A new branch of Stanislaus County’s Emergency Operations Center launched this week, providing support and information to business owners with questions during the coronavirus pandemic.
During StanEmergency’s weekly Facebook Live Q&A videos, countless questions from community members with businesses flooded the comment section. Many wonder whether or not their business is considered essential, while others ask how to sign up for financial assistance. Some want to know if anyone can help them find a way to operate that allows them to stay open while abiding by social distancing guidelines.
After seeing the same inquiries week after week, the County created a Business Support Branch as part of its Emergency Operations Center that provides expert assistance to those trying to navigate the COVID-19 crisis.
“Last week we were talking with the sheriff about all of these questions coming in from Facebook and really the need to be able to have an entire team assigned to being able to help businesses answer these questions about what’s essential, what’s nonessential, or for those who have had to close down, how can they seek assistance through either grants of loans,” County Board of Supervisors Chairperson Kristin Olsen said. “This week the Business Support Branch did open...and we have a number of Workforce Development and business experts available to assist you with your questions.”
The new Business Support Branch call center was spearheaded by Stanislaus County Workforce Development. Staff answering calls are in daily communication with state and federal representatives, monitoring changes to resources as they occur so that they can provide help using up-to-date information.
“Our objective is to remain responsive and nimble, transparent and assistive to our business sector in the face of this crisis-level pandemic,” County Assistant Executive Officer Keith Boggs said when presenting information on the new call center to the Board on April 7. “Not everyone will be happy, so we’re going to do our very best to provide high caliber and accurate information to the business community.”
Business owners can call the County EOC at 211 or the Business Support line directly at 209-558-4473 to receive information about small business relief micro-grants, legal support, building permitting, essential versus non-essential services, code enforcement, stay-at-home orders and more. There’s also help available for those struggling with the U.S. Small Business Administration's loan program or business owners wanting to know more about relief included in the federal stimulus package.
Supervisor Vito Chiesa emphasized the need for making information on federal funding available to all.
“Hopefully at your call center you’re going to have information on the CARES Act,” Chiesa said. “There are all these programs...and the folks that have the capacity are going to be the first ones accessing that money and there’s going to be a lot of small businesses left out in the cold.”
The Business Support Branch will help business owners learn how to survive during the economic fallout of the pandemic, which Supervisor Terry Withrow said occurred seemingly overnight.
“From the financial side, the wheels have just come off and it’s amazing how quickly it’s happened,” he said. “...We’ve got to make sure that we’re dealing with the crisis of the economic calamity that’s happening out there right now.”