If you work in the field of economic development, and more specifically if you have an economic interest in the real estate industry, then you know the value of stability in the marketplace. Significant events with adverse economic impacts, such as COVID-19 and a derecho, can have a cascading effect on jobs, families, and the economy generally. That is why it has been important for government, non-profit organizations, and businesses to support activities that collectively create a safety net – to provide some measure of economic stability. It’s one of the reasons the State of Iowa, local governments and community organizations created their own economic recovery grant programs. Other nationwide support systems, such as unemployment benefits, the Paycheck Protection Program and various forms of natural disaster assistance, have also been important.
To be sure, these are imperfect systems, and one can debate the effectiveness of various policy alternatives or the extent to which we can borrow from the future to pay for them. But there is no question that they have provided an important lifeline to many during these challenging times. While some programs have ended or are winding down, there are some that will continue for a few months longer. Two of them are designed to help people stay in their homes and businesses by assisting with rent and utility expenses.
Iowa COVID-19 Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention (EFP) Program
The Iowa Finance Authority (IFA) reported last week that rental assistance has been provided to just over 2000 applicants equaling approximately $4.8 million. On the foreclosure side, the EFP Program has awarded nearly $135,000 to 61 applicants. Approximately $15 million in funds remain in the program, which will remain open until funds are exhausted or until December, 2020, whichever comes first.
IFA reports that the program has seen a significant increase in the number of applications being submitted since August 1. On Tuesday, August 4, it was announced that Iowans who have been receiving $600 a week in federal unemployment stimulus benefits may now apply for the rent and mortgage assistance. For more information, visit https://www.iowafinance.com/covid-19-iowa-eviction-and-foreclosure-prevention-program/.
Iowa Small Business Utility Disruption Prevention Program
The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) recently announced that more Iowa small business owners and nonprofits are now eligible to receive financial assistance with electric and natural gas utility bills. Eligibility criteria for the Iowa Small Business Utility Disruption Prevention Program has been expanded to include utility assistance for eligible small businesses and nonprofits for electric or natural gas service provided between March 17, 2020 and October 15, 2020.
To be eligible, small businesses and nonprofits must have experienced a COVID-19 loss of income. Financial assistance of up to $7,500 is available. Payment’s would be made directly to an applicant’s utility service provider. The program will accept applications through October 31, 2020 or until all funds have been exhausted. The state allocated approximately $14.5 million of federal CARES Act funds for the program when launched in early July.
For more information, visit https://www.iowaeconomicdevelopment.com/Business/energy-recovery or call 515.348.8914 (toll free: 855.300.2342).
The Enterprise Iowa team encourages our clients and affiliated organizations to share this information with everyone in their various networks. Let’s do what we can to ensure that the individuals and businesses in need of this assistance get connected with these resources. It is the type of help that can increase economic stability for the benefit of all.
In a world forever changed by a global pandemic, we are also experiencing a business world forever changed. While COVID-19 has obviously given businesses a whole slew of challenges, there are also key takeaways that can be applied to improve business operations in the long run. These are not necessarily new technologies, but they all deserve an extra round of applause for helping our team and other teams continue to make it through our time away from the office. They will also certainly have a new face even after the pandemic dissipates.
With that said, here is our list of the most helpful tools for continuing remote operations:
Videoconferencing has largely made the transition to remote offices possible. There are many videoconferencing platforms out there, but Adobe Connect has primarily been what our team has used. It’s an essential communication tool to more closely mimic that in-person conversation as well as explain more complex tasks and issues. It comes in handy both for internal and external meetings that would typically happen in person.
Slack (or a similar platform) has been pretty much essential for any business to continue operations through these times. It is arguably the best way for teams to instant message each other to keep projects flowing. Our team utilized Slack before this all began, but this pandemic gave Slack a newfound purpose for our team at Enterprise Iowa.
Microsoft SharePoint has been another essential technology our team has used away from the office. It’s a web-based shared library that allows each member of our team to access files outside of the office. Prior to the pandemic, we mostly had to be at our desks to access company-wide files. This has truly allowed our team to operate fully remote.
Adobe Creative Cloud
Like SharePoint, Adobe Creative Cloud has a shared library feature. When creating graphics for a variety of uses, the library is helpful tool to keep themes consistent across all design elements. This means that from anywhere, anyone on our team can create new themed designs without having to access files on the network in the office.
Mailchimp has been another life-saving communication tool in the times of COVID-19. It has been our best and easiest way to share information with our audience. This not only includes updates about continuing business through these times, but also serves as a relevant information tool for the virus itself.
Much like Mailchimp, Hootsuite has been another way to keep our customers and audience updated through social media platforms. Hootsuite is an easy place to manage all social media platforms, schedule reminders, and allows access for our team members within the account. Again, it allows us to update everyone regarding our business and COVID-19.
I’m writing this blog with WordPress right now! WordPress has been another essential tool to keep everyone updated and informed. Aside from the blogs, the websites we run are also created with WordPress. Again, websites are a fantastic way to update everyone about continuing business as well as finding relevant information about COVID-19.
