Thousands of jobs lost in Phoenix. Thousands of businesses struggling to stay alive. All within a matter of weeks.
To help, Phoenix has opened a hotline for companies blindsided during the pandemic.
“As you can imagine, it’s a different world for cities and people in economic development than it was about four and half weeks ago as we understood the governor was going to implement a stay-at-home order, and what that meant for our businesses and our non-essential businesses,” said Christine Mackay, director of community and economic development. Her department is overseeing the hotline.
Every business being contacted
Mackay also gave her entire team of 55 employees a new assignment: call every business on the city’s tax rolls to see what they need to weather this crisis.
“When this all came crashing down around our ears, as an economic developer, the first thing you think of is how do you keep development and construction alive and how do we help every single business we can help in our city,” she said.
In four weeks, employees have contacted 4,500 of the city’s 18,000 businesses by phone.
Dozens of programs available for Phoenix businesses
Since then, they have helped connect businesses to a wealth of resources and have responded with new solutions.
“I don’t think I have ever been as creative in my life as I have been in the last four weeks,” Mackay said.
City employees have helped a company hold a drive-through hiring event in the new Creighton University-Park Central Mall parking garage, expedited business certification and permits, and helped manufacturers pivot to quickly produce new products like ventilator parts and face masks.
They have connected companies and independent professionals to a host of organizations offering financial assistance and grants to small businesses and more.
Team members also have assisted small business owners seeking to apply for forgivable loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). On Tuesday, Congress and the White House agreed to a second round of funding for the PPP, which ran out of money last week.
“This was not a one size fits all,” Mackay said. “This wasn’t just a program where we direct people to the SBA website; we’re helping people with issues that they have to be able to keep them open to keep them moving and to keep them connected.”
Hotline is main number to department
Phoenix businesses hurt by the pandemic can call the hotline at (602) 262-5040 to be connected to resources, financial assistance, and more.
The city does not have a call center so the hotline is the main phone number for Community and Economic Development. If possible, all calls are answered or returned within one business day.
List of resources
The department also has a list of dozens of resources for businesses at Phoenix.gov/Resources. Here’s a sampling of programs:
• Phoenix Management Technical Assistance (MTA): For existing businesses, MTA connects businesses with experienced consultants for solutions and assistance in loan packaging, accounting and finance, human resources, technology, and most business operations.
• Phoenix Office of Customer Advocacy (OCA): The OCA serves as a business’ “City Hall insider.” The OCA assists businesses in understanding the range of permits needed. After applications are submitted, OCA advocates on the business’ behalf to smooth the development process.
• Phoenix Community Development Investment Corp.: Assists small businesses and nonprofits in low income census tracts within Maricopa County through commercial loan participation. Qualifying use of funds include working capital, acquisition or refinancing of commercial real estate, and purchase of equipment or other assets.
• Phoenix Arizona@Work: Helps companies with workforce talent recruitment, training and retention. Phoenix is the only community in the Valley with its own talent assistance program helping businesses recruit, hire, train and retain staff.
• SBA grant application assistance: For businesses with challenges reaching the SBA website to submit an applications for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), there are forms on Phoenix.gov/Resources with video tutorials, a road map with live links to forms in English and Spanish, and three alternative ways of submitting the disaster loan application that do not require the internet. Team members also can answer common EIDL questions.
This story was originally published at Chamber Business News.