After a rocky pandemic year for businesses, local Chamber of Commerce officials are hopeful economic recovery may be on the way for the Central Coast now that Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared June 15 as a targeted date to dissolve the state’s tier system.
Gov. Newsom announced Tuesday that the state could do away with the multicolored tier system by mid-June if vaccine efforts increase and hospitalizations remain low. This would mean businesses could operate without capacity limitations while maintaining “common sense” measures such as mask wearing, the governor said.
For business sectors across Santa Barbara County, Chamber officials say reopening with fewer limitations is the shot in the arm businesses need to move toward an economic comeback.
“Reopening the economy is just the first step in a long road to recovery,” Amber Wilson, president and CEO of the Lompoc Chamber of Commerce told the News-Press, in an email. “It’s a start, and we’re all ready to start moving in the right direction.”
Throughout the pandemic, various industries were forced to cope with unpredictable reopenings, closures and tier shifts that often decimated both their staff and their income.
Now that there is a targeted date in mind, Kristen Miller, the CEO of the South Coast Chamber of Commerce, believes businesses will be prepared for a robust reopening with safety plans in place.
“Having a targeted date to reopen provides even more hope for our state and county residents,” Ms. Miller told the News-Press via email. “This hope may encourage community members to remain committed to common-sense health measures, like wearing masks, because there is now the expectation of a pathway to normalcy. Being able to rely on a date, and expect consistency, will provide long-term stability, helping our community thrive.”
She later added, “Having a target date is extremely promising as it allows our community businesses to properly prepare and plan for a full reopening.”
Despite a less-restrictive reopening on the horizon, Chamber officials throughout the Central Coast say they are still promoting safety precautions within their business sectors.
Tracy Beard, the executive director of the Solvang Chamber of Commerce, said not much will change for businesses in Solvang, who have been following safe practices since June 1 of last year.
“I think we’ve all long-awaited the June 15 reopening, but it does not mean our pandemic is over … We’re going to continue to be safe, and we’re going to continue to wear masks,” Ms. Beard told the News-Press.
As more businesses receive a green light for reopening, Ms. Beard is hopeful for the restaurant and hospitality industry in Solvang, which she said was among the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic. While outdoor dining has helped, reopening with less restrictions will allow businesses to once again accommodate customers at capacity.
“That (is) my biggest hope for the tier system going away, that people would be traveling mid-week and our restaurants would be more full,” Ms. Beard said.
Various cities across Santa Barbara County are also anticipating an economic boost through the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan, which is funneling money to cities and towns nationwide to aid economic recovery.
Through the plan, Santa Barbara is slated to receive nearly $22.5 million, Lompoc will get $13.19 million and Solvang will receive $1.1 million. The totals allotted to each city are based on population rates.
In total, Santa Barbara County is set to receive $86.6 million.