At their core, area chambers of commerce provide leadership and support to local business owners, according to a letter sent by Lisa Hermes, McKinney Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Lisa Hermes, to U.S. Rep. Van Taylor, R-Plano. But when faced with unprecedented stress on local economies, North Texas chamber and association leaders said they are in straits just as dire as those of their business constituents.

“Not surprisingly, the chamber is struggling along with everybody else because of the virus,” Hermes said in an email. “We’re a nonprofit (a 501(c)(6)) and rely on two things to make ends meet: our members and our events. Both of those revenue streams are being affected.”

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.

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 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."

Because chambers of commerce operate as businesses, each with its own staff, Hermes said there is hope that 501(c)(6) organizations could be included in future stimulus bills. This is why the McKinney Chamber of Commerce has signed a letter from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce urging Congress to include nonprofits, such as chambers of commerce. Hermes said she has also sent letters to Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, in addition to her letter to Rep. Taylor.

There is no immediate danger of fewer resources for local business owners if the McKinney Chamber of Commerce does not receive aid, she said, but it could happen further down the road.

“We’re a long way from that happening,” Hermes said. “Anything is possible, but right now, our focus is on our member businesses and investors. We want to make sure they have access to the information and resources they need going forward.”

Financial hardships from cancellations of revenue-generating events as well as from some chamber members being unable to pay their dues in the future are some issues chambers are facing. These reasons are exactly why chambers and associations should be included in future rounds of aid, Wallace said.

"The Commission, our chamber partners, CVBs and other associations in our region do incredible work supporting their members and their members’ workers," Wallace said in her statement. "Membership-based associations are among the most-stressed industries during this uncertain time, and we all must support these organizations, as they are economic generators for our communities.”

Additional reporting by Miranda Jaimes.