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Support local businesses

By Staff | Jun 4, 2020

The good news is Maui – and the whole state – did an outstanding job hunkering down and slowing the spread of COVID-19 here.

It’s also great to see local stores, restaurants, parks and churches reopening, signaling a shift forward from April’s lockdown to a more typical way of life for our community.

The challenge for our local businesses will be how to operate effectively in this “New Normal” and hang on until tourism begins to ramp up safely.

In a recent e-mail, Sherry Menor-McNamara of Chamber of Commerce Hawaii stated bluntly, “More needs to be done to support our local businesses and their employees.

“If not, we will begin seeing doors closed for good. This is not rhetoric, it’s reality.”

In a petition to Gov. David Ige, the chamber detailed what’s needed in order to #SaveSmallBusiness:

1) Clear, consistent direction and reopening guidelines that are delivered through one government voice, and a straightforward communications plan.

2) Expansion of testing and screening capability and availability across the state.

3) A definitive and immediate announcement of the reopening date for interisland travel and eventual full opening.

4) Government support and leadership to stimulate the kama’aina economy.

5) Robust resources to operate their businesses safely, including access to personal protective equipment and dedicated contact tracers to identify and stop future infections.

6) Clarification on the “Act with Care” designation, including an exact list of businesses that can be reopened and clarity on when bars, clubs and large venues can reopen.

7) Clear directives on liability protections for reopening businesses.

8) Expedited approval for permits that are required to install safety equipment.

9) Review of upcoming regulations to determine flexibility for businesses as they look to recover from the pandemic.

10) Removal of unnecessary regulation.

11) Cut superfluous agency spending.

12) Financial assistance to businesses beyond two to three months to help them survive. Based on the industry, some may need assistance beyond that.

I would like to see federal stimulus funds delivered to the state and county reach local businesses via spending, not loans.

A great example is a county program to buy produce from farms, then distribute it free to residents. Take it a step further by paying restaurants to prepare meals, then give them away to Maui residents impacted by the pandemic.

Innovative programs are needed.

Menor-McNamara noted, “We also need to do more to support our local economy in creative ways. This is why we formed the ONE808 campaign. But, more support is needed.”

Let’s help our local businesses any way we can. It will likely be a tricky few months until tourists can visit us safely.