Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
It was a week ago the moving vans pulled into our farm driveway on a cold, icy Friday morning. At that point we were as ready as we could be to begin loading the vans and packing 38 years of collections, memories and possessions into 2 vans and head to town (pictures here). Other than the weather, things went fairly smoothly. There were problems in the beginning with ice on the ramp up the van…all we had on hand was a box of Morton table salt but it was effective. The company had sent 4 young men and they worked like troopers on a cold and very miserable day to get everything loaded, moved and unloaded…it took 8 hours; Cherry and I were exhausted and we weren’t doing the heavy lifting (picture here)…but, we have officially moved to town. 
 
Right in the middle of all this craziness we’ve gathered many new neighbors which we are anxious to meet but can’t. We’ve shouted hello to some from afar…and some have sent notes to us – but in a time of social distancing we are prevented from officially meeting everyone with proper greetings. We look forward to many hellos when the weather warms officially and finally for the summer. In the meantime we are unpacking boxes and trying to figure out how to reorganize our lives…at least we have plenty to occupy our time!!
 
Community Block Development Grant (CBDG) monies:
 
The Federal Government has greatly reduced restrictions on the CBDG money the City of Ottawa has available to loan businesses. The funds used to be tied closely to restrictions on how many new jobs were being created…now during the pandemic – in an effort to get money into communities, the parameters have changed to how many employees a business can keep on the payroll during this crisis. And, the business/owner can include themselves in the list of employees…so this is very beneficial to self-employed single business owners. Several thousand dollars have already been loaned at very low interest rates to downtown businesses in efforts to (hopefully) allow downtown to rebound after this shutdown is rescinded. The dollars are available to use to pay regular business expenses such as utilities, rent, etc.
 
Here is a link to the application and this is further explanation of the job retention count for the loan…if this might be something your business could benefit from I highly encourage you to apply. This is local money we can turn around really fast…in a matter of a week.  
 
CARES Act:
 
The federal relief money ($1,200.00 per person) should start depositing in bank accounts next week according to the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin…that will cause some relief for those who have lost their jobs completely. You can read a highlighted and condensed version of the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) here. Below is more specific relief within the CARES Act.  Here is a good reference to Frequently Asked Questions regarding paycheck protection program within the CARES Act which is now available to independent contractors and self-employed individuals.
 
Valuable Relief Resources:
 
The links below are updated resources that the U.S. Chamber has developed to assist businesses access resources created under the CARES Act (Phase III bill). 
 
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Treasury issued the guidance below regarding the Paycheck Protection Program. Links to the resources provided by the Treasury can be found below with additional information on their webpage.
  • A top-line overview of the program can be found here.
  • If you’re a lender, more information can be found here.
  • If you’re a borrower, more information can be found here.
  • The application for borrowers can be found here.
 
Ottawa Schools:
 
Young people will long remember the abrupt end to their 2020 conventional school year…it had a similar feel in 1998 when the Old Middle School was condemned and students were dispersed to various makeshift classrooms throughout the community…at least then they were out of their school but still together. Now all are regulated to their homes…parents are their proctors.  I feel most sorry for seniors who will miss prom, graduation and all the ceremonial nostalgia which goes with the last few weeks of wrapping up thirteen years of comradely and learning together. Ottawa High School teachers made this video for all their students…click here
 
Every year your Chamber recognizes the top 5% of students in grades 6-12 with a banquet and ceremony to honor high scholastic…this year’s ceremony was supposed to be in the new Performing Arts Center for the first time. In light of the pandemic we especially don’t want to forget our local students which excel…particularly now. In partnership with Ottawa University, Neosho County Community College and USD 290 we will observe their high achievements with a gift certificate to local businesses in lieu of a banquet…and we will mail them their certificates. Good job to the students which excelled in class this last year!!
 
Post Office:
 
Our local post office is getting a bit of a makeover during the COVID-19 crisis…pictures here. I don’t pick up the Chamber mail every day like I do normally, but at least 2 or 3 times a week I journey to post office. The lobby is still a good place to greet people (with the acceptable social distance)…in some ways people seem friendlier than normal. I’m assuming it’s pent-up need to engage on a “normal” level. I actually remember when the post office building was dedicated in 1963…my dad was a postal clerk and moved from the old post office to what I still tend to call the new post office. I’m guessing this is the first bit of a facelift the building has received in almost 60 years!
 
Easter:
 
Happy Good Friday to all of you…Sunday is Easter. This has been a weird Holy Week for people of the Christian faith. I can’t think of a time in my life when we all needed Easter more than we need it this year. On that first Easter morning all those years ago, Jesus’ followers felt alone and distanced from the world…in many ways not so different than us today. And then Christ rose…giving hope and salvation to believers. We need a risen Christ today more than ever…that feeling that our lives will once again be normal. Because I have faith I know we will hug friends and family once again…we will sit around tables and in churches and synagogues and with our neighbors and fellowship as we have always enjoyed…thing is – we will enjoy it even more in the future. You never appreciate what you have until it has been taken away.
 
In light of everything, I offer you this blessing for your Easter morning…whoever your risen Christ is:
 
“May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; may the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace” – Numbers 6:24-26 (NRSV)
 
Blessings to you all…talk to you next week.
 
Onward ~ John
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000