COVID-19 Small Business Resources
July 6-12, 2020
Mayor Frank Scott issues COVID-19 executive order mandating face masks in public
In the days heading into the Fourth of July weekend, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott issued an executive order requiring all persons within the city to wear face mask in public as Central Arkansas and the rest of the state has seen a recent spike in positive COVID-19 cases.
In a 12-page declaration on June 25, Scott issued the first such mandate in Arkansas as 4,000 new coronavirus cases have been confirmed since Gov. Hutchinson initiated Phase 2 reopening of the state economy on June 15. In Pulaski County, there have been 1,916 confirmed coronavirus cases and 57 deaths as of June 29.
On the day that Scott issued his executive order, state Health Department officials reported 669 new COVID-19, a new record. Of that total, just over 50% were in five of the state’s largest counties, including Washington (122), Pulaski (84), Benton (68), Sebastian (33), and Faulkner (31).
Statewide, COVID-19 cases have surged nearly 136% in June ahead of the Fourth of July holiday with 20,247 confirmed positive coronavirus cases and 265 deaths. Nationally, the number of COVID-19 cases on the last day of June was nearing 2.8 million cases and nearly 130,000 deaths.
Before instituting the new mandate in Arkansas’ largest city, Scott had noted days before that a Center for Disease Control and Prevention report stated social distancing leads to 33% fewer contacts and masks protects wearers from contracting coronavirus, which is easily spread through droplets expelled during sneezing, coughing, singing or even talking.
“We want people to remember as they are out enjoying public spaces, that the coronavirus is still a very real threat,” said Scott in a news release on June. “We want to remind them that masks and face coverings make a difference and social distancing saves lives.”
In his executive order, Scott said he chose to mandate mask wearing because Little Rock is a “global city” with more opportunities to interact with other people from across the state and across country. “Therefore, we are obligated to take the strongest action permitted by law to ensure the residents of Little Rock are protected,” he said.
Scotts order, however, also notes that city’s mandate is limited by any executive orders from Gov. Hutchinson, the state legislature or State Health Director Nate Smith. To date, Hutchinson has encouraged the wearing of face masks in the public square but has resisted issuing an executive order to make it mandatory.
Northwest Arkansas Council Foundation receives funds for Latinx and Marshallese communities
The Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas announced a $286,000 grant to the Northwest Arkansas Council Foundation to address the recent spike in COVID-19 transmission in the Latinx and Marshallese populations in Northwest Arkansas.
The funds will be used to hire and train community health navigators to conduct outreach within Latinx and Marshallese communities. This grant is part of a larger program by the Blue Cross of Arkansas’ philanthropic arm intended to limit the spread of COVID-19 through a coordinated response for testing and other support in hard-to-reach populations of Northwest Arkansas.
“Since the pandemic began, the Blue & You Foundation has worked to rapidly respond to the needs across the state resulting from COVID-19,” said Patrick O’Sullivan, executive director of the Blue & You Foundation. “Since April, we’ve funded more than $2.4 million to organizations fighting the spread of the virus, but the Northwest Arkansas crisis is a need unlike any challenge our state has experienced thus far.”
O’Sullivan said the grant to the Northwest Arkansas Council Foundation will support 10 community health navigators, who will be hired from within the Northwest Arkansas communities especially hard hit by the pandemic. Six navigators will be bilingual in Spanish and English, and four will be bilingual in Marshallese and English. With recent spikes in COVID-19 cases, it is estimated that more than 80 bilingual navigators and contact tracers are needed.
The community health navigators will be employed, trained and supervised by the UAMS Northwest Regional Campus (UAMS) and Community Clinic. Each of these organizations has long-term experience and strong relationships with the Marshallese- and Spanish-speaking populations in Northwest Arkansas.
As part of the local community, the community health navigators will be able to connect with people, give advice and link them to community resources. The navigators will also provide translation and interpretation services, help with access to resources (such as food and medication) that will allow people to self-isolate, connect people to testing services for themselves and other family members, and provide support for contact tracing.
“Northwest Arkansas is a diverse region and is home to large Latinx and Pacific Islander populations who make significant contributors to the state’s overall economic success and cultural diversity,” said Pearl McElfish, Ph.D., vice chancellor of the UAMS Northwest Regional Campus. “Unfortunately, these communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, having rates of infection that are about 400% higher than the general population.
“We are pleased that the Blue & You Foundation has announced the first investment in our efforts to reduce the COVID-19 disparities in the Latinx and Marshallese communities,” continued McElfish. “This grant will help us begin the process of lowering those infection rates.”
This grant also will complement existing activities being undertaken in the region by the Northwest Arkansas Council’s Healthcare Transformation Division. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the division has served as a coordinating body to establish a collective, region-wide response to the pandemic.
Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield President and CEO Curtis Barnett said COVID-19 “has left no community untouched, but we’re seeing it take an especially dramatic toll on our ethnic populations, particularly our Latinx and Pacific Islander populations in the northwest region of our state.”
“We are pleased to support the Northwest Arkansas Council as it implements its COVID-19 Response Plan. We believe having trusted health navigators from within the community who can help overcome language barriers and address critical social needs will be key to successfully controlling the spread of COVID-19 within these populations,” said Barnett.
City of Little Rock begins second round of COVID-19 funding for local business owners
The City of Little Rock has initiated a second round of funding on Friday, June 5, for Little Rock businesses needing financial assistance due to lessen the impact of COVID-19. The city is now accepting applications for new funding for zero-interest, forgivable small business loans through the Small Business Emergency Assistance Program (SBEAP). Residents may find the application and apply at LittleRock.gov/covid19 by clicking the Small Businesses button.
The SBEAP is funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant Program. Small businesses, including sole proprietorships, corporations, or limited liability corporations, that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19 may apply for a forgivable loan up to $5,000 at zero interest. There are no payments during the first year. If jobs are retained, created, or restored and still exist after one year, the loan is forgiven upon verification.
Other requirements include:
• Must be listed in the dataset of active businesses registered in Little Rock
• Must either have been in business more than two years and have 20 or fewer employees
• Or be a for-profit micro-enterprise business with five or fewer employees including the owner and owner must earn a household annual income up to or less than 80% of the area median income
• Applicant must be a directly affected small business or micro-enterprise business identified in Governors Proclamation E.O. 20-13, dated April 4, 2020
• Must have documented business income loss, including business income comparisons and narrative description of impacts.
Questions may be directed to Doris Turner at 501-371-6825 or email@example.com. Residents may visit LittleRock.gov/covid19 for all information about the City’s efforts related to COVID19, including the newly created SBEAP program.