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Big Sky businesses face steep adversity in coming months

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New opportunities for federal, community aid

By Michael Somerby EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – As COVID-19 continues its blistering tear across the nation, we are left with a stark new normal, one in which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts will afflict more before it slows; where concerned citizens flock to grocery stores for sanitation products, water and canned goods; and where the economy and its many markets have been rocked with historic volatility.

Specifically, those economic impacts are not limited to blue-chip stockholders and other publicly traded companies—in fact, it’s more likely than not the lion’s share of those businesses will weather the storm through measures of layoffs, bailouts and consolidations.

It’s the small businesses of the U.S., however, that may be left floundering as the tides of consumer spending recede further, and in an economy like Big Sky, all but entirely dependent on the viability and vitality of its local ski hill, the pressures for small business owners in this town have been dramatically enhanced.

But all is not without hope, thanks to the Federal Government’s Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program, which can provide up to $2 million in loan-based assistance to small businesses experiencing temporary losses as a result of prolonged disaster.

There are caveats to elicit EIDL assistance, such as a proven inability to meet obligations and pay ordinary and necessary operating expenses as a result of substantial economic injury; a proven ability to have met such expenses under typical, disaster-free conditions; and a proven inability to receive credit from any other sources, among others. 

That’s the federal government’s role. As a citizen, and one in a community as close-knit as Big Sky where local business owners double as family and friends, what can one do? It can feel chilling to see those we care about, and their livelihoods, blindsided.

A simple way to lend a hand, aside from a personal loan or concerted fundraising effort, is to buy a gift card. The owners will get money up front for purchases you might make when things become smoother and less uncertain. If it’s an establishment at which you regularly make purchases, this is a no brainer.

Another method is something we should all practice, regardless of a pandemic: shop local. Stock up on what you might need in bulk, without being inconsiderate of others, or buy items in bulk to then redistribute as gifts.

Scared of crowds? Order out and take it home. Nobody loses.

The coming days, weeks and months will be nothing short of unprecedented. They will require a degree of tremendous foresight and creativity in all decisions.

But in Big Sky, where community runs deep, a virus stands little chance to disrupt a hard-fought sense of togetherness, won through winter months on the slopes, summer evenings at the softball fields, and 365 days of sharing this incredible place we’ve chosen to call home.

To begin the road toward claiming an EIDL, visit https://sbdc.mt.gov/Portals/131/shared/SBDC/docs/StartUpGuides/Economic-Injury-Worksheet.pdf?ver=2020-03-12-100221-747 (https://bit.ly/2UmudM7) and submit the finished document to mtdes@mt.gov.

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