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With sales way down, local chamber of commerce starts fund to boost Lewiston-area businesses

A person walks through downtown Lewiston, Maine on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023. (Raquel C. Zaldívar/New England News Collaborative)
Raquel C. Zaldívar
/
New England News Collaborative
A person walks through downtown Lewiston, Maine on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023. (Raquel C. Zaldívar/New England News Collaborative)

The Lewiston Auburn Chamber of Commerce, with support from Poland Spring, has announced the creation of the Small Business Relief Fund to help local businesses rebound from the Oct. 25 mass shootings. Poland Spring has agreed to match corporate and community donations up to $500,000.

Chamber President and CEO Shanna Cox says sales over the past month are way off in the hospitality sector because some customers are still anxious about going into a restaurant or bar.

"We're seeing that it's been a slow recovery for people to go back to their favorite places and to support them," she says. "I have owner-operators who are reporting 40-60% year-over-year losses and for four weeks in a row."

Cox says research shows that a quick response following a mass shooting is important to stabilize local businesses and help employees get back to work.

Donations can be made online or by contacting the LA Metro Chamber of Commerce. A process for distributing grants will be decided by a steering committee. Cox says she hopes the effort will raise at least a million dollars in the coming weeks and months.

"It's going to allow us to start a grant program to really quickly get some funds back into the hands of businesses that need it. And then it's going to also allow us to do some combined marketing for our region and for our employers," she says.