There are no words to describe the past few weeks. With each passing day, the coronavirus outbreak is causing increasing disruptions to everyday life while signs of widespread economic harm continue to emerge in the United States. For economic development organizations (EDOs) facing the prospect of broader impacts on local businesses and workers as the epidemic expands, the focus is firmly on planning for far-reaching consequences.

There’s much that we don’t know about COVID-19. But we know that it is compromising supply chains, workers’ hours and income, and demand for products as consumers are encouraged to avoid public spaces. U.S. states have declared states of emergency, resulting in the closure of schools, churches, restaurants and other places where people gather.

These measures – while critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19 – are already having an economic impact on our communities. These impacts likely will be felt around the world for months to come.

To assist right now, there are three things we’d like to suggest that you can do:

Spread helpful information. Misinformation can spread quickly as people are hungry for news and rumors spread fast. We need to counter that by letting people know exactly what’s going on, and what is available for help. Here are some resources that can help, and all these links, and more, are available on our website,

  • If you’re a business who needs to take out a disaster loan from the SBA, apply here: These loans are a fixed term for up to 30 years at 3.75% interest rate.

  • If you have questions about how unemployment insurance works, consult If you’re going to apply for unemployment benefits, APPLY ONLINE. Phone lines are jammed and have long wait times.

  • Identified businesses with a monthly Sales and Use Tax payment due March 20, 2020, have until April 20 to make that payment. See the MN Dept of Revenue Sales and Use Tax page for more information.

  • The Alexandria Area Community Foundation manages the Alexandria Response Fund, now available to serve those impacted by COVID-19. See for more information.

  • The AAEDC has loans available for businesses. Consult our website for more information or give us a call at 763-4545.

Continue to shop local. Even though you can’t dine in, many of our restaurants are still open for takeout and delivery. They even have gift cards for you to buy now and use later. The Echo Press has a fantastic list of restaurants that are open and ready to serve you.

Finally, stay home. I generally enjoy people and consider myself an extrovert. I left my house twice this week to get food for the family – teenage boy appetites are no joke. A big thank you to all essential employees who are out continuing vital operations in our community. I can work remotely, so I do. One of the best parts of my jobs is being out in the community talking with businesses, but I’m staying home to help. Please stay home if you can. We don’t know when our normal will return, but we can all do our part to ensure it comes sooner rather than later.

Nicole Fernholz is the director of the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission. In the Know is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.