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Q. As a consumer how do I and my family support small business and our community during these difficult times?

A. We don't know how long COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation, with its shutdowns and "social distancing," will last, but small businesses need your support to make it through these uncertain times. Here are the Better Business Bureau's tips on how everyone can support small businesses – with or without spending money.

This crisis is affecting all types of small business. This includes places you use every day, such as your local coffee shop or favorite lunch place, but also businesses that might not immediately come to mind. The closures and cancellations hurt services like home improvement contractors, daycare providers, dry cleaners, and car mechanics, as well as healthcare business, such as your dentist or chiropractor. Even business-to-business fields, such as the graphic designer who designs your office's brochures or the accounting firm who does the books, are feeling the impact.

By closing their doors temporarily, small businesses are helping to keep their customers and employees healthy. But the loss of income makes it tough to cover on-going expenses like rent and salaries. These tips help ensure your favorite businesses have the cash they need to make it through these lean times.

* Buy a gift card for later: Many small businesses that have had to close are offering gift certificates at discounted rates for when they open back up. Look on business's websites and social accounts.

* Skip the refund and take a rain check: If you paid in advance for an event, such as theater or concert tickets, a class, or a service, consider taking a credit for the future instead of asking for a refund. These businesses will appreciate not needing to issue so many refunds right now.

* Commit to future work: While right now may not be the best time to start that home renovation project, your contractor will appreciate you committing to future projects when business opens back up. The same goes for any future event or project.

* Shop (local) online: Local shops and vendors may have closed their (physical) doors, but many still run online shops. Look for them on social media or check the business's website for links to their online marketplace,

* Look for virtual classes: People who work in training or professional development – this can be anyone from your personal trainer to the person teaching your office's public speaking workshop — are finding creative ways to move their instruction online. Even though your local gym is closed, your favorite yoga teacher may be hosting a live class online. Same goes for people who offer professional training. Now may be a good time to brush up on your skills through an online course.

* Get take-out or delivery: Many restaurants and breweries are now offering takeout even as they close their dining rooms. Support these local institutions by getting your food or drinks to-go and enjoying it at home.

Not everyone has the financial resources to pay in advance. So if your own wallet is feeling the pinch, here are some free ways to support small businesses.

* Write an online review: This is a good time to finally get around to reviewing your favorite local business. These five-star reviews do help companies rank well in search engines and on other listing services, This is an easy, free way to show your favorite small businesses that you support them. Write a review on BBB.org now: www.bbb.org/Chattanooga

* Like and share on social: Help your favorite business reach a broader audience by liking and sharing their information on social media. This will help them reach future customers and gain more exposure.

* Tell your businesses that you appreciate their work: These are tough times! Keep moral up by reaching out to the businesses in your community and letting them know that you appreciate their hard work.

For more consumer and business tips and information about coronavirus, see BBB.org/coronavirus.

Resources specific for Tennessee: https://www.bbb.org/article/news-releases/21862-coronavirus-covid-19-resources-for-tennessee.

Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga.

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