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Business operations have been curtailed over the past few days due to the COVID-19 pandemic but up until then, sales tax collections were up, according the Concordia Parish Sales Tax Office.

For the first 23 days of March, however, sales tax collections are down more than $200,000 compared to March 2019.

Sales taxes are income sources for multiple governmental operations throughout the parish and state.

On Monday, Governor John Bel Edwards issued a “stay at home” order directing “all Louisiana residents to shelter at home and limit movements outside of their homes beyond essential needs.” 

School Board Director of Business Affairs Tom O'Neal, who oversees the sales tax office, said that from July 2018 to February 2019, collections totaled $8,886,631.

However, from July 2019 to February 2020, collections were up by $299,449 to $9,186,080.

In a month comparison, collections in February 2019 were $893,192, while in February 2020, the total climbed by $41,360 to $934,552.

However, March 2020 sales tax figures through the 23rd (Monday) of the month show that the virus has affected business.

Collections for this month compared to March of 2019 are down $212,376.

Through March 23, 2019, collections were $974,707.

Through March 23, 2020, collections have totaled $762,331.

Concordia Chamber of Commerce President Brian Chandler said Monday the organization is urging all residents to follow the instructions of the governor and health officials but urged the public to do what it can to support the economy.

“Don’t let fear overtake you,” he said. “Our economy depends on the people of the parish and we all want to get through this together.”

In a statement, the chamber encouraged citizens “to order food from local restaurants, pick up needed groceries from our local markets, and to shop for their needed necessities from our local retailers. Most business locations have made changes with their operations to adhere to our government’s recommendations for social distancing … People’s jobs, lives and investments depend on it. All of us will be affected by the situation somehow. It’s in everyone’s best interest to keep the goods and services we have here in our community thriving as best as possible.”

Local businesses, meanwhile, are following state emergency directives while finding ways to continue serving their customers.

Georgette McClain at Sportsman Fish & Grill in Vidalia said her business is hanging in there.

"It's been slow, although Tuesday was better than Monday," she said. "The locals need all the support they can get. You can order ahead and come by the drive thru. We are constantly washing our hands. We will continue serving the area."

Keith Dallalio, former manager of Big John's in Ferriday and now over Lil Italia in Natchez, said the family businesses he helps operate are still serving even though it has been a bit of a struggle.

Dallalio is part of a family that operates Big John's, Ducks Nest II, Lil Italia and Moo's in Natchez.

"Duck's Nest and Moo's have patio seating and take-out, while Lil Italia and Big John's are doing take-out," Dallalio said. "It's been tough, but we're all doing everything we can to serve the public."

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