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Business, Government Rise To Meet COVID-19 Challenges


Businesses and governments are working to meet the challenges posed by the rapidly evolving COVID-19 crisis.

Capitalize Albany Corporation President Sarah Reginelli says the organization is stepping up to assist local businesses and help them access resources to weather and recover from the pandemic.     "Business owners and restauranteurs last night, talking about the businesses that this is affecting here locally, are the people who have been taking care of us for so long. These are servers and bartenders and dishwashers, but they're also hairstylists, daycare workers, auto mechanics, ushers in our theatres, our trainers at the gym, and these are the folks in our community that this is impacting already. The latest study that I saw reported, stated that 25% of employees making less than $50,000 a year have already either lost their job or had their hours scaled back. And that's because the businesses that we're talking about operate on really slim margins. Recent reports show that about 50% of these types of businesses operate with only two weeks of liquidity or less and they can't weather the duration of this storm. So we're seeing great need here and the need will continue to grow as the situation changes by the hour."

Action to alleviate the economic impact on individuals and businesses is expected from the federal and state governments in the coming weeks.

Troy Mayor Patrick Madden says small businesses are certainly taking a hit.   "It's the loss of the opportunity to go out and have a glass of wine or a meal in one of our restaurants, or visit the farmers market, the farmers market was closed last week. It'll be closed again this week and I suspect for several weeks into the future, though no call has been made  on that. But I do foresee that being closed for a bit longer. And you know, part of what makes Troy so Troy is the intermingling of people, at our businesses, at the farmers market at events, all of that has stopped and  it's startling to see what our city looks like under these conditions."

Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin says homeless residents will not be overlooked.    "Our social services folks remain on the job, certainly at a reduced staff like everybody is right now, but our safety net remains in place and it remains solid. So we are making sure that we are not changing any of our service levels, even though you know we are operating at a skeleton staff.  It feels like the work is 10 times more with 50% less people so, our folks are stepping up in a great way and getting it done."

The pandemic has halted sports worldwide, causing the cancellation of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at the Albany County-owned Times Union Center, which was to have begun Thursday.  Albany County Executive Dan McCoy says he'll be calculating losses into the nest year's budget.   "This is going to be the great recession of ’08, ‘09. We'll be ready. That's why I built up our reserves since day one in office. That's why I put all the money aside for emergencies like this. So we don't have to get crazy and raise taxes. But it's one of the things that all the towns, cities and villages are going to have to look at going forward, on top of the state of emergency and everything else going on.”

McCoy says his first priority is the safety and well-being of county residents.  Reginelli and Madden say there could be a bright side to the crisis:    "You know, it's not too early to do your Christmas shopping, go out. Buy gift cards online, from all of your favorite businesses, keep your memberships. Remember to tip and tip generously when you can, and order from those, those places that are offering delivery options," said Reginelli.

Madden suggests "Go out and clean up the litter in front of your house. Help continue to make our city clean and tidy. You've got time on your hands, and just be kind to each other and take a minute and reflect on how this illustrates how interconnected we all are and how important it is not just in times of crisis, but all times to recognize and have that empathy for your neighbor."


Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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