.
ACCE Weekly Update - Chambers Response to COVID-19
Winter is Coming
As the weather turns cold and restaurants continue to deal with COVID-driven capacity restrictions, chambers of commerce are seeking creative ways to support local restaurants. Here are a few examples:
- The Greater Des Moines Partnership announced the recipients of its Extend the Season Grant program, which provided outdoor heating equipment to local restaurants to help them continue to offer outdoor dining as winter approaches.
- The Alexandria Economic Development Partnership launched its Back to Business All Weather Grant program, which leverages $500,000 of CARES Act funds to provide eligible small businesses $5,000 grants to “winterize” outdoor business areas.
- Rochester Downtown Alliance and Chamber of Commerce are working to provide $2,000 grants to restaurants to help them reinvent outdoor spaces to keep customers warm as the weather turns cold.
- Several Rhode Island chambers are among the organizations that were awarded $3 million in grants to help the state’s businesses “Take it Outside.” The funds will be distributed to local businesses to help cover the costs of conducting business outdoors.
- The Waterbury Regional Chamber launched a BYOB campaign – Bring Your Own Blanket –to encourage consumers to support local restaurants by bringing their own blankets to dine comfortably outside.
What We’re Reading
- Korn Ferry: As people head to the polls next week, election day may be only the beginning of a long period of uncertainty and anxiety.
- Remote Worker Data: Recognizing that working-from-home will continue to increase over time, the National Association of REALTORS® conducted a study of the 3,142 counties that are best poised to provide a supportive environment for working remotely.
- McKinsey & Company: The next normal will require true transformation, business model shifts that alter your operations at the cellular level to elevate performance and the capabilities of your people.
- Transformation in St. Louis: The St. Louis Regional Chamber and four other organizations announced they will come together to combine their strengths into one organization to drive inclusive growth in St. Louis with a unified voice and bold agenda.
- Staffing Virtual Events: Staff roles for virtual events are different from in-person events. ASAE explores a few staff roles to help organizations deliver impactful virtual events.
- Social Networks & Economic Mobility: New research from the Brookings Institution dives deeper into how social networks in Charlotte affect access to economic opportunity. Charlotte Regional Business Alliance SVP of Economic Research Chuck McShane discussed the research with the report’s author in a recent episode of the Alliance’s podcast.
- Preserve Trust & Electoral Integrity: In recent weeks, an unprecedented number of civil society groups, including public interest organizations, business associations, and faith-based organizations, as well as political leaders, have mobilized around ensuring an inclusive, credible, and peaceful election.
Call to Action: New Sign-On Letter for 501(c)(6) Organizations
Last week we reached out to encourage you to contact your congressional delegation asking them to include chambers of commerce organized as 501(c)(6) organizations in the third COVID-19 stimulus package. Despite the outreach of thousands of chambers and other trade associations, the most robust offerings in the CARES Act were not expanded to include (c)(6)s.
Congress is drafting a new phase four federal relief package, and we are asking for your help again. ACCE is partnering with the American Society of Association Executives on a new sign-on letter to Congress and the Trump Administration. We are working to get as many chambers and trade associations as possible to sign on to a letter urging Congress to:
- Provide $25 billion in immediate capital assistance to trade and professional associations;
- Include 501(c)(6) organizations in the Paycheck Protection Program or similar Small Business Administration loan expansions; and
- Create a pandemic risk insurance program with a federal backstop for prospective insurance claims related to a pandemic or epidemic.
Please add your chambers name to the letter by Thursday, April 2 at 12 pm ET.
We will continue to partner with other organizations to advocate for this change. If you are speaking to your federal legislators, please share the message that chambers – and other associations – are delivering critical community services during this pandemic, and deserve federal support to continue our crucial role.
We will continue to update you on this and helpful resources each week. Thank you for all you’re doing. You are an amazing community.
ACCE Weekly Update on Chamber Response to COVID-19
ACCE continues to support the chamber community as it responds to the COVID-19 outbreak. We are organizing regular calls with chamber CEOs and staff, and we want to share some of the key themes and insights we learned this week.
Remember to check our Coronavirus Resource Guide because we update it regularly with relevant resources. If you are interested in participating in an upcoming COVID-19 roundtable call, contact Will Burns at email@example.com.
Calling All Members
Many chambers have instituted an all-hands-on-deck campaign to call every member. Staff are being repurposed, along with chamber ambassadors, to complete this outreach as quickly as possible. For most chambers, the purpose of the outreach is to:
- Check-in and learn more about how each company is being impacted and identify ways that the chamber can help
- Identify inspirational stories to share with broader membership
- Share helpful resources and information and answer questions
- Reinforce how their support for the chamber is especially important in times like these
- Offer potential membership solutions for those experiencing financial difficulty: temporary waiver/deferral, adjust anniversary date, etc.
Navigating the Membership Renewal Cycle
There has been lots of discussion this week around membership renewals. Chambers of commerce are taking a variety of approaches, seeking to find the right balance of showcasing compassion and empathy, highlighting member value and keeping revenue flowing into the chamber.
