The primary mission of area chambers of commerce is to promote opportunity and growth for the local business community, according to Christina Weeks, director of communications for the Metroport Chamber of Commerce.
“A huge part of [our] effort is providing networking events for people to meet face-to-face, so the COVID-19 restrictions have strongly impacted the chamber’s activities,” Weeks said.
When Congress passed the CARES Act in March, it excluded 501(c)(6) organizations, such as chambers of commerce, from accessing loans and grants made available to most other small businesses, according to the American Society of Association Executives.
“The reasoning behind this decision was to exclude entities that lobby,” Weeks said. “However, our bylaws do not allow our chamber to engage in lobbying activities. We hope this delineation will be made so we, as a nonprofit, can receive financial assistance as well.”
Chris Wallace, president and CEO of the North Texas Commission, the regional public-private partnership between businesses, cities, education institutions and other local stakeholders, said he is calling on North Texas' congressional representatives to include chamber associations in the next stimulus bill.
"In recent discussions with our 15 members of Congress, we are encouraging them to include associations and chambers of commerce (501(c)(6) organizations in the next stimulus package," Wallace said in a statement. "The COVID-19 pandemic has also created financial hardships on chambers and associations, who, during this time, are busy navigating emergency aid resources for their own members."
The primary struggle, according to JoAnn Malone, president of the Greater Keller Chamber of Commerce, has been not knowing how long restrictions will last.
“Our small businesses are going to need our help more than ever, and we have to think about that as we reopen for business,” she said. “I like to look at the positives from everything. If we look around at how creative the businesses are right now in order to be able to continue their services, it inspires you.”
Now, more than ever, Weeks said, is a time to support small businesses, which are essential to local communities and the region. Local chambers of commerce depend on memberships and chamber events to raise funds, and when businesses are not able to remain open, they may look to cancel memberships, she said.
“In addition to working remotely and [seeing] a significant drop in revenue from events, we have essentially overturned and reshuffled how we do business,” Weeks said. “Our goal is to support our members and the business community. Though challenged by COVID-19, we are working head-on to provide the base our members need.”
Area businesses and chamber members can still access resources from local chambers of commerce at www.metroportchamber.org or www.kellerchamber.com.
Gavin Pugh contributed to this report.