AS I SEE IT
By Neal A. Shipman
While Amazon and Walmart may have seen record sales amid the COVID-19 pandemic, unfortunately the same cannot be said for the small businesses of this country.
In what has been a truly tragic story that is being repeated on almost a daily basis, small businesses in virtually every city in the United States are being forced to close their doors. Closing their doors is the last thing that any business owner wants to see happen. It is understandable that even under the best of economic times some businesses fail. But what is happening right now in the United States is not the failure of small businesses, it is the failure of the United States Congress and state governments who failed to recognize the important roles that the businesses provide to our nation’s economy.
Yes, it was understandable that protective measures needed to be implemented to prevent the spread of the virus. But when government - be it federal or state - decided that the best way to stem the virus was to order the closing of businesses or to restrict their hours of operation, it was the start of a death spiral for many small businesses.
The hardest hit businesses by these restrictions were bars and restaurants. But every small business in this country suffered. And they continue to struggle today.
In making those decisions that set many businesses on the path to economic destruction, the government did very little to throw them a lifeline. The loss of American businesses and their workforce was just another COVID-19 fatality. Unfortunately, no one in government seemed to be tracking those numbers like they did with the number of people who contracted or died (either with or of) the virus. That was until last spring when Congress passed its first stimulus program that allowed for businesses to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program to help them keep their employees working. It worked. And for three or so months, businesses were able to keep their doors open.
But the virus didn’t go away and neither did the restrictions. So the number of businesses closing continued to rise.
Now, Congress has once again decided that they would provide another $284 billion in PPP loans to small businesses. That may seem like a lot of money, but it really isn’t when you consider that Congress also decided to funnel hundreds of billions of dollars to foreign countries at the same time?
It makes a person wonder what the priority of Congress is? Is it to use American taxpayer money to fund programs and projects in foreign countries? Or is it to help those small businesses that have been the backbone of the American economy?
Yes, the second PPP loans, which may be forgiven, are going to help small businesses stay open a little longer. It is going to give them a fighting chance to make it through the first part of 2021.
But in reality, if Congress and the new Biden administration want to see America’s economy begin to rebuild, they need to recognize the importance of this nation’s small businesses. If they want to see Americans gainfully employed so that they don’t have to rely on federal relief and unemployment programs, they need to set in motion an economic aid program that will ensure that no more businesses are forced to close their doors forever because of government restrictions.
Unlike the government that taxes and spends without consequences, America’s small business owners know the value of a dollar. They work hard each and every day to earn that dollar by providing good customer service at a fair price so that they can keep their staff working and hopefully make a profit. They don’t ask for much in return. They just want the opportunity.
It is the responsibility of our federal, state and local leaders to keep that in mind each and every time that they decide to restrict how American businesses operate.