There were lots of fist bumps, elbow touches, donning and removing of masks, and social distancing for the annual Lewes Chamber of Commerce officers and directors installation dinner held Sept. 2 at Lewes Yacht Club. But the conversation was lively, and the small but enthusiastic gathering clearly enjoyed a non-virtual event for a change.
Officers and directors took their oaths for another year, and President Nikky Fisher heaped heartfelt praise on Executive Director Betsy Reamer and the chamber staff for a year of heroic service in the face of the corona pandemic. Outgoing chamber board member Catherine Hester was recognized for her three years of service.
U.S. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware then took the microphone for a keynote address. He said he’s working for another aid package which he said has been and will be key to the survival of many small businesses. He said he would like to see another round of Paycheck Protection Program funding to help small businesses as well as additional funds for federal unemployment supplements to state unemployment funds. “It won’t be the additional $600 per week that we saw in the first round of the aid package – probably something more along the lines of $300 per week.”
Coons said an incentive to go back to work could address a concern from many employers that the $600 per week supplemental unemployment benefit for those laid off was so generous that many people saw no reason to hurry back to their jobs. Finding employees has not been easy.
“I would like to see an incentive of something like $400 per week for a period of time to encourage people to take the job. And I know the hospitality industry is going to be under a lot of pressure, so that area of the economy has to be specifically addressed in whatever bill we get passed.”
Nick Caggiano Sr. of Nicola Pizza and the new Home2 Suites By Hilton hotel near Wescoats Corner pushed Coons on the need to help hotels and restaurants: “There are going to be seriously hard times ahead for the next five months. We need help. I would also like to see the Delaware Lottery expanded to allow betting on baseball and other sports.”
Coons said he saw no reason why betting in Delaware shouldn’t be legalized for all professional sports.
The senator closed by saying his concern about whether this country will have a fair and free election in November is what keeps him up most at night. “I’m concerned about foreign interference; I’m concerned that states haven’t finished installing and updating new voting machines; I’m concerned about issues with our post office, and mail-in ballots being received in a timely fashion and counted. We often send election observers to other countries in the world to watch for fair elections. This year, those countries should be sending observers here.”
Lewes Chamber Treasurer Gavin Radka said coronavirus issues reduced dues collections and proceeds from annual events that had to be canceled. “We ended our fiscal year with a $55,000 revenue shortfall. We were able to reduce that to $18,000 through expense reductions. Fortunately, we have reserves that allowed us to cover the deficit.”