*Written at 4:45 p.m. on Friday, March 27, 2020. Things may have changed by the time you read this.
Dear Chamber Investors and Community Members,
Last week the immediate impact of the COVID-19 mitigation efforts of Williamson and Travis Counties, and the nation, came into full view. The thriving Round Rock downtown was nearly empty, and 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance. Round Rock ISD has made the difficult decision to further extend campus closings to, at least, mid-April. Our favorite watering-holes and restaurants are limited to take-out services, or temporarily closed altogether. This is sobering to see, indeed. More sobering is the potential that the country may still be in earliest days of managing our response to coronavirus.
If last week marks the first time we could see the scope of the hardship unfolding for so many, it also marks the inauguration of initiatives that national and local leaders have developed to buoy families and navigate to calmer waters.
I’ve been particularly comforted by the leadership of our city, who have acted with speed and passion, motivated by a time-honored belief in the strength of our communities.
Nothing could better illustrate this spirit locally than the announcement on Wednesday, March 25, of Round Rock Cares, an innovative public-private partnership that generated a $100,000 seed fund to help small business. Mayor Craig Morgan brought Dell Technologies, the Chamber, and the Greater Round Rock Community Foundation along-side the City of Round Rock to establish Round Rock Cares. At the time of this writing, more than fifty businesses have applied for support. Clearly, there is a need for small business support.
Just two days later, Nancy and Nyle Maxwell announced their commitment to match up to $10,000 in donations made to Round Rock Cares. Several individuals have made contributions, and Friday the Round Rock Police Officers Association donated $1,000. More Round Rock businesses intend to donate this week. If you are able, please join them in making a contribution at RoundRockCares.org. Even a small contribution will make a big difference to a small Round Rock business.
In Washington, congress has passed, and the president has signed, the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” (the “CARES Act”), one of the largest mobilizations of financial resources in the history of our nation. The $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill includes innovative loan forgiveness from the SBA to encourage employers to maintain staff levels, among many other funding resources for public health, state and local government, and families. If all of this sounds confusing and difficult to access – know that there are armies of Chamber and Economic Development professionals pouring over the bill to summarize information and streamline application processes for you as I type these words. Americans working in good faith made it happen, and it will help our businesses and families weather the storm.
I don’t mean to minimize the anxiety and concern that families are feeling. This progress does not mean that the economy won’t be deeply impacted. Entrepreneurs that have put so much of their time, treasure, and soul into building their dream, now find themselves navigating an economy that is fundamentally changed.
But – while we feel the pain of our experience, let us also focus on the strength of our response to it. Diamonds are valued for their beauty and purity, but they are created by extreme pressure and heat. Out of the worst of times comes the greatest in our humanity. It’s on display if we look for it.