Dear City of Charlottesville Businesses -
Trending is popular these days. Whether YouTube, Google searches, Twitter or COVID-19 data people pay attention to what’s trending more than ever. I would like to briefly mention three trends that are positive indicators our economy is moving towards recovery. First, the number of reported COVID-19 cases continues to drop in Virginia. The seven-day moving average is now below 500 cases per day across the entire commonwealth. This level of cases has not been seen since the early days of the pandemic in late March. Should this trend continue a transition to Phase 3 is likely within the next few weeks. Also trending downward is the number of weekly initial unemployment claims being filed in the city. This number peaked at just below 1,000 in early April and has declined for nine straight weeks to last week’s figure of 222 claims. Trending upwards is our hotel occupancy rate, which is now in the mid-30s after rebounding from the mid-teens in March. This is important as it shows the return of some demand for room nights, which will stimulate the hospitality industry and lead to continued rehiring. While we have a long way to go to get back to pre-pandemic levels, these trends indicate we are moving in the right direction.
During the recent months, our office has provided the latest news and recommendations to help keep our business community safe and viable during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that the state is in Phase 2 of the Forward Virginia Recovery Plan, we will continue to provide you the most relevant information from the local, state and federal levels on how to reopen your business safely and with confidence.
Updates of interest for businesses include:
- On Friday, June 5, 2020, Virginia moved into Phase Two of the state’s reopening plan. Governor Northam said face coverings will still be required indoors, per Executive Order 63, but gathering limits will increase from 10 people to 50 people. For the complete Phase Two guidelines Click here.
- On June 15, the City Council will consider appropriating its $4.1M in CARES Act funding. The OED has recommended, and the City Manager has concurred, that 20% of those dollars be allocated towards business support – with $750,000 going to direct business grants and $75,000 designated for commercial district support. If approved by City Council, OED will move quickly to establish a framework to receive applications and deliver grant funds.
- Project Rebound, our local economic recovery initiative led by the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce with support from the City, County and University economic development efforts, will release a reopening checklist next week and begin distribution of PPE starter kits for businesses. The project team hopes to release its report and deliver additional guidance and resources to the business community in the next 10 days.
- A new grant opportunity is available through LISC with the support of a $5M donation from Truist. Small businesses are eligible for grants of up to $10,000. Applications are being accepted through June 17 and priority is being given to minority, women and veteran owned businesses. For more information and the application Click here.
- The Downtown Job Center, located in the lower level of the Jefferson Madison Regional Library, will be reopening by appointment only to Job Center and Home to Hope customers on Monday, June 15. Appointments can made through the Job Center Facebook page by clicking the blue “Book Now” button or by calling the Job Center at 434-970-3933. All visitors and staff will be required to wear masks and gloves upon entering the building. Masks and gloves will be provided if needed. For those who are not able to wear PPE, virtual appointments are available.
- The Downtown Job Center hosted a series of Facebook Live Employer Spotlights over the past few months, which feature local businesses that are hiring now. To see a couple of our most recent interviews, check out the links below. Our next Employer Spotlight will be held on Thursday, June 18 at 1pm on the Downtown Job Center Facebook page. Employer Spotlight: Albemarle County Fire Rescue. Employer Spotlight: Panera Bread.
- Several significant changes were recently made to the Paycheck Protection Program providing additional flexibility to businesses that already have or may still seek a PPP forgivable loan. Approximately $100B in funding remains in the program and applications are made directly through you existing bank.
- The Central Virginia Small Business Development Center has added a number of good recovery resources including reopening tools and series of business owner focuses videos. You can visit them here.
While City hall remains closed, OED staff remain available to assist you during this time. Please let us know if we can help. Our resource page located HERE receives regular updates and is available as a resource.
Stay safe and take care.
Chris Engel, CEcD
Director, Office of Economic Development