Owning a small business has never been more challenging than now, and 2021 is not going to be any easier. As owner of the Coffee Pot restaurant in Roanoke, I constantly worry about the future of my business which I have owned for 42 years. I worry about keeping my doors open and paying my staff as the pandemic fear continues to rage across our state.

The vaccine release is welcome news, however, the economic stimulus impact this will have on our business community, and Virginians in general, will not happen overnight. Some in the restaurant business have said it could take years to recover to pre-COVID-19 business conditions.

Though I do not always agree with what happens in Richmond, I must give credit where credit is due. Our legislators showed great foresight when they partnered up with Queen of Virginia Skill and Entertainment and other skill game providers to form a COVID-19 Relief Fund. This was a prudent and compassionate plan to provide financial aid from taxes generated by these games. These funds are provided to small business.

Skill games are important to me because they have created another revenue source. With government restrictions on restaurants, I and others in this business, have seen revenues plummet. Many sadly have been forced to close permanently. This revenue source has allowed me to not only stay open but also provide raises for my staff and repairs to this aging national and state landmark. It allowed me the funds to replace my old roof with a new and improved one, saving 30 to 40 percent in energy costs. I, as well as others, would most likely have had to close without this revenue source from QVS.

QVS is teaming up with restaurants across the state, holding meal give away programs for families, seniors, homeless and others whom may be struggling due to the pandemic. I just held such an event at the Coffee Pot where my staff and volunteers were able to provide over 700 meals to hungry folks, many of them struggling. Others stopped to offer cash donations to feed even more people.

What I saw that day was a color blind, gender blind community, with government officials, volunteers and a private business coming together to help. This is the essence of the American people. This is when we are at our best! I’ve never been prouder to have been able to serve our community than this past year. QVS has made much of that possible.

I implore our legislators who had the vision to see the need for the COVID-19 Relief Fund to now have the wisdom to extend it for at least another year. Small businesses need it to survive.