While COVID-19 has taken a bite out of the national economy, it has not had a similar impact on sales tax collections in Walker County.

Compared to the same period last year, Local Option Sales Tax, or LOST, revenues have not fallen off during the virus outbreak. Local officials attribute their good fortune to the new Georgia marketplace facilitator law, which went into effect April 1 and requires collection of sales tax on online sales, and residents’ choosing to shop locally during the outbreak.

“I think people stayed in Walker County and shopped local more in March and April,” Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield said. “There were so many full-service dining establishments and big box retailers closed in other markets, like Chattanooga, Fort Oglethorpe and Rome, that folks visited local restaurants offering carryout and local stores for supplies.

“Stimulus checks were also received during this time period, and a lot of people decided to tackle projects around the house,” the sole commissioner said. “We’ve heard from several local hardware stores that noticed an uptick in business this spring.”

While the county’s overall sales tax numbers have been trending up each month compared to the same period in 2019, there was a notable spike in April, said Joe Legge, Walker County public relations director.

Collections for the category of other retail grew from $83,826.22 in March to $100,261.99 in April, Legge said. Collections for the food/bar category also posted a significant increase; April’s revenue from this sector surged $22,789.80 from February to April.

Collections in February were $67,453.30, $87,423.24 in March and $90,243.10 in April, he said.

Approximately half of March was impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, and Georgia’s executive order to shelter in place went into effect in April.

Catherine Edgemon is assistant editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and the Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.

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