Adjusting the messaging in your renewal communications is a critical first step. During Membership Development Division (MDD) call this week, participants outlined how they are adjusting their communications:
- We recognize that these are unprecedented times, and the chamber is here to support your business.
- Here are two or three specific things that your chamber is doing to showcase community leadership, support regional businesses and help our community get through this crisis.
- Now more than ever, your support is crucial to help us continue this work.
- If your business is experiencing issues that interfere with your ability to pay dues, we are here to help.
Chambers have taken a variety of actions, from providing relief waivers, adjusting anniversary dates, temporarily suspending dues billing and more. ACCE and members of the MDD advisory board have developed a template your chamber can use as a starting point as you adjust your renewal communications. Additional templates are available on ACCE Coronavirus Resource Guide. More membership information is available on the MDD webpage.
Dealing with Stay-at-Home/Business Closure Orders
One challenge that continues to be raised on the calls is around what businesses are defined as essential within stay-at-home and business closure orders. This can be especially tricky for regional chambers operating in areas where there are multiple county orders but no state-wide order.
If you are in a state or municipality with no stay-at-home order, monitor the situation. When discussions of an order begin, offer your county executive, mayor or governor the chamber’s support to define essential businesses. Once it is implemented, it is hard to roll things back. The Detroit Chamber’s Vice President of Government Relations shared three suggestions for stay-at-home orders
- Use the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) guidance as the baseline for essential services. Though, one key industry CISA leaves out is construction.
- Allow for critical infrastructure to designate its own supply chain.
- Allow businesses to keep minimum basic operations to protect inventory, to wind down operations, and to facilitate working from home.
Support Small Businesses
With the lengthy, and sometimes cumbersome process around SBA loans, many chambers are working with local governments, community development financial institutions (CDFI) and other business and philanthropic partners to create and promote grant and loan programs to provide crucial bridge grants and loans during the SBA application period. Here are some examples:
- Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership worked with local governments to raise $500k to set up the Working Capital Loan Fund for small businesses.
- Asheville Area Chamber is working with a local CDFI, Mountain BizWorks on its NC COVID-19 Rapid Recovery Loan program
- The Greater Tallahassee Chamber worked with the Tallahassee-Leon county government as it launched the COVID-19 Economic Disaster Relief Grant program.
- The Eugene Area Chamber is promoting the WaFD Bank Small Business Lifeline
- Several Pennsylvania chambers are promoting the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority’s COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program.
Financial Support for Chambers
Last week, ACCE worked with the American Society of Association Executives and the U.S. Chamber to try to convince Congress to include chambers of commerce organized as 501 (c)(6)s in the various emergency stimulus programs. While (c)(6)s weren’t included in all the programs, chambers are eligible for aid through some modest avenues. View this U.S. Chamber 1-pager for more details.
It is expected that when Congress reconvenes, it will consider a fourth relief package. ACCE will continue to work with chambers across the country and other partners to raise awareness for the important role chambers of commerce play in the recover and why supporting chambers in the next relief package is vital.
More Chamber Examples
It is inspiring to see just how nimble chambers of commerce can be to support member businesses and provide catalytic leadership in the communities they serve. We will continue to share examples each week to provide inspiration for your activities. Share your examples with our team by emailing Jen Pack at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COVID-19 Resource Hubs
- Asheville Chamber of Commerce
- Allegheny Conference on Community Development
- Lancaster Chamber
- Forsyth County Chamber
- Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
- York County Economic Alliance
- Greater Phoenix Chamber
Supporting Displaced Workers
- Dallas Regional Chamber working with Say Yes to Dallas and other regional partners launched an initiative to connect displaced workers with companies in industries with immediate hiring needs.
- Greater Des Moines Partnership launched the DSM Employment Ready initiative to assist businesses in need of immediate temporary workers and employees who have been impacted due to circumstances related to the COVID-19
- Michigan West Coast Chamber launched a job board to help connect potential employees to employers with immediate job openings.
- Charlotte Regional Business Alliance: The alliance is sharing regular vlogs with members about different areas of operation. During a time when the economic development team isn’t traveling, SVP of Business Recruitment Steven Pearce discussed how the alliance pulled off its first virtual visit with a company considering the Charlotte region.
- Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama: In this video, Chamber President & CEO Jim Page, CCE, IOM, highlights chamber resources available for member businesses and announces a new partnership with the Community Foundation of West Alabama on a Small Business Relief Fund.
- Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Henry Florsheim posts daily video updates to Facebook using the chamber’s #fallsstrong hashtag.
Examples of Virtual Programming
- Grand Rapids Chamber
- Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia
- Gwinnett Chamber
- Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber
- Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce
Surveys remain a popular tool for chambers to gain insights on how the crisis is impacting member companies. They are also a great tool for helping to frame response discussions with elected officials and nonprofits proving support programs and financial support. Here are a few examples:
Follow Up Surveys to Track How Impact Is Changing
Highlighting Survey Results
Chambers Respond to COVID-19 Crisis
Chambers of commerce around the world are taking action to provide leadership and help member businesses and their communities deal with the challenges created by the COVID-19 outbreak.
