I’m watching films on Netflix, HBO or whatever channel my fingers point the clicker to, showing gatherings of people celebrating events. How odd it seemed. Everyone gathered together, smiling, sharing food, even hugging and shaking hands. Don’t they know how deadly that is?
Of course they don’t. It’s Hollywood. Unless, of course, you’re watching such films as “Contagion,” which seems to be all the rage now. I remember seeing that in the local cinema awhile back, thinking it’s plausible but unlikely. Foolish me.
I was supposed to go to a writer’s conference this past weekend. Looked forward to it for months. There I’d see friends I hardly ever get a chance to be with, talk to some industry reps about this and that, spend some quality time with my agent, have too much to drink and eat and mingle with other writers. We planned a game night, dinner out, a few other things. Then next weekend, Easter, my cousins, friends and family were to gather together and we’d have a wonderful time eating ham and paska, plus chewing on jelly beans and chocolate eggs. I’d cap off the month attending a wonderful wedding of a dear friend of mine who’s marrying the most wonderful woman in the world.
But all of that happiness vanished the moment our governor, and wisely so, told us to stay put. I wasn’t going to argue. I’ve been here for three weeks, venturing out only once to pick up some groceries. New York State, as of this writing, has 122,900+ cases of COVID-19, with 4,160 deaths. My own county has 3,102 cases and 51 deaths. And my town has just under 200 cases and several deaths. I know people who are sick. I pray for them, hoping they’ll make it. They seem to be doing all right, although they’ll tell you this illness is no picnic.
I swore off watching the news except to glean the headlines, and that goes doubly for Facebook. My Twitter feeds tend to be on the nerdy side, like NASA and science topics, with a good deal of writing thrown in, so my feed is relatively sane.
But I still have a job to do, so come every morning at 9:00 am my laptop is primed and ready to roll. And boy, did I ever last week!
All the buzz about the CARES act started filtering out last week, but on Monday a 16-page booklet in the form of a PDF file came my way. I opened it and read through its pages, surprised that it wasn’t composed of jargon but of plain English. Surprising for a Senate document. What caught my eye was the Paycheck Protection Program. Add to that an application and a list of banks offering the loans. The deal is, in a nutshell, a small business borrower compares lasts year’s second quarter to this year’s second quarter. That’s the amount one can borrow. Those funds cover not only paychecks, but rent, utilities, insurance…everything a small business needs to stay in business. And if the business stays going through June 30, 2020, that loan turns into a grant.
Nonprofits like mine are also eligible, so you better believe I dug in and got as much information as I could. Sent off two emails with loads of links to my boss. She swung into action and before you can say, “We’re open for business!” we’re putting together a fully-realized financial plan that will keep our doors open, even if those doors are to our houses and our offices are on the kitchen table for now.
Of course, something wonderful like this isn’t without its roadblocks. We had our paperwork ready to go and the bank my place of employment uses is a qualified Small Business Administration lender (the CARES act loans are administered through the SBA). While all that was good, the bank wasn’t set up to accept and process the loans…yet. Seems they were waiting on the SBA pipeline to get our loan going.
This bit of news didn’t surprise me, nor did it dampen my enthusiasm. I sent all the information I had to my hairdresser and a few others who have small businesses and are in danger of losing their livelihoods.
So while we can’t gather together to celebrate life’s celebrations, we can have a virtual gathering to share much-needed information. I’ve been moved almost to the point of tears over how many people have rushed to gather and share information. How to keep all of us going when it’s obvious we’re going to be stuck behind doors for far longer than we’re ever meant. But we’re all in this together, and if we hold each other up and reach out to offer whatever assistance we can to survive, we’re going to be all right.
Just remember to wash your hands and stay home. This isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon, and it’s only temporary.