This year it is more important than ever to shop local.

The push by chambers of commerce and others to get people to spend their money locally is not a new concept, but the fact COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on many small merchants across the state means a plan to spend money on Main Street this year is crucial.

Many small businesses in Oregon faced a bewildering array of challenges as the pandemic rolled across the state. From temporary closures to new social distancing standards, small businesses were pushed into a tough situation.

Government bailout funds helped. Programs, such as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, gave millions of small business owners the opportunity to offset some of their losses, but the federal and state programs designed to help sometimes proved to be difficult to access.

Most small business are on terribly thin margins to begin with. That is the nature of small businesses, at least early on in their lives. That means they can’t weather a long-term financial blow as easily as a major corporation.

That’s where residents come in. There is no doubt that online shopping is easy and popular, but there is something to be said for the kind of one-on-one contact a person can receive when they visit a small local business.

Even if the small merchant does not have the item a person might want in stock, they can order it. In the end, the cash you place down for that product stays local and helps the town merchant.

A small business that succeeds is more likely to hire residents. Those residents then spend more money in the community. Those local merchants also pay taxes, and those taxes are funneled into local projects and spending.

The truth is this year our small-town merchants need our help more than ever. There is hope on the horizon in the form of a vaccine to curb COVID-19. Best estimates, though, push the vaccine out to months before it is readily available.

In the meantime, our local merchants, the people you may know and care about, must weather months of challenges.

We can help those small business in town. And the solution isn’t a complicated one. It is simple: shop local.

As the holiday season rolls around and you are looking for that important gift, don’t forget your local merchants.

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