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Local Nonprofit And Business Leaders Concerned About Increased COVID-19 Cases Going Into Winter

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>>BOB ZALTSBERG: This is Noon Edition on WFIU. I'm your host, Bob Zaltsberg, co-hosting with Sara Wittmeyer. Today, we're talking about the local economy, COVID-19 and the holiday season nonprofits. And we're prerecording the show, so you can't send in your questions. So we have two guests with us to start the show. Efrat Feferman is The United Way Monroe County executive director. And Jeff Mease is co-founder and CEO of Lennie's The Hive, Pizza X and One World Enterprises. We hope to be joined before the show is over by Erin Predmore, who's with the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce. She's the president and CEO. Efrat, Jeff, thanks for being here with us today. 

>>EFRAT FEFERMAN: Thanks, Bob. 

>>JEFF MEASE: Glad to be here. Thanks. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Absolutely. I want to start with Jeff because, Jeff, we're in a really difficult period of time for local business. That's one of the things we want to talk about today. You have - you know, as I just read, you are affiliated with several local businesses. So what's it been like to try to navigate this world with COVID-19? 

>>JEFF MEASE: Well, what's it been like? Intense, I'd say. Things you've never - just dealing with sort of issues that you've never - it sounds trite to say, but, I mean, we've all been dealing with issues we've never dealt with before. But I think for those of us in food service - food service and venue management. I don't want to discount the people - there are a lot of people who have it bad besides those of us in food service, though I feel like we get most of the attention. But, you know, people who are in arts, arts, production and things like this - just decimated. So you start to deal with things like you never considered before, like, are we going to stop paying our rent? You know, I mean, that's what - that's to the point that I would say a huge number of food service employers are dealing with, you know, right now. Are we going to stay open? And are we just going to tell our landlord, I'm sorry, we take our commitments seriously. We always have. But it comes at a time when you can only do what you can do. Yeah. 

>>JEFF MEASE: Well, I'll follow up on a lot of those points. Sara and I will both follow up on a lot of those points. I wanted to ask Efrat, you know, from the nonprofit standpoint, how - you know, how bad is it in the non-profit world? I guess that's not a very delicate way to put it, but... 

>>EFRAT FEFERMAN: Yeah, yeah. And, you know, remembering that the nonprofits, especially the ones United Way works with, are there to support some of our more vulnerable, you know, community members. So it wasn't an easy job to begin with. And then, with COVID, it's definitely been a challenge, like for every other sector. There was data earlier on in the pandemic that 70% of nonprofits curbed their programming, more limited, you know, services about (unintelligible) to offering things online (unintelligible) services. About 60% had to suspend or end programs. So that's a challenge not only for the nonprofits and the people who work for them, but also, you know, for the people that run their services. And while there has been more support from federal and state government for emergency services, for, you know, the basic needs like shelter and food, the demand is just so much higher than it has been that - even, you know, that extra support is not enough. It's not enough. United Way - you know, we raised 1.6 million in our COVID relief fund. This week is the announcement of phase four, so the final phase of giving those grants out to local nonprofits. And we've done some good things with that. And I'm very proud of all of that. It's kind of what United Way is built for - to respond to such needs in the community. But, you know, when we set out to do that relief fund, we were looking at a much shorter time period, right? We thought we'd have a 30, 60, 90 and 180-day benchmark and then sort of be moving on to the recovery phase. And we're still very much in the relief phase. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah, I wanted to follow up on that. I mean, you're in phase four, going into phase four of giving out some of the grants and relief. But even though we have some good news on the horizon - I mean, the vaccines and whatnot - it's going to be a while before we get anything that even approaches normalcy. So what's going to be next for United Way? 

