PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — For the lucky number of us who have not been laid off or had our working hours reduced amid the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, how best should we spend our money to help the local economy?
That is the question KOIN 6 News posed to Better Business Bureau Oregon State Director Danielle Kane.
“If consumers have a little money in their pocket, the best way to spend it is on small business, even micro-business,” she said. “The businesses in your community that really need it most.”
Spending your money in a way that benefits the local economy will require resisting the temptation to shop with the big box retailers online, like Amazon and others, Kane said.
“See who’s open and to what capacity and what you can buy from them at this time. Like if its a restaurant or a brewery, can you get some take out or a gift card?”
You can check out a running list of what restaurants are still open for take out and delivery here.
Kane also encourages shoppers to check local retail websites for items like jewelry, accessories, or other items to see if they have online shopping available. For instance, the iconic Powell’s Books is still taking online orders although their stores are closed.
COVID-19 has brought a record-setting amount of people filing for unemployment in the U.S. and locally. The federal government has responded in the form of legislation to help ease the economic impact throughout the country.
For those who choose not to put all of their stimulus checks away into savings for a rainy day, Kane said it’s a good idea to give that money toward a good cause, like finding a charity that can provide some relief to front line medical workers.
“Maybe you can even buy something to provide that medical staff, like maybe you want to treat them in some way, to food or coffee or whatever it is. There’s a lot of ways to do that.”
In terms of what businesses who are in need of money can do, Kane recommends preparing tax documents, books, and financials ahead of time so that they can be first in line when applying for any federal relief options. The U.S. Senate has passed the next round of stimulus packages, which next needs the approval of the House and President, so its a good idea to keep tabs on activity in Washington, Kane said.
In addition, if a business is not qualified for either of the federal Paycheck Protection Program loan or Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance, there are other options such as non-coronavirus-related loans that the Small Business Administration may have available, Kane said.
One warning to business owners: do not try to use payday loans to float the business. Kane said using such loans could get a business owner stuck on a “treadmill cycle” that would be very difficult to ever catch up or pay back.
It’s also a good idea to be leery of scams. Since January, there’s been over $10 million lost to coronavirus-virus scams in the U.S. and over 200 reports in Oregon, according to the Federal Trade Commission, Kane said. The BBB has a free tool on their website to track such scams,
Scams can include faulty websites that advertise selling N95 masks, but do not deliver after a payment is made, to phone calls claiming to be from the Center for Disease Control or Department of Treasury asking about your stimulus checks or personal information. The FTC recommends hanging up on robocalls, ignore online offers for test kits or vaccinations and don’t respond to texts, calls, or emails about checks from the government.
The BBB is an over century old non-profit organization that offers consumer protection and business accreditation services. Since the coronavirus outbreak, the organization has been holding twice weekly webinar meetings for businesses that can be found on their website.