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The Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce, “frustrated and disheartened” with prolonged stay-at-home orders and their impact on local businesses, has begun circulating a petition asking county officials to begin reopening the economy.

“It is time we take a stand and present a strong unified voice on the reopening of business in Santa Clara County,” reads an email from Chamber CEO Brittney Sherman.

The chamber on May 15 thus posted a petition to Santa Clara County Health Officer Sara Cody and elected county officials, asking them to begin to allow businesses to reopen with social distancing requirements.

The county’s current shelter-in-place order began March 17, and has been extended through the end of May. The local order is more restrictive than that of the state, which has begun allowing businesses to begin reopening if they meet certain requirements and continue social distancing practices.

State unemployment filings show that hundreds of employees of various Morgan Hill businesses have been laid off since March 17. Many “essential” businesses that are allowed to stay open have been forced to cut back significantly, offering only curbside, takeout or delivery of goods and services.

The chamber’s petition notes that small retail businesses have suffered disproportionately as compared to large national corporate stores—like Walmart and Target—that have been permitted to stay open. The petition grimly predicts that if small business owners are not allowed soon to begin generating revenue, they will “cease to exist” in Morgan Hill.

Small retailers ‘bleeding themselves dry’

The chamber’s petition to Cody, the board of supervisors and public health officials reads:

“We understand the difficult position you are in during this Covid-19 pandemic, as you endeavor to keep all Santa Clara County residents healthy and safe. However, as a Chamber of Commerce in the small town of Morgan Hill I would like to express our grave concern for the survival of our small business community. It is painfully clear that most will fail if some restrictions are not loosened in the immediate future. Not just the retail and restaurant establishments but all small businesses in Morgan Hill are willing to follow all State approved protocols.

“Throughout the course of the Shelter in Place (SIP), big box retailers such as Walmart, Costco, Target and Walgreens have been allowing immeasurable amounts of customers in their stores. It is our belief that small retailers can offer a more highly controlled and equally safe environment for patrons while also having the ability to easily comply with any/all of the required health and safety protocols. Morgan Hill’s beloved small, local retailers do not have the wherewithal to survive any longer without SIP restrictions being loosened. Regardless of receiving financial assistance or not, merchants are bleeding themselves dry in the hopes of making it to the reopening phase. The decision timeline as to whether they will be able to open their doors ever again is now upon us. Without resuming some version of their revenue generating operations, small businesses in Morgan Hill will cease to exist.

“Understanding health and safety is a priority; we believe it is also of the utmost importance to revive commerce within the county and save our small business owners, their families and their employees from personal financial disaster which has the potential to be as equally devastating as existing health risks, such as the 55 percent increase in alcohol consumption, 36 percent increase in illicit drug use and 191,000 additional suicide attempts nationwide that was shown in just released findings. The Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce urges you to consider allowing small retailers, restaurants and businesses to open their doors, with the correct expanded healthcare protocols in place, as soon as possible.”

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.

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