>>EFRAT FEFERMAN: Right - so transitioning to the longer-term picture while still trying to meet the immediate needs. And we are doing both of those things because, you know, on one hand, I'm talking about how tough it's been, but it's also just been amazing to see our community and the nonprofits just be so creative and innovative in how they are responding to needs and how they've adapted their services. And, you know, we really want to keep building on that, because, like I said, even before COVID, things were really tough for a lot of people in our community. Say about half of our community was struggling either, you know, the 1 in 5 families, households in poverty, and then 1 in 3 on top of that that kind of hover right above that - working, you know, but just not getting ahead, not being able to save for emergencies. That was half of our community before COVID. We know it's going to be up even more than that as we try to recover and stabilize. So, you know, rather than trying to restore things and go back to normal, we're looking to build a better normal for our community and taking those lessons that we've learned along the way in recent months about adapting things and meeting people where they are with their needs and just continuing to focus on that. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Before I turn back to Jeff, could you give me an example of something that United Way or a particular agency has done that you think is particularly creative and that is meeting people, you know, where they are? 

>>EFRAT FEFERMAN: Absolutely. I think a great one is, in the field of mental health services, one of our partners is Catholic Charities Bloomington. And they serve people on a sliding scale with mental health services. They were serving about a thousand clients a year prior to COVID in their location in the Crestmont community, a lot of work with children who've experienced trauma. And so, of course, March comes around, that all shuts down. But Catholic Charities quickly assessed their potential for transitioning those services to a virtual environment, and they applied for some grants from us to buy the technology, to buy laptops for their therapists, to buy the - you know, the Zoom licenses and all that. They weren't sure if people would continue to use the services in that way because not everyone has the technology, the wi-fi, to - you know, to do that. But what they found is that it actually - the clients were really happy with it. Someone who maybe was working and prior to all this would have had to figure out, you know, child care, had to get to the place for their appointment, work that into a busy schedule, can now go step out on their lunch break and get on their phone and take that half an hour or an hour appointment, you know, from a break room or their car without having to do all those other steps. And they've served an additional four hundred people through the pandemic without any in-person visits so far. And they also recognize that nonprofit staff in our community are facing, you know, these challenges of being the care providers, of absorbing all of that while they're on the ground. So they - another grant they receive from us, they offered five-dollar visits to any nonprofit staff in town. And we've seen some people take advantage of that. And so that's - I think that's a great example. And it's a need that has been growing, will continue to grow, especially now and post this pandemic. So just a great example of that, you know, innovation that happened quickly because it was needed but then actually proved to be a helpful model that may continue. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that's a great example. And yes, mental health issues are going to be with us for quite a while. Jeff Mease, I think - you know, Efrat just talked about some creativity. I think sometimes I think innovation is your middle name. What kinds of creative things have you done? And I know there have been several to try to - you know, try to help out either, you know, your own staff, your own team, the restaurant, the local restaurant scene, your customers, you know. 

>>JEFF MEASE: I know Efrat well, and I just want to commend her and United Way for all the work. It's like she said, you know, there's so many people that pre-COVID are struggling. And so the caseload for all these groups just gets stacked up. And the workload, obviously, for the limited number of people who are working in those areas totally appreciate that. Innovation, well, for the people who, you know, are employed in our organization and other food service, it's super challenging, particularly the people who work for tips, because that whole thing is way - you know, because sales are down and tips pretty much move first with sales, although the people who have been dining out and continuing to buy food - and there's a strong contingent in Bloomington of people who are just - they get it. They're just going - bending over backwards to try to support local, not just restaurants, but the local economy. People really understand. And so they tip well. And so there's a lot of pockets of joy to be found. In general, it's very tough for staff because maybe they don't get the hours that they want. Everybody, my sense is that everybody's just tired. The uncertainty - business, of course, just hates uncertainty. I was talking about before we started recording just the challenges and why restaurants have had to shrink their menus so much because we don't know how much sales we're doing today or this week. We noticed at Lennie's, particularly at Lennie's and Hive, that the bottom just dropped out once the weather shifted about two or three weeks ago. And that was the case for all the downtown restaurants. I make it a point to wander around on foot once a week or so and just to see. And you could just see where we had Lennie's, for example, had been doing in sales a little bit less than 1/2 of our normal when the outside dining was strong, now we've dropped down to maybe twenty-five or thirty percent of normal. And I'm hearing the same thing from places around town, generally. Not everybody, but there's the fact that some of the larger student bars are now closed compared to last year. That's helped a few places that are able to sort of tie into that sort of late night party group. Although - but generally for the restaurants themselves to try to operate on twenty-five percent of sales or so is just - it's a matter of tremendous bleed on capital. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Sara Wittmeyer with us. I want to bring Sara in. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Jeff, I know some restaurants, at least early on, not necessarily in Bloomington but around the country, were called super spreaders and people inside in areas which we know you can more easily get the virus, not wearing masks. I'm curious, you have three restaurants here. What have you been doing inside your restaurants to keep people safe? 