ACCE launched our Coronavirus resource guide, and we continue to update it with relevant links, resources and templates chambers can use as a starting point for communicating with members, staff, event participants and more.
We’ve organized peer sharing calls for the CEOs within our community peer groups and chamber staff professionals within our divisions. We will continue to hold regular connection calls throughout the crisis.
Through this outreach we’ve pulled together examples and best practices, but we know that what we have now is just the tip of the iceberg. We encourage you to share your most innovative initiatives with us so that we can share it across the network. Email your examples to email@example.com.
Actions Chambers Are Taking
Keep Members Informed
Examples of chamber of commerce COVID-19 resource webpages:
- Arvada Chamber
- Charleston Metro Chamber
- Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber
- Los Angeles Area Chamber
- North Carolina Chamber
- Orlando Economic Partnership
- Salt Lake Chamber
- Wichita Falls Chamber
Examples of member communication:
- Metro Atlanta Chamber COVID-19 Emerging Trends Report
- Grand Rapids Chamber Message to Our Members
- Charlotte Regional Business Alliance Daily Digest
- The Chamber For a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro: 7 Things Your Business Should Do Right Now
- Greater Louisville Inc.: COVID-19 Update for Small Business
- Many chambers are also calling all of their members. Here is a sample outreach script from the Greater Scranton Chamber.
Hold virtual programs on topics relevant to business needs:
- Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber: COVID-19 Business Briefings
- Association of Washington Business: COVID-19 Business Impact Webinar
- Greater Spokane Incorporate: Weekly Business Leaders Call on COVID-19
- Gwinnett Chamber: Virtual Networking
- Nixa Area Chamber: Weekly Mastermind Calls
Send video updates to members:
Survey to Understand Impact
Member surveys can gain a sense of the economic impact and how the chamber can be most helpful.
- Greater Des Moines Partnership
- Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber
- Greater Spokane Incorporated worked with community partners on a regional business impact survey
- Given rapid developments, the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance followed its original survey with a “quick pulse” follow up survey.
Support Local Businesses
We’ve seen lots of activity focused on encouraging support for local businesses, with a heavy focus on restaurants due to mandated closures. Examples include:
- Help businesses find access to capital by making information about federal and local grant and loan programs easy to find:
- Tips and reminders to buy local:
- TakeOut Blitz to support restaurants:
- Other ideas for supporting restaurants:
- Answering member questions:
- The Indy Chamber launched a Rapid Response Hub, partnering with the Indiana University Kelley School of Business to engage faculty, students and alumni to expedite answers to business inquiries.
- The Kentucky Chamber is leveraging its staff expertise and coordinating with experts from member businesses to answer business questions.
- Greater Louisville Inc. is working with business and community leaders to share answers to frequently asked questions.
- The Greater Gainesville Chamber created a door sign to help explain the modified hours and capacity restrictions
Coordinate with Community Foundations and Other Stakeholders
Chambers do this all the time, but it’s especially important during times of crisis. Work with your community foundation on efforts to support businesses, employees and vulnerable populations within your community:
- Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia worked with the city, the community foundation and other corporate and philanthropic partners to establish a fund to support local nonprofits on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The PHL COVID-19 Fund will distribute money to nonprofit organizations that have a track record of helping at-risk groups such as seniors, people with disabilities, the economically disadvantaged and people experiencing homelessness.
- The Baton Rouge Area Chamber promotes the Baton Rouge Area Foundation’s Employees First program. The program helps employers set up a grant to provide financial assistance to employees impacted by COVID-19 and receive beneficial tax deductions while doing so.
- The Greater Des Moines Partnership promotes the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines Disaster Recovery Fund, which focuses on disproportionately affected communities by addressing economic needs and the health impact on vulnerable populations caused by COVID-19 related closures and other impacts.
- Greater Louisville Inc. was part of a community coalition who recently launched the One Louisville: COVID-19 Response Fund, which will rapidly deploy resources to individuals, businesses and community-based organizations working at the frontlines of our region’s coronavirus outbreak.
Chambers are working with a host of other partners to address short- and long-term challenges related to economic recovery.
- Several Oregon chambers joined other community partners to release a joint statement encouraging swift action on a number of vital priorities.
- Many chambers are working with businesses and workforce partners to connect displaced workers to job opportunities.
Chambers Not Included in Latest Federal Stimulus Package – ACT NOW
Congress is debating a massive economic stimulus package. The current bill language includes “nonprofit organizations” as eligible for the $350 billion in support for small businesses, but they define nonprofits being included as exclusively 501(c)(3) groups. The package does not include 501(c)(6) organizations. Contact your elected officials and encourage them to ensure all associations are eligible for the emergency stimulus included in this package. We have been working with the American Society of Association Executives on this issue. You can use their platform to send a message. Whether sending email directly, or using this online platform, here is an updated message you can send that is specific to chambers of commerce. Act quickly as this is moving fast. Thank you!