HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - In an effort to ease the economic blow the statewide COVID-19 restrictions are having on local businesses, the Henrico County Board of Supervisors and County Administrators is launching an initiative to support locally-owned, restaurants, caterers and similar businesses by purchasing meals for public safety workers and other employees leading the community’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Really when COVID-19 came about and we started noticing and feeling the economic impact that it’s having particularly on small businesses we knew we had to do something,” said Chiefs of Staff member Cari Tretina.
The initiative was conceived during a board of supervisors meeting Tuesday. According to county officials, the initiative grew from discussions with Richmond Region Tourism and the Retail Merchants Association and is being managed by the county in partnership with the Henrico County Economic Development Authority.
“Within 48 hours local government did something almost impossible and has developed a program,” said Tretina. “This is a very dynamic program and we’ve never done anything like this. We can’t really find research on other localities that have done something like this so we’re going to evolve as we go.”
Locally owned Henrico restaurants that want to participate will fill out an online form and once approved by the County, under the program guidelines, the restaurant will be able to provide one meal per the first responder on duty per day. When the first responder buys their food from the business the employee and the respective restaurant will submit a receipt to the County which will approve the transaction pay the business for the meal.
“The response has been overwhelming and we’ve had well over 100 entries already,” said Tretina. " The employees that are eligible for this are the front-line employees who are really putting themselves at risk and are working long hours during these crazy times like our first responders, our mental health and developmental services employees, social services and things of that nature."
“Restaurants are a major contributor to our local economy, our school system and our community’s extraordinary quality of life,” Vithoulkas said. “Because the coronavirus has severely limited the public’s ability to congregate, many restaurants have been forced to close while others are hanging on, offering takeout service and deliveries. As a county, we have an opportunity to support these hardworking businesses and their dedicated staffs by feeding our police officers, firefighters, rescue squad volunteers and other employees who are devoting long hours and putting themselves at considerable risk to protect our community’s health and well-being.”
The county says the program will not impact funding for other county services. Under the program, Henrico will prepare a list of approved restaurants that eligible employees will be able to patron as their schedules and duties allow
Tretina says the county is still working to flesh out the finite details, but that the County expects to have a finished program to show off by Friday.
“These are unprecedented times so it’s really necessary for us as public servants to think of unprecedented programs to really get us through these challenging times,” said Tretina. “We wanted to implement this as soon as possible because each day we don’t know what COVID-19 will bring.”
Henrico businesses wanting to be apart of the County’s restaurant initiative can apply to be a part of it HERE.
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