>>JEFF MEASE: Well, from early on, there have been a lot of - you know, there's been a lot of coordination between state health organizations and restaurant associations. And basically the three key, wash your hands, safe distance and masks, we've been very supportive of all that from the very beginning. Although obviously people can't eat with a mask on, so you've got that. Some people - you know, are just - there's obviously higher risk when people are gathering together. They're - more recently, there's been availability and some funding as well to work on HVAC systems, some UV light and ionization that we have on order both for Woolery and for Lennie's. However, there's a backlog of that stuff. So as soon as that comes in, we'll be installing - basically in the air handlers, you can put UV light. People - you can't have UV light on your skin because it's cancerous. But you can put it in the furnace systems. So I think that's going to be a positive thing. That'll kill virus and bacteria. Yeah, in the case of our catering business, now, catering is kind of a horse of a different color because, you know, as the caterer, you're basically the hired gun for a party somebody else is putting together. So it's been - we've had situations where venues - now we have a venue, a catering venue. And we've been very strong in enforcing mask rules and distance rules, distance as much as you can at a wedding. But some venues we go to are not. They're not willing to do that. And that's been a real (unintelligible) - that's created a lot of consternation. You know, our staff obviously are concerned. You're working an event. I will say that, you know, we have not had a single positive case at Lennie's or at Pizza X. We had one at Hive in February. And we had two early on at One World Catering. But we employ about almost three hundred people. So somehow by luck, you know, I knock on wood, but our staff have been doing a great job. And they're - that nobody has so far that we know of picked up anything from either each other or a guest. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Jeff, let me follow up on that. The pizza delivery business of Pizza X, I know you sent a note out on social media about how many pizzas you've delivered since this started without a positive test. Can you talk about that a little bit? 

>>JEFF MEASE: Our business at Pizza X has been really strong. And that kept the whole rest of our company afloat. And I certainly recognize, you know, that gives us such a blessing compared to so many other single unit restaurants in town that are just - they don't have that. But, yeah. We - you know, we're - our sales are up generally about twenty percent compared to last year. And Pizza X has always been strong in the local community. And we've yet to have anybody test positive. Now what I don't know is how many people are getting tests. You know, we don't tell people to get tested or force any testing. But they just - if somebody - I'm sure you know the rules as well as I do. If somebody tests positive as an employee, then we quickly have to ascertain who has been in close contact with that employee and then quarantine everybody. So what we've been also trying to do within our operations is with those rules in mind, really look at the operations and say, look, everybody, stay separate. You know, who are you being in close contact with tonight? Do you need to be? Do you need to be? And we've basically made a rule at Pizza X that if you're a delivery person, there's no reason you really need to be ever six feet from - and more than six feet closer to another delivery person or an inside person. So if we're really aware of that, it can help us cut down on spread. There are places in our operations, especially when we're busy, like people making pizza and on the phones, they can't stay six feet apart. There's just no way. So there's some places where it's just it won't be possible to actually get the work done. I'm sure it's that way in a lot of places. But we try to be really conscientious about masks and hand washing in those situations. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. That's Jeff Mease. He's co-founder and CEO of Lennie's, The Hive, Pizza X and One World Enterprises. And we're also talking today with Efrat Feferman, United Way of Monroe County's Executive Director, Sara Wittmeyer is here with me, Bob Zaltsberg. And we're prerecording the show for Thanksgiving weekend, talking with - talking about local business and the nonprofits so you can't give us a call today. One question I have for Efrat is about the importance generally of the holiday season when it comes to nonprofits. I would think they would do a good portion of their fundraising during the holiday season. 

