As omicron grows, local small businesses need federal funding to survive
Local leaders across the country are in the throes of COVID-19 hysteria. And, unfortunately, many small businesses suffer from it.
The hysteria is caused by the last variant – the omicron – which quickly became dominant. Regardless, for the 200 million people who chose to be vaccinated, the effects would be much milder than the previous delta variant; or that so far very few people have had to be hospitalized, many asymptomatic; or that in South Africa, where the variant started less than two months ago, cases are already declining at a significant rate.
Never mind that the federal government, which President Biden says is well supplied with masks and protective gear, will ship half a billion COVID tests, open 10,000 more testing centers, and move patients from hospitals to other facilities. care when beds are needed.
Never mind that there are hundreds of millions of antiviral pills already manufactured by Pfizer and Merck that within days will receive FDA approval and reduce hospitalizations by 90%, even among the unvaccinated.
No. Instead, local leaders in our largest cities are imposing COVID mandates that can kill their own small businesses.
Starting in January, restaurants in Philadelphia will be allowed to serve only vaccinated customers. The same goes for Chicago. New York businesses are only due to employ vaccinated workers by the end of this month. In Boston, customers and staff in certain indoor spaces – restaurants, bars, nightclubs, gyms and fitness centers, and entertainment venues such as theaters and sports arenas – will be required to show proof of at least a dose of vaccine by Jan.15 and two by Feb.15.
Los Angeles already has a vaccination mandate for all customers served in the indoor portion of a food service establishment, and other types of indoor locations must show full proof of vaccination prior to entering. San Francisco requires full proof of vaccination to visit bars, restaurants, gyms, and other indoor entertainment establishments. Seattle requires customers 12 years of age and older to be able to show full proof of vaccination or be able to show a negative COVID-19 test result to enter indoor restaurants and bars, indoor sporting events, and sporting events in open air with more than 500 people.
These companies don’t even have a choice. They have to comply, face penalties or shut down.
Yes, you can blame around 40 percent of the people in this country who aren’t vaccinated for causing these warrants. But whether they agree with them or not, they exercise their choice.
Meanwhile, it is the hundreds of thousands of small businesses in these cities that are really hurting. Imagine not being allowed to serve or sell your products to 40% of your potential customers. Imagine facing these mandates just after the worst year in your business history, when you’re struggling to recover.
I feel very bad for them. Bad enough that I am supporting a new call from over 60 lawmakers who this week are urging Congress to provide funding for these companies.
“These small businesses are essential to the cultural and economic vitality of our communities, and they need our help,” lawmakers said in a public letter. “Particularly as the winter months approach, tens of thousands of small businesses across the country are facing the possibility of layoffs, reduction in service or hours, or outright shutdown, unless additional federal relief. ”
The Small Business Administration (SBA) economic disaster loan program, which until recently had about $ 100 billion in its fund, is expected to be extended beyond its Dec.31 end date. The Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which defaulted $ 44 billion before it closed, is expected to be refinanced. Further grants for businesses in these urban areas and in certain industries should be made available. Even a lean resurrection of the paycheck protection program should be considered. These programs can be short term, at least to help these companies through the months to come.
The structure is already there. All it takes is funding. And come on, folks – since trillions of dollars was previously earmarked for the now doomed Build Back Better legislation, there is clearly a way to do it.
If you’re a Republican, you’ll quickly notice that every city that implemented these new mandates is run by Democrats. If you are a Democrat, you are going to say that you are doing your best to protect the health of the public. If you are a small business owner in these cities, it doesn’t matter who is right and who is wrong. You are just caught in the middle of this series of COVID hysteria.
We can discuss the logic behind these mandates later. But small business is a bipartisan issue. No one on either side of the aisle will dispute helping these business owners survive another COVID winter. Action must be taken, and quickly.
Gene Marks is the founder of The Marks Group, a small business consulting firm. He appears frequently on CNBC, Fox Business, and MSNBC.