We are living through an unprecedented time. Vermont is just beginning to feel the effects of the pandemic and its overwhelming economic impacts. Fear and uncertainty are rippling throughout our state as small businesses are suddenly grappling with this new reality with which they are faced. But Vermonters, as we always do in times of hardship, are also coming together (while staying apart) to support one another.

As Vermont intensifies its effort to contain the virus and implements important social distancing protocols, bars and restaurants that hadn’t made the decision already were forced to shutter by order of the governor. These decisions are not made lightly, and business owners across the state are locking their doors and wondering if and when they will unlock them again. They are making huge economic sacrifices for the health of our community.

In the midst of a crisis, I have been comforted to see humanity and kindness all around me. It’s something our state does well as witnessed during Tropical Storm Irene, but these circumstances call for a brand new conceptualization of community and a creative rebuild that relies heavily on technology and virtual support. There are ways we can immediately help keep ourselves safe and support our small businesses through this dark chapter.

To those of you in the small business community, I ask you to document your stories through our new national website: www.smallbizcovid19.com/ These stories will be critical as we advocate for you on the ground. We are listening, and we are sharing these stories with the people who need to hear them.

As the administration and Legislature work tirelessly on creating some economic relief for small businesses, it is up to those customers who are financially able to help them cope in the short term. Shop online from independent stores in your community, subscribe to a local newspaper or magazine, buy gift cards to shops and restaurants that you or a family member can use at a later date. Restaurants, which so far are permitted to remain open for take-out and delivery are getting creative with curbside pick-up options. Do whatever you can to help keep our small businesses afloat.

As we navigate through the days ahead, please don’t lose track of the community you belong to. From local mutual aid groups working to support our most vulnerable to the myriad of ways for us to connect online in classes or virtual hangouts, remember we are connected, and that’s never been easier to visualize. Even from a distance.

Morgan Nichols is the state director of Main Street Alliance of Vermont.

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