>>EFRAT FEFERMAN: Yeah. That's a great question, Bob. This is a time of year when typically you would see a lot of fundraising events. For some organizations, this is a time of year when they really get a lot of revenue and a lot of those have been canceled. The New Hope for Families, did do their Christmas tree auction in sort of a different model. And it was done safely. And I think it was fairly successful, but a lot have been canceled. That's just been the case for the last nine months or so, which is kind of part of the challenge of meeting demand while not being able to raise the funds that you might be able to otherwise. So, again, that's where we're glad that we could raise the money and support some of these things. It's certainly not going to be enough for organizations for the year to come and the funds that they might have been relying on around this time of year. I anticipate that you'll continue to see some innovative approaches from individual organizations trying to raise money. And, you know, they're turning to their core supporters, of course, with the asks, but may also see some more unique approaches to fundraising out there. And I think a lot of the funders, not just United Way, but all the funders in the community have stepped up to try to compensate for all this - the Unity Foundation, the Bloomington Health Foundation, the city, the county - all found some extra dollars and have been giving those out alongside us in our efforts. But it's also a time of year at nonprofits where they want to make the holidays brighter for their clients, whether they're serving families and kids or older adults or individuals with disabilities, you know, they're trying to do what they can, even in a time when maybe, you know, the party, the tradition can't go on as it had, looking at what they can do to make people's lives just a little happier and brighter for the moment. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah, I have a couple of follow ups to that. I mean, one is what kind of a hole does the lack of like the big fundraising event of the year - what kind of a hole does that make in the overall budget for a nonprofit? 

>>EFRAT FEFERMAN: It's kind of a case by case. But there's definitely somewhere where that one big event might have been 30 percent of their revenue. So if that doesn't happen or maybe it's modified and it's only bringing in a fraction of what it would otherwise, that's a big hit. That's a big hit. And that's - that means they have to now spend a lot of extra time looking for the dollars elsewhere, either, you know, grant writing or soliciting donors a different way or scaling back services or reconfiguring services. And we have seen a couple that have had to scale things down and kind of even hibernate a little bit and hope that, you know, that they can come out of this. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah. My other follow up has to do with - you know, you and I have had conversations about this before and I've had them with other people on nonprofits. And sometimes we get talking about fundraising and it becomes a little bit kind of antiseptic. You know, we're talking about - you know, it sounds transactional. You know, I'm going to give you, United Way, this kind of money. But the funds are going towards services for individuals in the community. So if you could break that down to, like, you know, what's a fifty dollar donation mean to somebody, you know, at United Way? 

>>EFRAT FEFERMAN: I can tell you off the bat, 50 dollars buys twenty-five meals. That's - you know, that's an easy one. It also is - I'm trying to think how many nights of shelter. But it's a few nights at a shelter as well. These are real, tangible things that, you know, add up when we all are able to be generous with what we have because these organizations can do some things in bulk. So when we talk about a two-dollar meal, it's because they are producing, you know, thousands of them and taking advantage of maybe some governmental buying programs and things like that. And the same goes for shelter - the capital costs are already, you know, fixed for the most part. So those operating costs, the more - you know, the more they can raise, the more people they can serve and feed and shelter and clothe and coordinate case management for and so forth and so forth. There's also been still a lot of need in the nonprofits, the social service ones, especially for equipment, PPE and other needed equipment. Our Phase Four grants did see some of that. The HealthNet Health Clinic, which used to be Volunteers in Medicine, applied for a ten-thousand dollar COVID screener that they'll have at the entrance of their facility for those coming in for free or sliding scale health care. So that's a one-time, you know, investment that's going to go a long way towards keeping them all safe and healthier. And we saw some requests like that from the Shalom Center that's now under Beacon Inc. You know, they've had to really attend to the hygiene and sanitation needs of those facilities. And so, again, those are things that might be five thousand, ten thousand, but a one-time expense that, you know, if we can make that happen, we should feel good about reducing the transmission and keeping everyone safe, both the staff, volunteers and the clients of an organization. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Jeff, I'm curious. What sort of regulations do restaurants in Monroe County have to follow right now? Because I know the county has been more strict than the state kind of throughout the whole pandemic. 

