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Coronavirus

Opinion: Help Wanted, Especially Now

By Natalie English, posted Mar 24, 2020
Natalie English
I have been told many times that I can always find the silver lining in a situation. In fact, I often call myself the Chief Community Cheerleader. My colleagues around the country consider themselves in the same role. During times like this, it can be challenging for even the cheerleaders among us to find the positives in the situation. But there are things we can be grateful for today.
 
While many of our small businesses are being very directly impacted by the social distancing that has come with the COVID-19 pandemic, there are businesses adding jobs to keep up with the demand on their product or service. Grocery stores, warehouse stores, distribution and logistics businesses and, of course, health care and senior care facilities are facing increased workloads and the need for more people. They also want to upskill people to backfill those who may contract the virus.
 
The foodservice industry got hit hard and fast when Gov. Cooper mandated last week that they close dining rooms and limit service to curbside pick-up or delivery. We all understand the motivation to flatten the curve and hope that limiting places where people congregate can certainly assist. I will not question the decisions our local, state and federal officials make. I will support them and encourage everyone I know to comply. Even so, the number of people who lost jobs with that mandate alone is mind-boggling. 
 
Hospitality and foodservice staff might be just what the doctor ordered, so to speak, when it comes to some of the jobs coming available. Senior centers are no longer serving food in their dining rooms. As some of our most vulnerable citizens, people living in senior centers are not being allowed to communally dine. Instead, the centers need people to deliver food directly to each room causing their staffing needs to increase.
 
Grocery, warehouse and pharmacy outlets need more people to restock shelves, to check people out and to deliver purchases to people who are protecting themselves and others by staying home. Instacart is a delivery service for grocery stores that announced a need for hundreds of thousands of people to respond to the surge in grocery deliveries.
 
For people who might have a commercial driver’s license, we have always had a shortage of truck drivers in America. Trucks are the primary vehicles to deliver food to grocery stores. These are solid jobs and are in even higher demand today.
 
Companies that manage shipping of goods are also in need of additional employees. Amazon, UPS, FedEx are some of the companies responding to increased online shopping while people are staying home.
 
I don’t have an actual count of all the jobs being created by the crisis. Nor do I have the latest number of unemployment filings. I know there are more of those than any of us want to see. If you know someone who has been laid off or had their hours reduced, encourage them to go to www.ncworks.gov. While filing for unemployment benefits, they may discover a way to supplement those benefits. If you are, or know, an employer who has jobs available, encourage them to share their openings widely.
 
We will weather this pandemic by helping one another.
 
Natalie English is president and CEO of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce.

Editor's note: To pitch opinion column topics or news stories, contact [email protected]. Click here for the Busines Journal's coverage on the coronavirus and local impacts.
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