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Greater Lynn Chamber looking to help businesses struggling with COVID-19 impact

By David Mclellan | March 19, 2020

LYNN — Advice on intermediate planning, state funds for small businesses, a survey on federal disaster assistance — the Greater Lynn Chamber of Commerce wants its more than 400 member organizations to know resources are available to minimize the impact of COVID-19. 

The pandemic of COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus that has infected more than 100,000 in at least 167 countries, and more than 200 in Massachusetts, has visibly affected area businesses. Restaurants, especially, are affected, with Massachusetts having banned dining in. 

There is no known cure for the coronavirus, and organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are recommending “social distancing” practices, decreasing business activity further. 

According to Executive Director Colin Codner, there are several ways small business owners may seek help through the Chamber. First, people may book an appointment to speak with a SCORE — Service Corps of Retired Executives — consultant over the phone and come up with an “action plan.” This is a volunteer network of business consultants with a wide range of experiences and expertise. Advice is free and appointments are on Thursdays, Codner said. 

“The number one piece of advice I can give is to have a 30-minute conversation with a SCORE team member,” Codner said. “They will work with any and all businesses that call and say, ‘I don’t know what to do.’”

While it is recommended business owners speak with a SCORE consultant first, there is also a COVID-19 Loan Fund. This fund is state money for businesses with 50 or fewer employees, and up to $75,000 may be lent to a business. 

Codner said it is unclear how long coronavirus will affect area businesses, creating stress and difficulty in business planning. 

“Everyone is holding their collective breath for a minute,” Codner said. “It’s tough to get a lot of planning in place when you don’t know what you’re planning for.”

Another thing that’s uncertain is whether the federal government will step in to help small businesses via the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. As of Wednesday afternoon, Massachusetts is not designated a “disaster” region, and businesses are therefore not eligible for the federal assistance. 

While Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency are pushing to activate the program, it is important businesses and nonprofits go to www.mass.gov/doc/sba-eidl-worksheet-and-instructions/download, and fill out a survey that will help determine whether the region becomes eligible for assistance. All business owners, even those unaffected by the coronavirus outbreak, should fill out the survey.

Sarah Marshall, a member of the Greater Lynn Chamber of Commerce and owner of Lucille Wine Shop & Tasting Room, 776 Washington St., said her business is remaining open unless the government explicitly mandates it shut down or change normal hours — noon to 7 p.m. Monday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Marshall sent a letter to other Chamber members encouraging they support each other during the pandemic. 

“Big companies like Total Wine, Whole Foods, and Costco will survive this mess,” she said. “A small shop just opened does not have the resources these big companies do.”

Marshall said she knows three stores that have opened in Lynn in the past year — her own, Nightshade Noodle Bar, 73 Exchange St., and Uncommon Feasts, 271 Western Ave. She said food and beverage-industry small businesses “are like family” to her and need to be supported. 

Nightshade Noodle Bar, (781) 780-9470, has begun offering take-out and delivery services, Marshall said. Additionally, Uncommon Feasts, (781) 592-5500, has begun take-out and delivery.  

“With being a small business, we all know the importance of coming together in these moments right now,” Marshall said. “We stand stronger when we come together than when we stand apart, at least mentally in this current climate.”

The Greater Lynn Chamber of Commerce has postponed all of its events through April 3, but will be open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Emails will be answered until 5 p.m. Call (781) 592-2900, email info@greaterlynnchamber.com, or visit www.greaterlynnchamber.com for more information.