Impact, Stories, Resources: COVID-19 in the Sierra

COVID-19 may well be the biggest challenge of our time, putting politics, personal priorities, and party lines on the backburner as the world scrambles to keep up on news, contain the virus, and address the largest pandemic in modern times.

Meanwhile in the Sierra, our businesses, including everyone from mega ski resorts to mom and pop shops to tourism-dependent retailers and restaurants, have come to a screeching halt. Not only are our vulnerable communities concerned about contracting the virus and the capacity of our mountain hospitals to support critical care of the Sierra’s residents (and visitors), but the foundation of our economy is at stake.

Luckily, silver-linings abound. Each day in Truckee we hear stories of people choosing to do the right thing regardless of its impact on business. Jeff and Patty Baird, when making the decision to shut down their boutique hotel, the Cedar House, and restaurant, Stella, first cooked all perishable food for their laid-off employees to take home with them. The rest they then donated to Sierra Community House to ensure those in our community with the least are fed first.

And our grocery stores are now allowing seniors and other immune-compromised, at-risk individuals to do their shopping before the stores open to the general public. Folks are opting to shop locally via Tahoe Food Hub, Mountain Bounty Farms, and other local organizations that provide CSA boxes for curbside pick up rather than expose themselves and others to germs by waiting in line at stores, sometimes for hours.

Educators are teaching via zoom and inspiring our kids to think out of the box about learning, and the Truckee Tahoe Unified School District, with support from Northstar, is providing free meals to all kids 18 and younger. Other community members are purchasing take-out and gift cards they normally wouldn’t just to keep our local businesses out of the red. Neighbors are checking on each other by calling greetings over 6-foot snowbanks or shoveling each other out, not getting too close but letting each other know they care.

The list of small kindnesses is endless, and there are countless examples just like these happening up and down the Sierra. 

Here at Sierra Business Council our office may be closed to the public, but our phones are ringing off the hook. Our Small Business Development Team (SBDC) has been and will continue to help our small business clients through the unprecedented, unforeseen, and trying impact of COVID-19.

Sierra SBDC is answering the phone during business hours and here to help you. Please call 530-582-5022 with any questions and check the SBDC website and Facebook page for updates as they happen. Our business advisors are available to meet remotely to provide no-cost expert advice on adjusting cash flow, marketing plans and, critically, access to SBA emergency loans to keep businesses up and running. 

Sierra SBDC is working hard to keep you up to date on new information as it develops and is also offering valuable free webinars for the business community. Register for these webinars and tune in to past recordings here

And stay tuned for more information about HR 6201, a federal bill that signed into law late last Wednesday (3/18/20) to provide financial assistance to companies with fewer than 500 employees. The SBDC and government affairs teams are continuing to dive into this new piece of legislation and will provide more info soon, but here are the main takeaways regarding HR 6201 and Sierra small businesses:

  • Reimbursements for sick leave: Under this new law, employers must provide all employees with job-protected paid sick leave. Employers will initially pay for the sick leave but will be fully reimbursed by the government within three months. (Companies with fewer than 50 employees may be allowed to opt-out of this if it results in financial instability for the business.)
  • Reasons for sick leave: Employees may take paid sick if they have been exposed to or exhibit symptoms of the virus, a healthcare provider recommends quarantine and they cannot work from home, they need to care for a sick family member, or they need to care for a child younger than 18 whose school or daycare is closed and child care is unavailable.

For more information about HR 6201, click here.

And as chaotic, uncertain, and isolated as these times may feel, remember that there is strength and resilience in the communities up and down the Sierra—something we have proven time and time again.