It’s not pancakes and eggs, but a virtual coffee will do

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MONROE, CT — Power Network hosted a virtual coffee connection on Zoom Thursday, attracting over 20 business professionals to register and log in.

“Welcome everyone to what was supposed to be a Power Network breakfast at the Monroe Diner,” said Beth Stoller, owner of the organization, which is made up of Monroe and Newtown chamber of commerce members.

Business owners shared their situations and “silver linings,” while navigating through the coronavirus pandemic, and Monroe Chamber of Commerce President Ray Giovanni shared information on loan programs meant to protect their sputtering bottom lines.

“I think we’re sort of in an alternate reality,” said Stoller, founder of At The Podium. “We’re in a bubble. There was life before the pandemic and there will be life after the pandemic.”

She said members should to use the extra time they have from social distancing to improve their skills and work on projects they hadn’t gotten to.

“Technology, as much as it’s a curse for some of us, it’s also a blessing,” Stoller said.

A critical time

Giovanni shared information on the Paycheck Protection Program, a U.S. Small Business Association loan.

“This is a critical time to try to do some damage control to our cash flows,” he said.

Giovanni said the program is for businesses with 500 employees or less. In addition to payroll, other compensation, such as commissions and health care costs, can be taken into account. The amount is capped at $100,000 per employee.

“The loan will be fully forgiven if the funds are used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities (due to likely high subscription, at least 75% of the forgiven amount must have been used for payroll),” according to the SBA website.

Giovanni also shared information on the Economic Industry Disaster Loan offered by the SBA. Loans are up to $2 million with an interest rate of 3.75 percent for small businesses and 2.75 percent for nonprofits.

Practical advice

Attorney Ron Bellenot Sr., of the law firm of Bellenot & Boufford, said he is helping clients to keep their assets through the economic downturn. He said now is the best time to approach landlords to ask for rent deferrals.

Those in need of money now can draw from their IRA without penalty. However, Bellenot recommends talking to a professional first to see if there are other opportunities, before touching your retirement savings.

Tina Kadish, a life and business strategist with Life is Ideal, said she helps those who were laid off to jumpstart with careers and to make career transitions.

Lauren Tropp, of Tropp Educational Consulting, said it is a real time of turmoil with kids wondering what college will look like in the fall and schools worried about enrollment.

“You can step up your contact with colleges in a different way,” she said. “I can help students build their resumes at home.”

Making warm connections

David Graham, who is in charge of identity protection for ID Seal, is honing his technology skills.

“I think this is a wondering opportunity for us to build our skills, like with this call,” said Maryann Croce, a leadership coach with Small Biz Vantage. “We’re all capable of more than we realize and I think it’s an opportunity to encourage others as well.”

Leslie Troy of Pemberley Designer Consignments, 477 Main St. in Clock Tower Square, said business owners should take the time to reevaluate their business and reach out to their customers.

“If someone is sick, send them flowers,” she said. “Be the go-to-person in their lives. Do curbside service and home pick ups for people.”

Troy said she has already done little things like making home deliveries and doing shopping for some elderly residents.

Troy also encouraged Power Network members to increase the frequency of their newsletters and to reach out with emails. “Use this opportunity to help them understand you’re important,” she said.

John McBride, a Realtor with Realty One Group Connect, said, “our agents are reaching out to clients in the real estate world, trying to create a state of calm for them.”

He also said they are setting up a staging area for deliveries for seniors at food shelters in the area.

Stoller agreed now is the time to reach out to help others for the warm connection. “I don’t want April 30 to go by without me doing something,” she said. “We’re here to get people through this rotten period.”

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