What’s Up Downtown: Small business resources during COVID shut-down (Voices) | nnbw.com

What’s Up Downtown: Small business resources during COVID shut-down (Voices)

Alex Stettinski

Special to the NNBW

Alex Stettinski is executive director for the Downtown Reno Partnership.
Courtesy photo

RENO, Nev. — COVID-19 has changed the world. In just a few weeks, it turned the economy upside-down and has changed our day-to-day lives. Many businesses have closed and laid off workers during this unprecedented time.

In this climate, the Reno community has pulled together and become stronger, but our business community still needs help.

A big part of our job as the downtown business improvement district is to do what we can to aid and support businesses in our community. Here, we’ve compiled a list of programs that could help keep businesses afloat during this time until the virus pandemic has subsided.


  • We put together a list of take-out and curbside food and retail options in the downtown area and put together an ongoing list of resources for business owners at downtownreno.org/covid.
  • Our downtown ambassadors are now carrying disinfectants to wipe down areas everyone touches, such as doorknobs, trashcan handles, traffic light buttons, etc. The ambassadors will continue their outreach to the vulnerable community, but they are learning to express their compassion through other ways, including avoiding hugs and handshakes. And they are teaching these precautions to others, especially to those whose immune systems are highly compromised already.
  • The ambassadors are passing out fliers (but still keeping the recommended 6 feet distance) with basic information on the virus; basic rules how to keep the virus from spreading; and with the locations of 19 temporary public bathrooms the city has installed during this pandemic.
  • The ambassadors have also received a limited supply of bottled water and will hand them out to those who need it.


SBA Assistance

The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans to Nevada small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the COVID-19.

Small businesses may qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses. The loan can be spread out over 30 years at 3.75% interest.

Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download the applications at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela or call SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955.

The Nevada Small Business Development Center (Nevada SBDC) Business Resiliency Toolkit (nevadasbdc.org/business-resiliency-plan) includes a small business resiliency plan and links to help small business owners plan for disruption from natural disasters to infrastructure failures to pandemics.

We attended the SBA’s webinar on this program and they highly encourage businesses to apply just to see what it takes and what the barriers may or may not be. The website has been loading slowly because so many people are applying right now but be patient because it’s still working, and it will eventually load for you.

The SBA recommends trying during off hours if the website is too slow during the day.

Community Foundation Relief Fund

In cooperation with Washoe County and the cities of Reno and Sparks, the Community Foundation has established a charitable relief fund (nevadafund.org/donors/covid-19-relief-fund) to help address needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic in Northern Nevada.

Bartenders Guild Grant

The United States Bartenders Guild Foundation is offering grants to bartenders who are out of work due to COVID-19. Jameson whiskey donated $500,000 to the foundation to help with this grant. Bartenders, members or not, can apply at usbgfoundation.com.

United Way Community Fund

The United Way is taking donations for and committing to helping communities impacted by the virus. Donations are meant to help people in need of food and shelter. Also, locally, the United Way of Northern Nevada and Sierra Nevada has created an “Emergency Assistance Fund (uwnns.org/EAF).

Facebook Small Business Grant

Facebook is offering $100 million in cash grants and ad credits for up to 30,000 eligible small businesses in over 30 countries. Facebook is still creating details for this program and asks people to sign up at facebook.com/business/grants for updates.

Yelp Relief Fund

Yelp announced $25 million in relief (bit.ly/2QO18rF), primarily focused on supporting independent local restaurant and nightlife businesses in the form of waived advertising fees — and free advertising, products and services — during this period.

As part of this relief effort, restaurants and nightlife businesses that remain open will receive free access to Yelp page upgrades, including Business Highlights and Call To Action, as well as Connect, which will help them communicate timely information to their customers.

Health Insurance Coverage Exception

Nevada Health Link is offering a limited-time exceptional circumstances enrollment period to any Nevadan without health coverage. The enrollment period runs through April 15. Go to bit.ly/2QNVBRW to find out more.

This represents only a smattering of available programs. The city of Reno and state of Nevada are still working on possible programs to help businesses. Meanwhile, the federal government is putting together packages for relief.

In a time like this, it’s good to be creative, look for external and internal solutions. Many businesses are experimenting with new business models, online and delivery options for their products, social media marketing, and new digital marketing solutions.

It’s difficult to be specific without knowing specific businesses, but now could be a good time to take on a new project or rejiggering you had planned and put off.

“What’s Up Downtown” is a recurring Voices column in the NNBW authored by Alex Stettinski, executive director of the Downtown Reno Partnership. Reach him for comment at astettinski@downtownreno.org.