>>JEFF MEASE: Yeah, a little bit. Currently in food service, there's not a definition of capacity or restriction based on capacity, at least as I understand it. What everybody is dealing with is basically diners separated by at least six feet and a limit on table, a limit on the number of people at a table, which I think recently got dropped to six. I'm probably a little less up-to-the-minute on this than my people. I don't want you to think we don't know. It's just that I don't (laughter) I don't know. But I think it got dropped from ten to six. Yeah, there - so that's, yeah. That's what restaurants are sort of dealing with on an inside - on a dine-in basis. But I think largely the market is just - it's I'm - you know, people understand the risk. And so although, you know, young people are more our kind of clientele that comes to our restaurant, they're just kind of self-regulating, if you will. You know, they're sort of staying away. Our carry out business has jumped dramatically at Lennie's and at Hive. So yeah, if that answers that. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Yeah. I want to follow up with something that you asked earlier on, that a lot of businesses were doing about a quarter percent of their sales. I just - from your own perspective and maybe from other folks in the industry you've spoken to, how many think that they can survive, you know, like, through the winter, something like that? You know, that's a big difference. 

>>JEFF MEASE: Yeah, yeah. No, it's - I think it's very difficult to survive at that level. So, you know, the PPP stuff was a godsend, really a godsend. You know, but that was back when we thought this was going to last a couple months or that was sort of the idea that PPP was kind of all based on this two-month, two to four month, that extended unemployment longer than - wider than that. But, yeah. There's just no - there's no good answer to that. You know, people - when you operate at that level of sales, it's just, you know, everything's bleeding. So you - if you can't make enough - if you can't cover - if there's no surplus in funds after you've paid your labor and your food - those are, of course, the two biggest costs in the food service business, labor usually being a little higher than food - if there's no surplus from there, then you're better off being closed. But if you're closed, you know, you still have the overhead loans to pay, loans to pay, landlords to pay, utilities to keep the heat on, these kind of things. So it's going to be - I've got a friend - you know, Bloomington is arguably in a better situation than, say, like in the big cities, in New York - you know, and I'm surprised we don't read more of that. But I have friends in the business in New York. And you know, what I'm being told is that just restaurants are open and nobody's paying rent. There's just no money to pay rent, but there's an eviction moratorium. So people are trying to stay open and, you know, operate and get a little cash. And then - but once an eviction moratorium kicks in, then it'll be just a bloodbath. So - and not paying the rent means that small landlords can't pay their loans. So it's - you know, there's no villain. It's just a - you know, huge problems caused by lack of flow of money. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: That's Jeff Mease, co-owner, co-founder and CEO of Lennie's, the Hive, Pizza X and One World Enterprises. We've also had Efrat Feferman on with us. She's the executive director of United Way of Monroe County. We're talking about some of the issues facing small business and facing the nonprofits as we head into the holiday season. We're prerecording the show to be played on the Friday - Friday at noon after Thanksgiving. But we're now being joined as well by Erin Predmore from the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce. Erin is president and CEO. And, Erin, thanks for joining us. I know you are - you know, you've had your role with United Way now - or with the - I'm sorry, with Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce overseeing the business community. But before that, you were very active as a director in the nonprofit community. So if you could talk a little bit about A) what's happening with the local business scene and B) you know, how do these two areas, nonprofits and local business, you know, overlap? And why is the success of one important to the success of the other? And Erin, I think you're muted. There you go. Not hearing you, Erin. 

>>ERIN PREDMORE: Are you able to hear me now, Bob? 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah, there we go. Yeah. 

>>ERIN PREDMORE: Great. It's an interesting interplay that exists between the business and nonprofit sector, as you just referred to. And, you know, we're seeing it's a lot of what Jeff was just referring to about the just flow of cash around the community between - I mean, so many of our small businesses, you know, for example, donate to nonprofits and, you know, are the ones giving gift certificates for their silent auctions or helping out in other ways if somebody needs food or something special for an event or maybe their clients need something. I mean, there's just this interplay of cooperation between both sectors, the small business and nonprofits. And I would say that the pandemic is just really - I mean, just in our survey of our members, a lot of it - a lot of their strength and their confidence right now depends on their - the cash on hand that they have. And that's - that doesn't matter if it's a nonprofit or a small business. It just - a lot of it - so much of that cash flow is decreased that, you know, if you have an 80 percent drop in revenue, then, you know, if you only have a few months of cash on hand, then that's not going to take you very long to, you know, have to close your doors. And so we really have seen that struggle, the PPP loans have been great. Emergency loans have come really into play as well. And so what we're seeing now as this drags on is that the question of what happens next for these small businesses and nonprofits? And can they hold on a little longer? Is the federal government going to come through with another stimulus package? So a lot of that obviously still outstanding that we're still - obviously we're actively advocating for that with our delegation in D.C. to make sure that they hear the stories about what's happening locally here in Bloomington. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: What are your - what's your forecast for this holiday season for local businesses? And can you talk a little bit about how the retailers locally - you know, what percentage of their annual revenue usually comes from the holiday season? 

