Saving Our Businesses From COVID-19
Our businesses are suffering. COVID-19 has struck our way of life in multiple ways, from restricting our movement to preventing us from spending time with those we love. Our healthcare system is straining to save as many lives as possible from this deadly virus.
One way Minnesotans have worked to help our frontline doctors and nurses is to limit the hours and activities of many businesses with the goal of strongly limiting the disease’s ability to spread.
Our main street shops and community entrepreneurs deserve the economic stability that has been afforded to multi-billion dollar companies like Amazon. (A company whose income is up 26% over last year despite the pandemic.) Balancing that economic stability with the physical and mental stability of our citizens isn’t simple, but I feel our local legislators are approaching this issue poorly, if at all.
For starters: instead of saying “We must reopen now for the health of our businesses.” We should be asking “How can we give our businesses and communities the tools they need to survive until it is safe to reopen?”
By focusing solely on opening our main street, they are ignoring that reopening the economy doesn’t work like flicking on a light switch. COVID-19 is still present and that means a lot of people won’t risk going out yet, so even a fully open business might not be able to generate enough income to survive. You ask employers to make tough decisions regarding exposing staff, customers, and everyone’s families to high risk situations. You also ask employees to make difficult decisions regarding staying home to keep vulnerable family members safe or going back to work to try to put food on the table.
In March the federal government passed the Paycheck Protection Program(PPP) which was meant to support small businesses through forgivable loans. The rollout of this program had some missteps, but there was one state whose businesses have received the most loan money relative to the size of their workforce to date and received it faster than other states.
When it comes to public policy, I believe in not having to reinvent the wheel. If someone has proven something is effective then we need to look to use that as a roadmap. That’s why I think it vitally important to look to the success of our close neighbor North Dakota.
They have used a banking system implemented over a century ago, originally implemented to help family farmers, to give power to local banks and credit unions that have in turn been able to assist local businesses in a way no other state has.
State legislators like Sen. Mark Johnson are happy to take to social media and correctly point out the tough spot our economy is in, but while they have plenty of complaints, they offer few solutions. Even when presented with partial solutions like allowing our restaurants more freedom in selling alcohol, Mark Johnson was one of two Senators to vote against it.
I would ask our legislators to remember that they are a coequal branch of government and if they spent more of their time passing effective legislation instead of just complaining about the state of things then our businesses and our communities would be better able to weather this storm.
If they are unable to rise to that task, then it is time we find someone else who is.