While no one in our state has been left unaffected by the novel coronavirus, it is clear that small businesses and restaurants are feeling the struggle especially right now. Pay It Forward Maine was started by the Portland Regional Chamber and its partners as a collaborative community measure. The site contains an ever-growing library of ideal, tools, and resources to support Maine businesses, organizations, and each other during this pandemic. In addition to providing assistance to the businesses themselves, it helps those of us in Maine and all over the country support the companies we love. Gift cards, online orders, and even social promotion can be hugely beneficial at this time.
Today (Wednesday), April 22, 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Created in 1970, Earth Day provided a focused, singular voice for various environmental movements and achieved rare, non-partisan support. Here in Maine, being surrounded by the beauty of untouched nature is sometimes taken for granted, but lately has become a lifeline for many in an increasingly isolated society.
It has been anything but business as usual in Maine, and the current economic atmosphere has allowed many local leaders to reflect on what they love – and are most looking forward to post-COVID-19 – when it comes to the natural beauty of our great state.
Senator King also recently held a virtual conversation with a fellow Maine Chamber, as reported by the Penobscot Bay Pilot, in an article that included the following Pay It Forward Maine mention:
"Additionally, the Chamber is partnering on initiatives to support local businesses such as the Opportunity Knox local purchasing platform and the Pay It Forward Maine campaign."
Read full Penobscot Bay Pilot article HERE.
The Portland Regional Chamber and its initial partners (the Maine Department of Economic & Community Development, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, and the Retail Association of Maine) set out to create a website containing an ever-growing library of ideas, tools, and resources for Mainers to come together during this pandemic, to lift each other up, to pay it forward for Maine.
In just a few weeks since launching, Pay It Forward Maine has grown to include 75 community partners, been featured on multiple media outlets and websites (including Governor Mill's "Maine Helps" resource page) and has been shared via hundreds of inspirational social posts (with #payitforwardmaine) showing what we all know to be true - we are stronger together.
There is no doubt that the road ahead is long, but we plan on continuing to add useful materials to the Pay It Forward Maine site for as long as it takes to get us all back on our feet again. Because that's what Mainers do!
If your business has continued to serve the community despite the challenges, let us know! Visit Pay It Forward Maine for a list of online platforms where you can add your current services/offerings so that we can all continue to support you.
Please also reach out to the Chamber directly to not only share how Pay It Forward Maine has positively affected YOUR business but with any ideas or suggestions you have - this is a collaborative movement and your input allows us to grow in ways that positively benefit the entire community.
In Portland, our city’s pulse is our small-business community. In recent weeks, that pulse has slowed. Today, walking through the Old Port and beyond feels surreal, with shuttered shops and empty streets.
Nicole Wolf, a Portland photographer, has been documenting these empty storefronts and the faces behind them through a series called “Behind Closed Doors.” These images remind
us that behind every empty business is a family, a household budget and individuals impacted by the economic fallout of this crisis.
It can be easy to see these scenes around us and feel helpless. Fortunately, Mainers are working to support these businesses and their employees in this time of need. The website Pay It Forward Maine is helping Mainers buy gift certificates to impacted businesses. Service Industry Tips is helping Mainers provide direct relief to bartenders and servers in our community. And Portland Food Map has made a list of restaurants offering takeout and delivery.
Our state government is also stepping up. The Finance Authority of Maine is offering limited loans for businesses affected by COVID-19. FAME is also offering loans to businesses while they wait for more substantial assistance from the federal Small Business Administration.
Mainers are resilient, and we will make it through this crisis, but we will all need to support our local businesses to make sure that our community comes out of this situation even stronger than ever.