Newton, NC — As we enter the holiday season, the Newton City Council asks citizens to support our local businesses while keeping their health and safety in mind during the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Local businesses are the backbone of our economy. Small businesses, defined as independent businesses having fewer than 500 employees by the U.S. Small Business Administration, comprise more than 99 percent of all firms. From 2000 to 2019, small businesses created 10.5 million net new jobs, nearly double the number created by large businesses.

Newton is fortunate to have a robust business community that has remained resilient during the months of the pandemic. We are proud of the business leaders who have pivoted over the past several months to find ways to continue serving their customers while keeping both customers and employees safe and healthy. We give thanks to the businesses that have found creative ways to keep their doors open. The first two cycles of the City’s disaster business stabilization grant provided funding to 55 small businesses in need of emergency support, and we will continue to find ways to assist small businesses.

While the effects of the pandemic are still not fully known, the economic impacts have been particularly difficult for small businesses. According to the U.S. Census Bureau Small Business Pulse Survey, 34.2 percent of all businesses surveyed through the second week of August reported negative financial effects from the pandemic.

During the beginning of the pandemic, businesses with between 20 and 49 employees had the largest employment decline of any size group. Also, the decline in business activity among Black owners has been nearly three times the decline among other owners. The pandemic has affected some industries more than others, with businesses related to accommodation, food services, and arts and recreation being some of the hardest hit industries.

Federal health officials report the distribution of vaccines will begin in the near future, however, we can all take steps now to minimize the pandemics harm to our community: Wear a cloth mask over your nose and mouth, wait six feet apart and avoid close contact with people outside your household, and wash your hands and use hand sanitizer frequently.

Various measures have been instituted by the State of North Carolina for the purpose of safeguarding public health. The City recognizes the hardships these measures have created both for consumers and businesses. While federal health officials plan to begin distributing vaccines soon, the City urges all businesses to comply with statewide executive orders aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Regardless of the type of business activity or restrictions placed on specific businesses, the fact that the virus is spreading anywhere at any time means that all businesses must comply with the governor’s executive orders. Additionally, anyone having supervision of any place of public assembly should institute similar public health measures. We urge all citizens and businesses to follow statewide orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19.