City: Beshear’s closing of dining rooms, bars ‘devastating … but necessary’

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Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced aggressive new measures to limit public contact across the state, including Covington, during his live-streamed press conference this morning, one of numerous he’s held in the past couple of weeks.

Unemployment benefits rules to be loosened during virus fight 

COVINGTON, Ky. - Covington officials are urging local businesses to comply with Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive order closing bars and restaurant dining rooms in the state effective 5 p.m. today.
 
“This is a devastating decision for our local businesses and our workers, but unfortunately it’s a necessary one that will literally save people’s lives,” Covington Mayor Joe Meyer said. “That’s not being dramatic - that’s unfortunately fact in this unprecedented time. But just as we have a legal obligation to abide by this order, we also have a moral one to help those who this will affect.”
 
Details of the executive order will be announced later today, but the Governor said that carryout and delivery food orders can be continued. He also announced changes to unemployment benefits to make them easier to obtain.
 
Covington City Manager David Johnston said that - just as Cincinnati will be enforcing Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s order - the City of Covington will be doing the same.
 
“It’s important to have the same consistent message on both sides of the Ohio River,” Johnston said.
 
DeWine and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker closed the bars and dining rooms in their respective states on Sunday, and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb did the same today. Other governors around the nation have done the same. The governors are acting in response to national health experts strongly recommending severely limiting public interaction as the most effective way of slowing the spread of a novel coronavirus whose resulting disease - called COVID-19 - is particularly deadly to the elderly and those in poor health.
 
(Almost 6,000 people have died around the world, and Kentucky reported its first death this morning. Health experts say the situation is going to get much worse before it gets better and that so-called “social distancing” can dramatically slow the spread.)
 
“We appreciate Gov. Beshear stepping up and making this very difficult decision,” Meyer said. “Being right across the river from Ohio, Covington would have been swarmed with visitors in the coming days, totally defeating the whole health goal of social distancing.”
 
Meyer said he’d received numerous phone calls from bar and restaurant owners in Covington in the past couple of days seeking guidance on whether to limit their operations. The Governor’s order essentially made that decision for them, he said.
 
Nevertheless, Meyer said he was very concerned about the financial impact on both individual workers and the businesses.
 
“The loss of income will be devastating, in both the short term and the long term, for a number of people, including cooks, servers and those serving drinks,” the Mayor said. “And I’m afraid for the owners and the businesses themselves. Most of Covington’s establishments are run by small entrepreneurs. We’re talking about people’s livelihoods, their families and their dreams.
 
He said he hoped the federal government would provide adequate financial resources “to help those who are sacrificing in response to this pandemic.”

Unemployment help
Gov. Beshear expressed similar concerns and said he was making two changes to unemployment benefits to help take care of those who might lose their jobs because of this action:
  • One, waiving the waiting period for applying for those who have lost their jobs.
  • Two, waiving work-search requirements while the state declaration of emergency is in effect. 
“I realize the impact of this,” Beshear said at the press conference early today. “It’s not lost on me that most of these are small businesses. ... But we have to take this step to make sure we’re protecting our people.”
 
The Louisville Courier Journal’s article on unemployment insurance benefits can be found HERE. And the state’s UI website is HERE.
 
Small business help
Meanwhile, the mayor said he was encouraging Covington residents to support the City’s small businesses as possible through online orders, carryout, drive-thru options, and buying gift cards.
 
Some businesses are getting creative. Roebling Points Books & Coffee, for example, announced free delivery “for any book on our shelves.”
 
The entrepreneurship and small business office of the regional business organization Northern Kentucky Tri-ED said it was compiling a list of restaurants in the region that will still be open for delivery or pickups. The City will publicize that when it becomes available.
 
In addition, the City of Covington recommends that impacted businesses visit the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website HERE for all questions, guidance, and support. The Kentucky Small Business Development Center’s offices - website HERE - are also open and engaging small businesses with contingency planning, resources and assistance.