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Kaine, Luria discuss COVID-19 impact to Historic Triangle, support needed on the federal level

Sen. Tim Kaine and Rep. Elaine Luria will take leaders' concerns back to Congress next week.

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine and Congresswoman Elaine Luria heard how COVID-19 has impacted the local economy, specifically in Williamsburg, James City, and York counties.

Both lawmakers brought in local leaders to try and find solutions and discuss what support is needed on the federal level to address the current challenges.

"My heart goes out to everyone in the room because everyone has personal concerns at this time," Kaine said. "We do believe there's more to be done."

"This allows us to go to Washington and understand what we need to advocate for," Luria said. "We want to assist in any way we can." 

Kaine and Luria heard from representatives from the Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance-Business Council, as well as tourism and business leaders, like Busch Gardens Williamsburg President Kevin Lembke.

Williamsburg city manager Andrew Trivette, York County Board of Supervisors Chairman Chad Green, and James City County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jim Icenhour also joined the roundtable. 

Trivette said at some point everyone will see a wave of social need, and local governments are not equipped to deal with it financially.

"The CARES ACT money has met the current need, but with a deadline of December we're worried about what do we do next year," Trivette said. "It'd be great to have some comfort that assistance will come when those needs arise. 

Green pleaded to both lawmakers for federal response. He also asked both Kaine and Luria to help people get the confidence to back and out and travel.

"I think a lot of these things need to be looked into for the future because something like this could happen again," Green said.

Small businesses have really felt the negative impacts of COVID-19. CK Pritchard is the owner of Spice Palace Indian Restaurant in Williamsburg. She said the pandemic hit them hard. Business is down 60 percent.

Fortunately, her business got some help from The non-profit Virginia 30 Day Fund.

The fund provides forgivable loans for Virginia-based small businesses. The forgivable loan is intended to provide immediate financial assistance to meet payroll, preserve healthcare coverage for employees, and save jobs while they await recently approved federal funding. 

"Nobody could have foreseen something like this to come along our way," Protchard said. "I encourage small businesses to reach out, they're willing to help."

Williamsburg Community Foundation is partnering with the Greater Williamsburg Partnership and the VA 30 Day Fund to help small businesses impacted by the pandemic. They have raised funds to provide small businesses in the area with forgivable loans to help them with payroll, rent, health insurance, and other expenses.

The Foundation has helped more than 70 businesses already. They encourage businesses in James City County to apply because they are able to help 150 more businesses in James City County.

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