>>ERIN PREDMORE: Well, I would say that my forecast that - it's going to be lower than I think in years past. And a lot of that's because with IU finishing up early, we just don't have those students here, which would drive some of that. You know, half of our population is, well, they could be going home (laughter). I fear that some will be still around, but that's going to be a dip. So we're just dropping in population. I do think that there's a concerted effort for people that live here locally to shop locally this holiday season. We've been hearing a lot of that. And I know that, you know, we came out with a holiday gift guide and so did DBI and (inaudible) did that as well. And so there's a lot of resources around if people want to brainstorm or learn about a new store or maybe some new items that are for sale, if they've got a particular person they're shopping for. So we are hopeful that this will be a sufficient season for our local retailers to be able to maintain their stores and retail establishments so that they have them and that they can maybe make a little bit of inroads into the deficits that they've had so far this year. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: You mentioned DBI, that's Downtown Business Inc, right? 

>>ERIN PREDMORE: Yes, Downtown Bloomington, Inc. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Downtown Bloomington, Inc. Yeah, sorry about that. Jeff, Efrat, kind of the same question to you. And Jeff, I'll start with you about I know you've been a champion for local business and shopping locally. I mean, the - I don't think we can ever say it enough on what the small, local retailers mean to, you know, the overall local community. 

>>JEFF MEASE: Indeed, yeah. You know, so much of that, so much of the dollar, when you're spending a dollar at a - well, obviously on Amazon. But if you're spending a dollar at an out of town owned business, then that much more than money is just flying right out of town. So that's always been something that I believe strongly in. We can - when we find our ways to support good stuff that's local, we just make - we make more of it. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Efrat, same question to you about this overlap between the nonprofits and the local businesses. 

>>EFRAT FEFERMAN: Yeah. And I think both Erin and Jeff made some good points. And I also just wanted to give them both a shout out. Jeff, early on in - you know, when things shut down, you did what you could to take care of your employees. I remember (unintelligible) days, it was just tremendous because that's, you know, one small example of how perhaps if you hadn't have done that, the nonprofits would have seen folks more and demand for food and other things would have been that much greater. But, you know, you did a really good thing for your employees when they couldn't make those tips as they were otherwise and make that income, and, in general, just a very community-minded business owner, we appreciate that. 

>>JEFF MEASE: Thank you. 

>>ERIN PREDMORE: Well, and Efrat, let me add to that, too. The other thing that Jeff did by that action was he helped other business owners that were locally doing OK to think creatively about how they could help. And so you were one of the very first ones, Jeff - you and Lennie really jumped on that. And everybody went, wait, they're responding. What else could we do? And that really added to the sense of community. 

>>EFRAT FEFERMAN: Yeah, yeah. That's a great point. And then Erin, stepping up to, you know, just provide resources, connect businesses with resources, connect business and that sector with the rest of the community like we've been doing through our coalition that meets every other week and just really stepping up in so many ways, it's just been amazing to have you there during this time. So I really wanted to give that shout out. And, yeah, our sectors are intertwined. And there are these dynamics where when - you know, when the business sector may be struggling, the nonprofit world is going to feel that impact. But when the business sector is strong, the nonprofit world is going to benefit from the, you know, extra generosity. So we're kind of in a tough time because both are struggling in different ways. But still, I like, Jeff, how you said earlier, moments of joy or pockets of joy I think you said and I try to focus on that because we really have seen so many wonderful things, collaborations between the two sectors, and others too - you know, government and institutions, we've all been at the table together for all these months, even more than usual, and thinking creatively and tackling things creatively. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. We have about 10 minutes to go on the program today. And we are talking about the local business community, and we're talking about the nonprofit community and some of the ways that they're struggling during COVID. It's Thanksgiving holiday weekend, and we're prerecording this show. So you can't send us or our call us in with your questions. We have Erin Predmore from the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce. We have Efrat Feferman from United Way of Monroe County, and Jeff Mease, co-founder and CEO of Lennie's, The Hive, Pizza X and One World Enterprises. And also joining me today is Sara Wittmeyer from WFIU. And Sara has a question. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: I thought Efrat just did an amazing job talking about how all of these different sectors are connected. Erin, I was wondering if you could just follow up on that because that really does just seem to spell this perfect storm. It's like, how does one help the other when everyone is struggling? 

