This virus has brought our nation (and dare I say most of the world) to its knees and we are seeing unprecedented action being taken by governments trying to disrupt this cycle of chaos. We’re all being affected differently, and we’re all forming opinions about what should come next.

One of the most descriptive images that depicts my personal feelings about this whole ordeal is one on Facebook that has three circles converging on one another with “ME” right in the middle. One circle says “People taking Covid 19 seriously”, one says “People worried about expansion of authoritarian government policies”, and the third says “People very concerned about impending economic devastation.”

I remember being in a meeting when COVID made its appearance in the United States, and everyone was joking about how everyone else was overreacting to this whole thing. There was nothing further from my mind than the “actual” impact that this disaster would have- especially here in rural Colorado.

I had no idea what was in-store for all my well-laid plans.

Within a week businesses were shutting down, community events were being cancelled, and eventually we were all deemed either “essential” or “non-essential.”

I would like to make one thing clear: I AM NOT joking about anything now. I know that people have lost their lives, jobs, businesses, and livelihoods from the fallout of this crisis. I am obeying the stay-at-home order, and I am just as cautious as everyone else when I do have to go out in public. The patriot in me is wary of increased governmental control over my life. I, personally, have never supported excessive government involvement in either my personal life, or that of business; and I want to remind everyone that the more control the government has, the less freedoms we all enjoy as Americans.

As an economic developer I am terrified of the impact that we will see if the stay-at-home order is extended and businesses are not allowed to start opening again; and there is only so much that can be done to support businesses like salons, bars, and gyms until they are fully operational again.

I participated in a webinar yesterday that discussed the fragility of the balancing act that we are currently engaged in. The speaker explained that if we only think about the economy, pushing for absolute normalcy again, then we run the risk of irresponsibly increasing the risk of infection and overwhelming our healthcare providers. He also stated that if we only think about our situation from the healthcare perspective that we might permanently cripple our economy …

I’m no healthcare expert, so I’ll refer you to Bent County Public Health or Valley Wide for any questions you have in that realm; but I AM the local economic developer, so I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t stressing the importance of the economy in a time like this. With all that being said, I don’t know what the “right” answer is. I know that those in power are doing the best that they can to mitigate, prevent, cure, track, and regulate this crisis. I also know that until our leaders allow us to go back to “business as usual” it is CRITICAL that we as a community come together to support our local businesses AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.

Funding has been allocated for business loan programs, foundations are offering grants to non-profits to provide rent/utility/food support, mortgage lenders are offering loan deferral programs, internet companies are offering free internet, municipalities are suspending shut-offs, counties have enacted tax rebates, and the US Government has even promised stimulus checks (whenever those are sent out).

All these programs are helpful and are positively impacting the lives of those struggling during this time, but it isn’t enough to stabilize our local economy and the finances of our local business owners …

In response, the BCDF, in partnership with the LA/BC Chamber, has created the Bent County Business Relief Fund. This fund, through the process of a competitive grant application, will award local businesses reimbursements for operational expenses incurred starting April 1. As of April 16, we have $11,000 to disperse, and we are actively applying for grant funding to expand our capacity to do more in coming weeks.

The first deadline for businesses to submit an application was yesterday (April 22), and our goal is to have checks in business owners’ hands by Monday. I hope by the time you are reading this column that I have been able to secure additional funding and we will be able to accept more applications soon.

I want to appeal to you- Bent County residents/businesses/organizations. If you are in a position to make a contribution to this fund, please consider it. Your contribution will help struggling businesses that, in the past, have most likely supported you and those that you care about.

To find out more information about contributing to this fund and the grant process visit:

https://bentcounty.org/covid-19-resources.

I also want to remind you that I am here for you … whether you’re a business owner or not, I will do my best to either personally help you or put you in contact with the person that can. Call me at the office:

719-456-0452 or email me at: sammie.george@bentcounty.org .

Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’re in this alone … We are all in this together!