Elliott Robinson is the news editor at Charlottesville Tomorrow, one of WMRA’s news partners. Bob Leweke spoke with him about their latest reporting and what’s happening in Charlottesville during the COVID-19 crisis.
BOB LEWEKE: Elliot, one of the ongoing stories to tell during this crisis is the effect on businesses that have had to close down or have just lost customers because of the economy's downturn. But your reporter Billy Jean Louis has a story this week about how local organizations such as Charlottesville Business Innovation Council and Charlottesville’s Office of Economic Development are creating networks for entrepreneurs to stay connected. Can you tell me more about that?
ELLIOT ROBINSON: Yes, it's really a great thing that's happening in the area. It's really showing people that, yes at the end of the day, they do need funding to help stay afloat, but they also need a lot of resources and togetherness. And that's one thing that's come out of this, having those groups that helped them build their resiliency and share ideas. So it's a fantastic thing where local agencies here have been stepping up to help with not just loans and grants, but also webinars and other information.
BOB LEWEKE: It's not an insignificant amount of money, just reading from that article from Charlottesville’s Office of Economic Development, about $80,000 to 40 different businesses and $30,000 in business recovery loans. So not an insignificant amount of money.
ELLIOT ROBINSON: Right, definitely it's not. As we all know, that money for the payment protection plan has dried up already. So this was definitely a good boost to these local companies because there is still so much uncertainty in the next days, months, and weeks.
BOB LEWEKE: Still talking about money, last time you and I had a conversation we talked about your partnership with The Cavalier Daily, the UVA student newspaper, which is still operating. This week Patrick Roney had a pretty interesting report about the amount of money that UVA has refunded to students for unused housing and dining costs for the spring semester alone. But the university is getting a lot of that money back from the cares act?
ELLIOT ROBINSON: Yeah, they are getting a portion of that back. They're anticipating, originally it was 12 million that they were anticipating and up to 18 million, but they've received almost 12 million from the cares act to help fill that whole. It's really, it shows how much that this is also affecting higher education as one of those things that, just thinking about it, we thought it would be pretty much okay but there's buildings where although things are closed, they're still costs related to those. They're still teaching classes, they're still paying some employees, and that adds up fairly quickly.
BOB LEWEKE: Elliot, what do you have coming up in Charlottesville Tomorrow, in the next few days, that you're most excited about?
ELLIOT ROBINSON: Well, one thing, we have a Cavalier Daily writer who has been freelancing for us for a while. She's about to start her job over the summer in South Carolina but she has been talking to some employees at the hospitals here, about just how things have been going for them and how they're coping, how they're dealing with self-care. And that should be coming out in the next few days. And I think that's really interesting insight of what's going on with them with everything that's going on. Because it's easy to think of them just doing their duty, and not really think about what happens when the shift is over, and how they're trying to decompress from all that they've seen.
BOB LEWEKE: Okay, well we will look for that coming up in the next few days. Elliot, I also have to ask about this, a couple of weeks ago you told me that you were shaving off your long beard to make room for the requisite masks. So how does it feel now, and is the beard coming back when this is all over?
ELLIOT ROBINSON: I'm still not really happy about that, shaving it all off. I've been growing it out for 2 years and definitely once this is all over, I have vowed that it will be bigger and better than before.
BOB LEWEKE: Bigger and better, well I hope that happens sooner rather than later.
ELLIOT ROBINSON: Same here
BOB LEWEKE: Elliot Robinson joined Charlottesville tomorrow as its news editor in August 2018. He's also worked as a reporter and editor at the Richmond Times Dispatch and the Daily Progress. Elliott, thanks very much again for your time. I hope we can check in with you again soon.
ELLIOT ROBINSON: Yeah, thank you.
Elliott Robinson joined Charlottesville Tomorrow as its news editor in August 2018. He began his journalism career in 2006 at The Progress-Index in Petersburg and went on to become the editor of The Hopewell News, a copy editor in North Carolina, a reporter and copy editor at the Richmond Times-Dispatch and associate city editor of The Daily Progress.