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  • Difference Makers: Tri-State Non-Profits Mobilize To Support Those In Need Amid COVID-19 Crisis

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    By Neil A. Carousso

    During this unprecedented time, we continue to share stories of “Difference Makers” in our community. Do you know someone who has gone above and beyond during the coronavirus crisis? Click here to let us know about your local heroes.

    HARTFORD, Conn. (WCBS 880) — The coronavirus pandemic has halted life as we know it, and for the most vulnerable population, non-profit organizations in the Tri-State Area are stepping up to serve.

    Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced the formation of a new charity on Wednesday named Connecticut COVID-19 Charity Connection or 4-CT, founded by two Fairfield County residents, Don Kendall and Ted Yang, who run Social Venture Partners – Connecticut, which is a collective of donors and other philanthropic groups.

    There are 12-14 non-profits in the state that are now working together as part of 4-CT to provide resources such as housing, food delivery for the elderly, and child care for those in need.

    “One of the things we’re also trying to do with 4-CT is not only provide the resources and the strategic investment, but also perhaps provide a funnel for the young people who are at home,” said Lamont, adding that it can offer a minimum wage job for students home from school because of the pandemic.

    Lamont pointed to food banks that are overwhelmed by demand. Volunteers and minimum wage workers are needed to deliver nutritious food to people’s homes while adhering to social distancing guidelines. Most people unable to get food are most vulnerable to contracting coronavirus, especially elderly residents.

    There are people who would like to volunteer, but are concerned about their own safety.

    “Volunteers who used to serve food at the soup kitchen are now driving,” said David Munshine, of the Munshine Group, based in New Jersey, which specializes in marketing for non-profit organizations.

    Arm In Arm, an organization in Princeton and Trenton, they are delivering to doorsteps,” Munshine told WCBS producer Neil A. Carousso. “They’ve seen a surge in volunteers, who when they go out to get their own groceries, they can drop off a few bags of groceries for people who can’t get out.”

    Building Homes for Heroes was established after 9/11 to provide mortgage-free homes to veterans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is now sending money to vets who are losing wages because of the coronavirus pandemic.

    “Those who have been traumatized in the past, those who suffer from PTSD, any sort of trauma is a trigger for many of them, unfortunately, and [the coronavirus pandemic] certainly meets that definition,” Munshine said, noting many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

    Seventy-eight percent of Americans say they’re living paycheck to paycheck, according to a 2017 report by employment website CareerBuilder.

    Stamford Mayor David Martin launched “Stamford Together” – a citywide volunteer program to provide support for the emergency response efforts related to the COVID-19 health crisis.

    “Senior outreach program: Some of them are alone and they may need help getting their prescription, or getting food from the grocery store, or getting meals delivered or whatever it is that they may have as a special need,” Mayor Martin told WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams.

    One can also distribute meals to school children and those with medical experience are needed to test patients for coronavirus.

    “I really am moved by the fact that people are coming forward who want to volunteer, who want to help during this crisis,” Mayor Martin said, emphasizing every precaution will be taken to protect volunteers.

    Tri-State Non-Profit Organizations in Need of Volunteers and Resources:

    Arm In Arm​

    Building Homes for Heroes

    Monmouth Conservation Foundation

    Mustard Seed School

    nourish.NJ

    Project Self-Sufficiency

    Stamford Together

    4-CT

    Front-line Appreciation Group

    Feed the Frontline Workers of NYC

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  • Small Business Survival: SBA Loans Available for Companies Impacted by Coronavirus

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    By Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — $349 billion in loans are available through the Small Business Administration as part of the newly enacted stimulus package to support businesses and their employees during the coronavirus pandemic.

    On this week’s WCBS Small Business Spotlight Podcast focusing on small business survival, sponsored by BNB Bank, Joe Connolly speaks with Steve Bulger, SBA Atlantic Region II administrator, including New York and New Jersey, about the two small business loans available this week.

    The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program application is currently available on the SBA website. Eligible businesses can apply for up to $2 million to pay overhead costs, including salaries and rent with 30 years to pay back. EIDL payments are waived for the first year.

    “I’m telling small businesses 2-3 weeks before you really end up with the money in your bank account,” Bulger told Connolly of the EIDL.

    Any small business owners with 500 employees or less, including sole-proprietors, can apply for the Paycheck Protection Program on the SBA website starting this Friday, April 3.

    “That program is going to start this Friday and is going to be able to provide loans, forgivable loans in most cases, to small businesses to try and get them through the next three months, keeping their people on payroll, paying some of your rent, utilities, mortgage bills and basically allowing you to get through this period,” Bulger said, adding, “We believe that money will go out quick.”

    He said owners will receive Paycheck Protection Program loans in a “week or less or a little more” in some cases after applying.

    Businesses are also eligible for tax credits if they retain employees on their payroll. Up to $10,000 of payroll and health benefits per employee can be redeemed for a 50 percent tax credit to businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, including from the shutdown of non-essential businesses.

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  • NJ Woman Starts Effort To Help Medical Professionals At Frontlines Of COVID-19 Crisis

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    By Neil A. Carousso

    NEW JERSEY (WCBS 880) – A community is coming together in Chatham and Madison, NJ to support the doctors and nurses on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Chatham resident Liz Bernich saw a Facebook post from her friend last week about a group in Huntington, Long Island that delivered food to their local hospital for the staff who are testing and treating patients for COVID-19. She shared the post with the Chatham Community Forum on Facebook to see if there was interest do the same at Morristown Medical Center. She became inundated with messages from people who were interested in supporting the initiative.

    “My phone was just lighting up,” Bernich, who is a principal at The Caldwell Partners, told WCBS producer Neil A. Carousso via Skype from her home where she is working while non-essential businesses are shutdown.

