Hello to everyone out there social distancing!

I was going to write this month’s column about the 2020 Census coming up on April 1, but then life happened, a big ol’ COVID-19 bomb landed in the middle of all of our lives, and all my plans got changed for me … so, though there are still Census activities going on, I’m going to push that topic off until next month, because there are some very important things I’d like to discuss now.

As we are all aware of by now, some heavy restrictions have been put in place that are limiting not only to our personal lives, but the livelihoods of our community businesses as well. Restaurants, bars, salons, spas, gyms, theatres, and other service-based businesses are experiencing unprecedented hardships due to government mandated closures, and health guidelines meant to slow the spread of this new virus.

For more information about health and safety measures that you need to be taking, please contact Bent County Public Health through their website at: www.bentcph.org .

What I’d like to stress is the importance of our community coming together to support local businesses during this time of chaos. Our community has already been faced with the closure of the VA (not to mention the possible threat of losing private prisons) which proved to be devastating to not only our economy here in Bent County, but the economy across Southeast Colorado as a whole. The current disaster may not result in the loss of over six hundred jobs, but it does pose the risk of finishing off the fragile remains of what we still have.

I have heard from a number of my colleagues in the economic development realm that they feel that this world-wide disaster will forever change the way we do business, and the landscape of our economy as a whole. What businesses need to realize is that there are ways of running their business that are completely different from "the way things have always been done in the past," and if they are not astute in adapting they will be forced out of business due to the lack of adequate operational funds available.

These adaptations range from allowing employees to work remote and/or flex hours, offering take-out, utilizing technology to streamline processes and facilitate group meetings (which are now also restricted), moving to online point-of-sale systems, offering curb-side delivery of goods, et cetera. Businesses MUST be creative in how they adapt to these challenges.

I was reading an article about economic development during and after disasters the other day, and this article stated that 40-60% of small businesses never open their doors again following a major disaster. Now, the opinions over the severity of this disaster range from "everyone is simply over-reacting" to "everyone is going to die." But the reality is that regardless of the level of severity, businesses are having restrictions placed on them from the State and Federal level that will affect their viability long-term.

Colorado, Bent County, and the City of Las Animas have all declared a state of emergency which makes our communities eligible for disaster relief emergency funding, and there have been a number of other programs designed to provide support and relief to businesses and their employees. Two featured programs include:

1) SBA Disaster Loans for Small Businesses: Colorado small businesses impacted by COVID-19 can seek small business loans up to $2M. For more information visit: www.disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/

2) CDLE Unemployment Insurance: If you have to make the hard decision to lay off workers, filing for unemployment and receiving benefits is easier than ever. For more information visit:


To learn more about other programs being offered throughout the state visit:


Other funding is constantly becoming available on a daily basis; one such example is Facebook, who has announced that it will be creating a $100M grant program to support small businesses during COVID-19.

The Bent County Development Foundation is also a great resource for local small businesses. We can provide consulting, business advice, workshops, and assistance in applying for funding or learning how to implement new business practices. I am more than happy to meet with you to discuss your needs and provide you with support through this troubling time. Please visit our website:

www.bentcounty.org , or email me at sammie.george@bentcounty.org to set up an appointment.

Even with all these programs, it’s vital that we as a community wrap around our small businesses to ensure that when this is all over with they will be able to again open their doors to us. Here are a few ideas for supporting our local small businesses:

1) Order take-out or delivery

2) Buy gift certificates now for use later

3) Be intentional about shopping local

4) Shop online (if available)

5) Tell them, "Thank You"

This time and these challenges will pass, and we will get through this… it’s up to us how we get through it, and what the other side looks like when we get there.