Sidewalk dining at Satellite on State Street | Credit: Paul Wellman

The financial pain inflicted by coronavirus cancellations and closures is affecting all levels of Santa Barbara commerce, from publicly-traded entities like Sonos and Deckers to small locally owned businesses to individual workers and their families. 

Hit especially hard are people who can’t work from home, including employees in the restaurant and hospitality sectors, as well as those who make a living by touching others, i.e. barbers, masseuses, and so on. Event planners and performers are similarly hurting, as are tutors, house cleaners, personal trainers — the list goes on.

Many aren’t sure where to turn for financial help during what has evolved into a full-blown crisis. Private, nonprofit, and government assistance programs are struggling just to keep up. But there are options out there, and if there’s any silver lining, it’s that a number of different groups are starting to partner in effective and inspiring ways.

One example is the new collaboration between the Santa Barbara Foundation and United Way of Santa Barbara County. While the Foundation is giving financial and organizational support to the region’s nonprofits, and by extension the people they serve, United Way is focusing on individuals, said Jordan Killebrew, the Foundation’s director of communications. “This way we can catch all demographics,” he explained. 

Both organizations are watching for potential relief funding from the state and federal governments and are creating COVID-19 portals on their respective websites. “We want to make it as simple for the community as possible,” said Killebrew. The Foundation’s portal is here, and United Way’s is here. They also offer opportunities to give.

While Santa Barbara’s elected officials haven’t said much to the area’s workforce, the website for California’s Employment Development Department is chock-full of information. Employees can use it to file an Unemployment Insurance claim, currently the easiest and quickest way to get some relief if their hours have been reduced or they’re completely out of a job. The good news is the department is waiving its normal one-week unpaid waiting period for claims, so people can start collecting benefits right away. The bad news is the state will only pay up to $450 per week.

At the federal level, congress is mulling the idea of giving every American a $1,000 check to tide people over until more government aid can arrive. There is bipartisan support for the idea, including from President Trump, who said he wants the checks to go out in the next two weeks.

For Santa Barbara employers, this resource guide published by the U.S. Small Business Administration will prove helpful. It offers immediate steps to protect companies from further harm, explains options for business disruption loans, and talks about work sharing programs, among other critical information.

Lastly, Downtown Santa Barbara has suggested ways to support local businesses without necessarily patronizing them in person ― buy gift cards, leave online reviews, tip more than usual, order takeout, and donate. 


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