The last few weeks have certainly been a little mind boggling and crazy, but I can’t help but feel blessed right now to be a part of several wonderful rural communities. At the same time, I am worried about the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic is going to have on all our communities. There are so many small and self-employed businesses in our state that couldn’t qualify for the SBA stimulus loans, which without it they are going to be hurt, or worse yet, bankrupt. I feel strongly that we need to help our communities!

Right now is a time that many people will be getting the government stimulus checks. For some, employees have been laid off and the unemployment checks still aren’t enough to replace what they lost. They will need every dollar of the stimulus checks. For many of us though, we have been able to keep the income that we were earning before COVID-19 came into our lives. All of us can help our communities’ futures and help prevent the shutdown or permanent closure of local businesses. I ask you to think of the businesses in your town that are being devastated by the COVID-19. Hair salons, restaurants, car dealerships, contractors, motels, newspapers, movie theaters, massage therapists, mechanics, and boutiques, just to name a few.

These are the places that may not have qualified for the SBA loan programs that are going to be hurt or closed for good if we don’t help. These are the businesses that support/donate to all of our kids’ activities, belong to and support the chamber in town that puts on local events, and they need our help!

I think that as a community we take care of our own. When you get your check in the near future, think about buying from our own! Prepay services, put a down payment on construction or a new car, prepay a food bill at restaurants, buy hotel rooms for future events for friends or family, donate to the theater, and so many more.

I ask you to all think of what your community would look like if these businesses don’t survive. We enjoy the convenience, services, volunteer work, and donations of our local business. Please use that stimulus to buy food and pay bills if you need it. If you didn’t lose income though, help save your community, because if not us, then who?

—Joe Bob Atkins