Posted Thursday, April 23, 2020
While the current times challenge us all greatly, I am inspired on a daily basis by the leadership and ingenuity that I see demonstrated by so many of you during these uniquely trying times. Businesses are getting creative and reinventing their business models to stay available for our communities and keep their employees engaged, our non-profit organizations are scrambling to engage volunteers in safe ways and to generate additional funding to support those in great need, our school systems have quickly pivoted to remote learning and lending a hand to assist with the feeding of our children, our medical professionals and first responders put themselves at risk daily for the benefit of our communities, and the list goes on. We are truly blessed to live in this place, even during the most trying of times.
The economic pain is not only something that we are helping our members and communities to navigate and survive - your Chamber is also feeling these effects first-hand, and I feel obligated to be transparent and update you. Unfortunately, Chambers of Commerce nationwide and other business and trade associations that are classified under Section 501c6 of the Internal Revenue Code were not made eligible for the federal CARES Act and its programs such as the widely-known Paycheck Protection Program. This is especially frustrating since Chambers and other similar associations are on the front lines of assisting local businesses and qualifying 501c3 non-profits to navigate a confusing landscape and access these programs. As such, we have been forced to make difficult but unavoidable reductions to our staffing temporarily to help your Chamber weather this financial storm. In the short term, we’ve reduced our staffing to 1 ½ FTEs, including myself and Diane Norton, our Director of Member Marketing & Development. Diane and I will be keeping the day to day operations of the Chamber moving forward from our homes, but we will be operating without the other vital members of our Chamber team - Amy Rollins, Elizabeth Burrell, and Sandra Peterson - who have been transitioned to temporary furlough status. Like many of your workplaces, our small shop is like a second family, and these decisions come with great angst but without much choice. We make these painful decisions to preserve our limited resources in the short term, so that the Chamber can remain a vital resource to our communities in the long term.
Our board and our smaller staff (short-term) will still be here for you, still share information and resources with you, and will still be available to answer your questions. Know that we remain in regular communication with our congressional delegation, with the state Department of Economic & Community Development and Department of Labor, our peers in Chambers around the state including the Maine State Chamber, and other organizations and associations all working on your behalf.
Like every day, we have the opportunity to choose our outlook. While we all share concern for the health of our loved ones and the health of our economy, we can choose to see the good that is sprouting around us. Know that we see you working hard to survive and thrive, and we’re here to support you every step of the way. We’re in this together, and we’ll emerge stronger together.
President & CEO