>>ERIN PREDMORE: Yes. That's a good question. And I think we've struggled with that question through the pandemic. I mean, Efrat mentioned the Monroe County Coalition that we have, the COVID-19 Coalition that meets every couple of weeks, and we've dealt with that question of how do we update each other? How do we keep the flow of information so that we don't miss opportunities to both aid each other, but also to stay informed so that everyone can be nimble and adjust on the fly - which I think is one of the things that our community has done an amazing job of is really making sure that we're listening to each other and being aware of some of those patterns of action within the different sectors. So I would say that's how - that's where we start is when one is struggling, one group or all groups are struggling, just making sure that we can align as much as we possibly can. I mean, you know, a great example is IU here in town has done an amazing job with its testing program for students, which has impacted both the nonprofit sector because, you know, there'll be more students available maybe to volunteer to take the places of elderly individuals that aren't able to do it right now during the pandemic. But it's also impacted the economic picture in our community because it's allowed things to stay open. And so they - you know, we've heard about that testing program, you know, starting in the summer all the way through, you know, just got an update on Tuesday. And the efforts that they've taken in our community to make sure that they can, you know, maintain their status as such a great partner for us to make sure that they kind of do no harm or, you know, ameliorate the harm that they may expose the rest of the community to, I think it's a great example of the rest of us needing to have that information but then also being able to be nimble and adjust accordingly depending on the efforts that they were putting forward on the campus. So, I mean, that's just one example. But it really has helped us as a community to keep the doors open both for our school systems. You know, they're intertwined. Our government functions as well - and then to do is - to make as many inroads as we possibly could, both economically for small businesses, but also for non-profits so that we're able to continue to support those big efforts that they're making too. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Then how important is some sort of federal relief in this, just since everyone, on the local level at least, is really strained? 

>>ERIN PREDMORE: I think it's critical. I can't - I've been extremely frustrated with the lack of response from Washington and their inability to overcome whatever issues that they may have from different perspectives and different sides, because as I'm hearing from our members and I'm seeing individual businesses close or struggle or lay off or furlough, you know, it just seems - you know, when you've got somebody hurting in front of you, you don't really care what people are arguing about in D.C. You just want them to get over it. So it's - I think it's critical for them to figure this out as soon as we can. Maybe perhaps they'll have more progress with the new administration because if they don't do something, I worry that the - everybody's been holding on right now. I think two things may happen if they don't do something. One, we'll just see, you know, Jeff used the word bloodbath a little bit ago. And I think that's what I'm concerned about. There'll be a huge kind of rebound effect in a negative way. All those ones that have held on will just not be able to do it anymore. But I also see that - oh, I did say there were two things. That was going to be the first one (laughter). And then the other thing I see is that if they don't do something, that will both have a huge - it'll take us much longer to recover. So even those ones that are able to hold on in our economic forecasting and that sort of stuff, the things I've been looking at, essentially saying that we've lost a year or two - right? - of economic - in order for us to recover, it'll take us another couple of years to get back to where we were in 2019. I worry that that will be even longer if the economic stimulus doesn't come through from the federal government, that it will be an impact of three or four years, maybe five, I mean, just depending on how long or if it ever happens. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: We only have a few minutes to go. And I want to use the last few minutes to talk about the help that is available in the community and what kind of help people can provide during the holiday season. I want to start with Efrat about, you know, if people are struggling now, are there places that they can look and go to try to get some help to help get them through this holiday season? 