This one is different because it is hardware rather than software, but docking stations paired with laptops have been incredibly useful through the pandemic. As companies look to new technologies for their offices, docking stations allow much more flexibility when working from home as well. Rather than having a stationary desktop, having a laptop that you can connect to a docking station for all office files, programs, etc. that you can also disconnect to take the laptop anywhere allows for a lot more freedom away from the office.
As you can tell, the age of communication is changing—and that change has been expedited by this global pandemic. COVID-19 has forced all of us to rethink how we operate our businesses, and many of these practices will likely carry over to a post-pandemic world. While some jobs will return to what they once were, and some jobs never really changed throughout this pandemic, a lot of jobs will likely be transformed forever by technology used remotely to grant employees more freedom when it comes to the workplace.
Remember, while more and more of the country begins to reopen and businesses may be returning to normal, or our new normal, COVID-19 has not just disappeared. Cases are still on the rise, so it is important to still be taking safety precautions even as we ease back into our typical day-to-day lives. Throughout these changing times, stay happy and stay healthy.
As I finish up my internship with Enterprise Iowa, I have also graduated with my bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University. In a world forever changed by COVID-19, not only is health on the line making last semesters and graduation ceremonies look very different, but there are millions of graduates looking for jobs in one of the most insecure economies we have seen in history.
Advocates for the character of this generation will say that we are a generation of activism. I remember a professor of mine sending admiration to my classmates and our generation saying something of the following nature:
“My generation and generations before you guys understand that the world can be a dark place, but we tend to accept that’s just the way things are. Your generation understands that the world can be a dark place, but instead you do not accept that’s just the way things are. Instead you see an opportunity to change it.”
So, as we have seen exemplified by this pandemic in multiple ways, the world can sometimes be a dark place. But if anyone is prepared to enter a world of uncertainty, my generation might just be the ones cut out for the challenge.
Although industries as a whole may be scaling back labor costs and become cautious of new hires, it is important to note that jobs are still out there. More importantly, there are companies who are finding increased demand and a need to scale up their business in light of this pandemic. Also, many of these companies are offering phone and video interviews and allowing new hires to work from home as they train and get accustomed to their new job until it is deemed safe to return to the workplace. I have also seen more fully remote positions than I ever remember seeing in the past. And, in the age of technology, it is much easier to find these jobs–and find these jobs safely from your couch–with company website career pages and online job boards such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and Monster. Additionally, LinkedIn is a great source for job postings tied in with a social media aspect. With these resources, it is easy to browse a wide variety of jobs that may pique your interest and match your qualifications. Personally, I’m a big user of Indeed, LinkedIn, and company website career pages.
This is a post targeted towards 2020 graduates, but there is also a record number of unemployed Americans since the Great Depression. Therefore, here are some basic tips for anyone who is in need of employment:
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to people in your network. Employment is largely about who you know, not what you know. Even if your mom’s best friend is currently unable to bring you on at her office, she may know someone else who is hiring. And, the worst answer you can receive is no, and the answer will always be no if you don’t try.
- Create an aesthetically pleasing resume and cover letter to represent your personal brand. The content, while it does have importance, is probably less important than you think. It is more important to catch the employer’s eye when sifting through a stack of applications. A black and white page filled with 10-point text will probably be overlooked simply because it is boring to look at, not because your resume isn’t impressive. So, keep things simple, easy to read, and add something interesting to catch the eye.
- Be open to applying to and accepting jobs that you may have not previously considered. Especially if you are struggling to find employment, have an open mind when applying for jobs and broaden your horizons. You may be surprised to find out what you enjoy doing, and even if you later figure out that you don’t like it, you can always search for new employment down the road when the opportunity presents itself.
- Apply, apply, apply, and then apply some more. You can expect to hear back from just 10% of jobs you apply to. Additionally, it is unlikely that all of that 10% will result in a job offer (and that 10% statistic is under normal economic circumstances). This statistic is not meant to be discouraging or daunting, it just goes to show that applying to a multitude of jobs is important. So, when it comes to the success of job applications, you will find safety in numbers. And remember, you will face a lot of rejection, so try not to take that too personally.
Here are some other notable facts and pointers to consider while you continue your job search:
- Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, federally administered student loan payments are suspended until September 30th of this year. This act only applies to federal loans and not private loans; however, if applicable, contact your private loan provider to ask about payment relief.
- Research COVID-19 relief scholarships. These funds are obviously not a guarantee, but it may be worth it to apply. Some websites worth checking out are Scholarships.com, Scholly, and FastWeb.
- For immediate relief, see if you qualify for unemployment benefits while you continue your job search. Unemployment benefits and qualifications vary by state, but Iowa’s fact sheet and application can be found here.
All in all, it is important to stay hopeful. That may be easier said than done in the current times we are facing, but try to hone in on the things that bring you joy while keeping sight of the bigger picture. Eventually, something good will come to us all—in this case in the form of a new job—and we will all settle into our new normal.
Quick links to websites mentioned in this article:
Iowa Workforce Development: https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/file-claim-unemployment-insurance-benefits