In latest round of COVID-19 business, council outlines CARES Act money and gets briefings on JMU and EMU
The Harrisonburg City Council on Tuesday took up several tactics to mitigate the effects of the pandemic: a plan for how to distribute more than $3 million more in federal CARES Act funding, an emergency ordinance to allow the Open Doors shelter to open October 1, as well as protocols to slow the virus’ transmission among college students.
Magpie Diner is one of several new businesses that has opened in Harrisonburg since the beginning of the global coronavirus pandemic this year. And while it’s added a whole new level of difficulty to the already steep challenge of opening and running a business, Magpie so far has thrived, its owners say.
Mehretu Tekle dreamed of opening Hope Eritrean and Ethiopian Restaurant as a place of unity for the Harrisonburg community, where people could enjoy music and authentic food from the eastern African nations. All that was about to become a reality, but the COVID-19 pandemic put at least part of Tekle’s dream on hold.
Purchasing school technology for online learning, providing relief for local businesses and residents and covering some costs of delaying construction on the second high school are at the forefront of the draft for how the city could spend $4.6 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds.
Since mid-March, many local businesses closed their doors, but with Virginia’s Friday launch of Phase 1 reopening, many owners are unlatching their doors or have developed alternative ways to serve customers. The Citizen contacted more than a dozen businesses to find out how they’ve approached the challenges of the stay-at-home order and are adjusting to Phase 1 reopening. And there’s a range of ways local businesses are adjusting to survive.
COVID-19 drove the discussions during Tuesday evening’s Harrisonburg City Council meeting, as the council confirmed a local state of emergency and addressed the public’s questions about how the city could help those experiencing homelessness during this pandemic.
Harrisonburg businesses, organizations and other service providers made gut-wrenching decisions over the past 48 hours to dramatically scale back their interactions with the public. That has meant shifting to carry-out-only for restaurants, cutting back on hours of operations, limiting visitors to the hospital and, in many cases, closing up for the next couple weeks — at least.
Harrisonburg has one resident who is presumed to have COVID-19. Meanwhile, the public schools and universities are closed to students for the next couple weeks — at least. Employees at businesses and now JMU are being told to stay home if they can. The city has declared a state of emergency in order to apply for federal financial help to cover costs associated with managing the pandemic. And businesses already are feeling the pain of fewer customers and are bracing for that to get worse as area college students don’t return to town.