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Boise Metro Chamber answers businesses' call for help, but faces its own challenges

While the Paycheck Protection Program is a lifeline for small businesses, it really doesn't help the chambers of commerce that lobbied for the program.

BOISE, Idaho — The Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce has long been a resource for nearly 2,000 member businesses in the city.

But the nonprofit organization has also been impacted in a big way by fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite being part of the nation's chambers of commerce that lobbied Congress to back a $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, nonprofit organizations, including chambers, cannot apply for the federal PPP program.

That has forced the Boise Metro Chamber into implementing furloughs and pay cuts.

We spoke with Bill Connors, president and CEO of the Boise Chamber, about how the organization is working to keep Boise businesses afloat despite the new challenges.

"The most common question we're getting from our members is, how do I access the Payroll Protection Plan in the CARES Act," Connors said. "And we've been actively getting information out to all of our members and rather than just posting the regulations on our website, we've tried to personalize that information."

The personalized help businesses are getting includes a series of videos showing business owners how to work their way through the PPP loan application process.

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Connors said some members initially experience some "hiccups" with the Paycheck Protection Program, but it appears to be working smoothly now.

"There was a little confusion at first, but I've talked to two or three of my members today, who have submitted their PPP loans have gotten confirmation that they're there and they're awaiting the money so," he said. "So the system's working, you're just gonna have to have some patience."

And while the PPP is a lifeline for small businesses, it really doesn't help the chambers of commerce organizations that lobbied for the program.

"The irony is not lost on us," Connors said. "We lobbied pretty hard for these things to help our small businesses but nonprofit 501(c)(6)s like chambers of commerce, like economic development groups, like fraternal organizations, there's a bunch of people who are absolutely ineligible for this so we're hoping Congress might fix that in the next iteration."

Though the immediate future is uncertain, Connors said there is optimism among his counterparts throughout the nation.

"I think the mood is starting to turn," he said. During a call with other chambers of commerce, "all we did was talk about what are the recovery plans look like, how do we as businesses make sure the proper testing is done. How do we get back to travel, how do we get back to gathering, how do we get back to work, so that we don't have a recurrence of this virus."

The Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce has a list of ways we can all support local businesses through gift cards, coupons and other programs. Find out more here.

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