Vermont communities are faced with an unprecedented challenge. The coronavirus pandemic has halted in-person municipal operations, limited or even shuttered business operations, and put significant economic strain on individuals and families across the state. While daunting, many communities have begun to identify key best practices to meet immediate needs, support business recovery in the short and long term, and implement strategies to build resilience and ensure economic recovery over time. Some stand-out examples of best practice strategies include:
Meeting Immediate Community Needs
A Community Center turned Virtual Hub: The Marlboro Alliance and affiliated Marlboro Community Center are working together to provide wrap-around support for their neighbors. The Community Center is bringing residents together virtually with weekly “coffee hour” Zoom calls; offering curbside pickup for local food and farm businesses; providing baked goods and prepared soups and meals; and helping residents connect through free public Wi-Fi from the parking lot. A portion of proceeds from food sales and curbside pickup benefit the Marlboro Community Fund, managed by the Alliance and started in the wake of Hurricane Irene, that offers $200 to households with emergency needs.
Communities can find more resources and best practices to support immediate community response at the Vermont COVID-19 Community Response Toolkit.
Supporting Local Businesses
48-Hour Gift Card Challenge: The Downtown Brattleboro Alliance raised $57,000 in two days to support local businesses and families in need with a 48-hour gift card challenge. Every online gift card purchased from a downtown Brattleboro business was matched dollar-for-dollar by local donors. Matching gift cards were distributed via the Retreat Farm’s Pick-Up-A-Pantry Program. The Alliance created a guide on how to implement a community challenge.
Building Economic Resilience and Recovery
Building Local Capacity for Business Recovery: Montpelier Alive and the Montpelier Development Corporation have partnered with the Center for Women and Enterprise to hire Jean Kissner as their Montpelier Recovery Navigator to work with local businesses over the next year to help navigate recovery options and adapt to the new business environment.
Over the coming weeks and months Vermont communities will step forward with innovative and far reaching plans to support and sustain their businesses and residents, solving the immediate problems and laying the groundwork for a more sustainable future.