Merrimack Valley Planning Commission Studies COVID-19 Impact on Businesses and Internet Access

Mayor James J. Fiorentini thanked Nate Robertson for his previous service to the city during a ceremony Feb. 28 , 2019 at City Hall. (Courtesy photograph.)

The Merrimack Valley Planning Commission is looking at how COVID-19 is impacting businesses and internet usage.

Nate Robertson, a planner with the Haverhill-based agency, is working with the Essex County Community Foundation. He says the pandemic has forced more businesses to rely on the internet, but some need added help.

“We’ll be setting up our Small Business Technical Assistance Program over the next month or two, and in that process we’re going to be reaching out to small businesses about what their needs are, and then the goal is to pair them up with technical assistance advisors that can help them with that need,” he says.

Robertson, a recent guest on WHAV’s morning program, says the events of the past year have brought the issue of internet inequality to the forefront.

“This is one of these things that internet access has been an issue for a long time, but it has certainly become more of an issue and the issue has accelerated with the impact of COVID-19. Now, more than ever, we are now very online, whether it’s at school or at work, and the gap in equity between peoples’ ability to get online reliably, afford to be online or have a connection that’s fast enough to be functional—all of these issues are coming to fruition and it has become apparent that we need to do some work around improving access to the internet,” Robertson explains.

So far, the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission’s research shows more than one or two issues rising to the top.

“Each business has its own needs, its own unique situation and what’s really been shocking is the variety of different needs that businesses are having across industry, across size, across revenue scale. It really goes to show the need across the board for resources for financing, for health. That’s been my takeaway so far,” he notes.

Robertson says the ability for businesses to have their paperwork in order and online will help them during the application process when they are seeking money to stay afloat, for expansion or when applying for assistance from federal and state programs.

Besides, WHAV’s “Merrimack Valley Newsmakers” podcasts are available via Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, Google Podcasts, TuneIn and Alexa.

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