The results of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to impact all of us. The business community has been severely affected, with many closed. Therefore, thousands of our friends and neighbors in our region are out of work. The priority for all should be health and safety. It is imperative that we follow the recommendations of our medical community and continue to practice social distancing, frequent handwashing, and other steps to insure that the virus does not widely spread. Our region has fared better than some but we have had too many cases and deaths from the coronavirus.
With that said, last week The Alliance was one of about 40 chambers and business organizations to release an initial plan toward re-opening our state. This plan is a recommendation to the governor and other officials as talk of a re-opening is growing.
The plan projects a phased in re-opening beginning with all health-care facilities opened.
Personal protection equipment and hand sanitizers must be in place in all businesses. At this time the supply of PPE is not available.
For the workforce to return, issues of child-care must be solved. Schools will not re-open for the rest of this school year so this presents another issue for parents of school-age children. Students must continue learning either through online classes or by old-school methods.
Re-opening will not be easy nor will it come all at one time.
Businesses need assistance to continue or re-open. Approximately 26,000 Louisiana businesses received loans totaling over $5.1 billion from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) as part of the Cares act. Those funds are now depleted. The Alliance fielded hundreds of calls from frustrated business owners who could not get through to their bank. Many had no trouble because of their banking relationships. The importance of a banking relationship was made crystal clear.
We began to hear late last week from businesses who have received their loans. We are encouraging Congress to approve another round of funding for small business recovery. For those businesses which were not able to get loans, we suggest establishing a business banking relationship, complete the application forms, and be ready to go when a new round of funding takes place.
In addition to all the issues of COVID-19, our state has been dramatically impacted by the oil and gas crisis. The impact of extremely low oil and gas prices will cause a massive deficit to our state government’s budget. Several of our region’s anticipated industrial projects have been affected with starting dates pushed back or now in jeopardy.
To get an overview of the impact of these various threats to our state and regional economy, you are invited to join the Alliance for a webinar with Economist Dr. Loren Scott, Friday, April 24 at 8:30 a.m.
There is no charge courtesy of IBERIA Bank, but you must register on the Alliance Facebook page or website.
Details on the programs mentioned in this article are available at www.allianceswla.org
Even after flattening the curve, we face a long road back to pre-coronavirus normalcy. When this lockdown ends, it’s not going to be like one day you’re in your house and the next day you’re packing into Cowboy stadium. It’s going to be gradual.
Experts say aggressive testing and continued social distancing will have a major impact on day-today life until a vaccine is developed.
Despite these challenges, America and Southwest Louisiana, in particular, are known for resiliency. We will come out of this with new priorities in our lives and stronger than before.