With the closing of restaurants, bars and other businesses, governments are taking steps to dampen the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.
"It's a very difficult time for a lot of businesses," said Matt Gladdek, executive director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership. "Most of the jobs and the students are away from where they normally are."
Gladdek said he believes there are more people out of work right now than there are businesses looking for employees. To preempt the impact of lost service jobs, Gov. Roy Cooper temporarily reduced the requirements to apply for unemployment benefits.
“We did not come to this decision easily, but North Carolina must keep fighting this pandemic with the right weapons," Cooper said at a press briefing Tuesday afternoon.
- Removes the one-week waiting period to receive unemployment benefits
- Removes the requirement that people be searching for a new job
- Allows people with reduced hours due to COVID-19 to apply for benefits
- Allows people to apply by phone or online
- Ensures that employers are not held responsible for benefits paid
While some businesses have closed altogether, many are offering curbside food service and delivery.
Ran Northam, community safety communications specialist for the Town of Chapel Hill, said the Town is waiving the on-street parking fees to promote curbside food pickup from local restaurants.
"The Town staff decided that they would not enforce parking in those curbside spots," Northam said. "And that is definitely so that there's that opportunity for the curbside pickup and so businesses still have the opportunity to function while keeping that social distancing."
Gladdek said businesses are encouraging residents to purchase gift cards to be used at a later date as a way of financially supporting local businesses during this time of reduced revenue.
In addition to Cooper's expanding unemployment benefits, Congress recently passed a national relief package focusing on paid sick leave and free COVID-19 testing.
But Gladdek said more aid will be necessary to prevent local establishments from going out of business.
"It's going to be really necessary for the federal government and the state government to step up with aid," Gladdek said. "We're hoping that landlords can be patient with businesses and wait for federal relief to come."
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