Keeping the Chamber Boat Afloat in Northern Virginia

Various Chambers of Commerce are helping members to get through the pandemic.

At the Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber, the first part of April was spent providing members with detailed information on the status of the COVID-19 situation and information on the CARES Act passed by Congress.

“We are referring businesses to approved SBA lenders where they can apply for the Paycheck Protection Program,” said executive director Holly Dougherty. There are new pages on their website that show what businesses are open and services they are providing.

This toolkit approach is similar to other chamber efforts across the county, and it seems to be working in Mount Vernon. “I was at Mamma's Kitchen on Friday and they had people outside waiting to get carryout,” said Dougherty.

At the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the wheels are in motion to help their members get through the COVID-19 quarantine and subsequent loss of business. One section on the website called the “COVID-19 Resources Page,” is aimed at that effort, and is laid out in their introductory paragraph: “During this trying time we wish to reassure you that your Chamber is actively working to help our membership maintain business continuity. The following are resources we've compiled or created. We will get through this together!” it reads.

INSIDE THE NVCC page, there are links to virtual networking, chamber members helping members, state and federal resources, and a member idea page. The members have come through with ideas too. For example, Evans Consulting has created three teleworking guides for clients, while Aaronson LLC and Cooley LLP are keeping an eye on legislations that impact businesses, and Matthews, Carter & Boyce has tax advice for members.

There are also fact sheets and links to the various federal agencies that are used to answer a variety of questions out there. In addition, the chamber has posted several virtual opportunities for members to get together online for lunch or drinks after work.

Vienna Business Association also has a COVID-19 Resource page, and they have links and advice for their members. “We will continue to evaluate the situation and work with the Town of Vienna and Fairfax County to provide guidance and resources to our local businesses and consumers,” the Vienna Business Association stated. They have a list of ways in which to support the local businesses while staying safe.

The Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives supports this approach, and has a crisis management toolbox of suggestions for various chambers to follow, described as a “tactical and practical resources for internal chamber crisis management and resources to share with your members,” their website states. The Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives is located in Alexandria, and has a daily set of online roundtable discussions called “Chamber Impact: Join the Conversation,” to help members navigate the situation.

IN A LETTER, they are asking members to contact congressional delegations to include chambers of commerce organized as 501(c)(6) organizations in the third COVID-19 stimulus package. "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.”

According to WalletHub, Virginia ranks third behind Louisiana and New Hampshire as “States with the Biggest Increases in Unemployment Due to Coronavirus.”

Supporting Local Businesses

Vienna Business Association encourages everyone to support local businesses while staying safe:

• Arranging virtual meetings for professional services

• Shopping on-line with local businesses

• Take advantage of curb-side pick-up from participating retailers

• Order take-out and delivery from local restaurants

• Make payments over the phone with credit card

• Arrange virtual appointments with health care professionals

• Buy gift cards for future pick-up and use

• Keep your memberships current

• Ask business owners how you can support them