    Soon after gathering interest from her community, residents in Madison, where her husband works as a high school teacher, contacted her asking if they can volunteer. She launched the Front Line Appreciation Group or FLAG on Facebook to mobilize volunteers and encourage them and first responders to share their experiences with the organically growing group of community members.

    Bernich contacted a local restaurant on Friday morning to order take-out for that night. The restaurant was thrilled to have business since Gov. Phil Murphy ordered all restaurants statewide be closed on Monday, except take-out and delivery services, to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

    Friends connected her with nurses in the emergency room at Morristown Medical Center.

    “We found out very quickly that a lot of the folks in the ICU units were being basically locked down in their units during their shifts, so they’re unable to access the cafeteria,” Bernich said.

    Nurses and doctors working 12-hour shifts during a global pandemic were ordered not to leave their stations to prevent contamination of other hospital areas, patients and employees.

    “You can tell they need the energy, they need the support, they’re stressed, they have different protocols, more to worry about,” said Bernich. “I met with a nurse…she was crying and it’s hard there.”

    Medical professionals are also lacking basic supplies, including N95 respirator masks, gloves and gowns to protect themselves from the deadly and highly contagious novel virus. Bernich said she has even collected medical supplies to donate to Morristown Medical Center, but she now encourages people looking to donate supplies to hospitals to do so through government channels.

    She personally delivered food to hospital workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak through the weekend. Now, local eateries suffering economically are delivering healthy dinners that FLAG members order.

    “You don’t always know how many people you’re connected to that are connected to people on the frontlines until something like this happens and we’ve gotten notes left and right from mothers and nieces and aunts, grandparents, of how much good we’re doing and it just really feels good, feels great,” she said.

    Bernich received more than $35,000 dollars in just three days of the Facebook group’s existence.

    “Many of those donations are $10 and $20 increments,” she emphasized.

    All of the funds are used for food delivery for staff at Morristown Medical Center.

    Just like Bernich was inspired by a friend’s post, she hopes people will see what FLAG is doing in Chatham and Madison and spread joy to hospital workers in their communities.

    “We’ve already been able to get this up-and-running in Summit, New Jersey to support Overlook hospital, and now, we’re getting this up-and-running in Wycoff, New Jersey,” Bernich said, adding, “When I say ‘we’re getting this up-and-running,’ we’re just inspiring people, we’re not doing any of the leg work, but they’re welcome to use our process.”

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  • NJ Business Owner Down 100% Remains Optimistic As Companies Suffer Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

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    By Neil A. Carousso

    NEW JERSEY (WCBS 880) – A new survey by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) reveals small businesses are being crushed by the coronavirus pandemic.

    Seventy-six percent of United States small businesses are negatively impacted, according to a NFIB Research Center survey of 300,000 owners who employ 1-360 workers. It was conducted on March 20. Ten days earlier, the NFIB survey revealed just under one-quarter of small businesses reported the same.

    Boxcar founder Joe Colangelo tells WCBS 880 his business is down between 98-100 percent from last month. The decline began on March 9 when he saw a 20 percent drop from the previous month. By the end of that week ending on March 13, Boxcar was down 75 percent.

    “First thing you have to do before you come up with any cool new ideas is attack that expense line,” Colangelo said. “We were able to find from advertising, marketing and all these other subscriptions basically $20,000 a month in savings.”

    Boxcar provides a commuter parking solution by teaming-up with churches and other organizations that have empty lots to offer strategic parking in the suburbs near mass transportation.

    Colangelo told his team Monday morning, “We’re in the relationship business, figuring out how we can help people, and that’s a business that’s never going out of style.” Despite tough times for his commuter parking app based in New Jersey, he remains optimistic that he can create new uses for his software.

    “In the long-term, we got to keep our eyes open and our head on a swivel, because if there’s other ways we can serve our customer’s needs, we got to really think about how we could do that so we aren’t completely exposed to a single point of failure,” Colangelo said.

    Five percent of small businesses are positively impacted with likely “stronger sales due to a sharp rise in demand for certain products, goods, and services,” according to the NFIB survey.

    Small businesses employ nearly half of the workforce in the U.S. They contributed roughly two-thirds of net employment gains in the nation since 2011, according to the Small Business Administration.

    The federal government made its application for interest-free loans available Monday for small businesses. New York City Small Business Services also has a loan application online for payroll expenses.

    Colangelo said his attorneys have advised him to sit on the fastball before applying for loans.

    “We saw first 3.25 percent loans, now we’re seeing 0 percent interest loans, and, you know, there’s stuff working its way through the Senate – potential grants, right, things that don’t have to get paid back,” Colangelo said, adding, “You don’t want to take advantage of one of those [loans] if you could avoid it, and then find out that taking advantage of a 3.25 percent loan precludes you from getting a grant.

    Colangelo tells WCBS 880 he has seen the best in people through this national crisis from customers asking if they can buy gift certificates to redeem in the future, so he could pay his workers, to a local elected official in New Jersey offering his home equity line of credit to Boxcar to assist the business in staying afloat.

    “We don’t need it, we’re really well positioned,” Colangelo said. “I’ll never forget that.”

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  • How Do You Educate Your Kids about Coronavirus?

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    Dr. Carol Vidal, M.D., M.P.H., an adolescent psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins University, speaks with WCBS’ Neil A. Carousso about how you can talk with your children about COVID-19 and protecting those who are most vulnerable in your family.

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Neil A. Carousso is the producer in charge of content for the "Mooch and the Mrs. with Anthony and Deidre Scaramucci" podcast, exclusively via the Radio.com platform.
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