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New COVID small business campaign says "It's Our Job" to continue preventive steps

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

A new campaign is getting underway to encourage continued compliance with guidelines set to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and give small businesses a fighting chance as they claw back from the pandemic.

The campaign is known as "It's Our Job," and includes the distribution of informational materials that small businesses may set up in their respective establishments, sharing that common message.

"'It's Our Job' is a campaign to do two things. One, keep us doing the right thing so we can keep the economy open - wear our masks, social distance and wash our hands - and also to spend money locally, as much money as we possibly can," said Dottie Gallagher, president and chief executive officer of Buffalo Niagara Partnership, which unveiled a kit of materials including posters, logo masks, buttons, signs and floor decals.

The project is funded by Univera Healthcare, which provided a $40,000 grant to help create 2,500 kits that will be distributed over the next several weeks to area small businesses by representatives of their respective banks. Five banks are participating: Bank on Buffalo, Evans Bank, KeyBank, M&T Bank and Northwest Bank.

The messaging campaign aims to remind customers that continued following of health guidelines including mask wearing and social distancing will help struggling small businesses. The kits were introduced Thursday morning inside Public Espresso, located within the Hotel Lafayette in downtown Buffalo.

Co-owner Sam Scarcello says their business, upon reopening, has been running at 25 percent the level of customer capacity seen before the pandemic arrived. The customers, he tells WBFO, have been good with following guidelines.

"We haven't had any major issues. Sometimes people forget when they're up and walking around that they have to have their mask covering their face, but apart from that we haven't had any issues," Scarcello said. "People are happy to be in a space, and happy to be back to some bit of normalcy by being able to walk into a coffee shop. So everybody's been really respectful of the rules and following the guidelines that are in place."

Univera president Art Wingerter echoed Gallagher's message about assisting small businesses. He also spoke of how keeping the COVID curve down helps keep the cost of the pandemic down.

"We've see some of the extreme cases. The people that have spent 60 days in intensive care. That certainly is adding to the cost of health care," he said. "Any one case that we can prevent, whether it's preventing just someone from not being able to work, not being able to live their lives, or someone that has comorbidities, that could be very serious and lead to death, it's important for us to curb that."

Gallagher acknowledges the COVID fatigue many many have, as well as the notion by many that since the curve has stayed down that the crisis is over. But she warns that the public needs to remain vigilant, because small businesses remain in a precarious position.

"If you go down any commercial corridor now, you can see some businesses have already closed. So it's really up to us to support those businesses in any way we can," she said. "It's a lot easier to order from Amazon, but get downtown. Go to the Elmwood Village. Head out to East Aurora. Go to Lockport.Spend money where these retailers are, because we're going to want to preserve our neighborhoods for when this is over."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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