>>EFRAT FEFERMAN: Yes, there are. And I'll try to cover the basic couple of categories. Rent, mortgage, utilities assistance - we have the moratorium. It was lifted. The state did roll out some extra funding. So both New Hope for Families and Beacon or Shalom, as we previously knew it, received (inaudible) to provide extra support to people with bills that they may be falling behind on. Same goes - there are several other agencies, too, including MCUM and SCCAP. And so the way to connect with the right one or just to find the help you need, I would recommend either calling 211, which is (inaudible) week a live person will talk to you about your need and where you can go for help. Or there's a website called that you can search yourself and find these services in our town, in our region even. And then there's several organizations that provide food right now. And most of them, they're not asking a lot of questions. We're not looking for paperwork right now. We just want to make sure that people have the food that they need so that, you know, if they are tight on money, spend that on the rent right now if you can't get help for rent. Don't get - you know, don't put yourself in a position where your housing is compromised. There is food available in our community from many organizations. Pantry279 handing out boxes, Community Kitchen doing warm meals, our Hoosier Hill's food bank supplies the entire region and is up, oh gosh, well over a million pounds in distribution from where they were this time last year. So there is help available. There's mental health counseling, as I mentioned earlier, available on a free or subsidized scale. Same with health care. So call 211, tell them what you're struggling with and get connected. Call me at United Way. I always will take a call or any of my staff will and try to work with you on the unique situation as well. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK, thanks. We have about a minute to go. So Jeff and Erin, about 30 seconds each. What - if there are people out there that maybe are looking for a way to help, what would you suggest to them? Jeff? 

>>JEFF MEASE: Well, I think getting that word out that Efrat was just saying, you know, to keep people out of a sense of hopelessness and fear, I think people just have to be aware of, you know, where they can call. That's great. What can people do? Oh, golly. You know, everybody - I think it's to look out to the people that are right around you and see - you know, see what you can do for the people that you're - that are struggling, who are right in front of your face. I think that's usually the best thing. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. Thanks. Erin, the last 30 seconds. 

>>ERIN PREDMORE: Yeah. A couple of things too if any businesses are struggling, I just want to toss out the Restart grant from Indiana, the deadline's December 1st. So you've got another few days to be able to get that in. The SBA loans are still available through December 31. And then we have two local things with Monroe County. We can get reimbursed for COVID expenses. And also the city of Bloomington's Rapid Response Fund is still taking applications as well. So look into those and then what to do to help? Jeff's right. Look around where you are. You know, encourage other people around you and also shop locally this Christmas, these holiday seasons, when you're trying to find something. Make the effort to go to one of our local businesses because they really do need you to support them right now. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. Thank you, Erin Predmore from the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce. And also Efrat Feferman from Monroe County United Way and Jeff Mease from Lennie's, The Hive, Pizza X and One World Enterprises. I want to thank Sara Wittmeyer, my co-host today, producer Bente Bouthier. I'm Bob Zaltsberg. Thanks for listening. 

>>UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Noon Edition is a production of WFIU Public Radio. A podcast of this program is available at Production support comes from Smithville - Fiber Internet, streaming TV, home security and automation in southern Indiana. More information at and from Bloomington Health Foundation, partnering with local organizations and citizens to invest in programs that address our communities health needs. Bloomington Health Foundation, improving health and well-being takes a community. More at

Kirkwood Ave. near IU's campus is devoid of cars one day before Gov. Eric Holcomb's coronavirus Stay-At-Home order will take effect.

(Emma Atkinson, WFIU/WTIU News)

Noon Edition airs on Fridays at noon on WFIU.

As people gear up for holidays, thousands of Hoosiers remain hospitalized with COVID-19, and daily new cases continue to climb.

This has some local leaders concerned about how their community’s economy will fare through the winter season.

In Bloomington, many local businesses have already shut their doors, and area food backs have already broken their yearly records for output.

Though the unemployment rate in Indiana has fallen, so has the number of people looking for work.

You can follow us on Twitter @NoonEdition or join us on the air by calling in at 812-855-0811 or toll-free at 1-877-285-9348. You can also send us questions for the show at

Note-This week of our guests and hosts will participate remotely to avoid risk of spreading infection. We prerecorded this week's show due to the holiday this week.

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