As the social distancing demands of the coronavirus continue to deplete business profits globally and locally, financial safety nets have been deployed, most recently in the form of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, signed into law March 27.

In an effort to further aid local small businesses, the Bee Cave Chamber of Commerce has outlined an action plan for additional assistance that was included in the Bee Cave Economic Development Board’s March 30 agenda.

Bee Cave City Council officially took no action, but it extensively discussed one aspect of the plan during the March 31 meeting.

The CARES Act provides aid for employees filing for unemployment compensation in Texas with an additional $600 per week, according to information from the chamber, which states that federal supplement expires after four months.

The act also helps “gig workers,” such as ride-hailing drivers, with compensation for lost work as a result of the coronavirus. Additionally, small businesses may apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The plan from the chamber seeks to utilize area librarians to provide information and staff a Small Business Assistance Center that would assist business owners in need of aid, among other functions.

The program would also help employers with rent assistance, providing an emergency rent grant program for the interim between when social distancing restrictions are lifted and federal assistance monies are paid out.

During the March 31 meeting and representing the chamber, Adrian Overstreet, owner of the Bee Cave Austin Sonesta Hotel, said the chamber has been working on helping small businesses who have been getting more desperate as the coronavirus continues.

Even though the stimulus package passed, there is likely much more time between now and when assistance arrives, Overstreet said, adding the process to get the money will likely be extraordinarily complex.

"The city has a great resource, which is the library," Overstreet said. "That's what librarians do for a passion and a living is they accumulate information. Since they're not checking out books right now, this seemed like a logical fit for librarians."

The grant program, which is the second aspect of the chamber proposal, would help with rent, and Overstreet said that would be the most needed money right now.

During the March 30 Bee Cave EDB meeting, the board passed a motion to draft of a resolution potentially allocating $1 million for local businesses by the next EDB meeting, which would be no sooner than April 3.

The third facet of the chamber’s plan lays out a campaign to prioritize the sale of gift cards and proposes publishing a list of businesses still selling them.

“The sale of gift cards provides immediate income to a small business,” the plan states. “Many gift cards are never used, so they can represent pure profit to the business.”

The plan proposes installing a plea to urge consumers to purchase gift cards on Bee Cave’s website with a suggestion to buy one and never use it.

Following Overstreet's presentation, council decided to address and consider action on the SBAC during the upcoming April 3 special meeting, but agreed officials will need to wait for a legal opinion on the proposed grant program. Council also did not address the third facet of the plan dealing with gift cards.

City Manager Clint Garza said no money should be needed to get the program rolling.

Barbara Hathaway, Bee Cave Public Library director, said she and her staff are thrilled to manage the SBAC, and the program could possibly be up and running within a couple of weeks, maybe less.

"It's right up our alley," Hathaway said, and added that at least until the shelter-in-place orders are lifted, the assistance should be delivered to local business owners remotely. "We've got this."