Small businesses deserve support during COVID-19 outbreak

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OPINION | AQUIN-HERNÁNDEZ: Small businesses need support to navigate the perils of the COVID-19 era.

For students at the College of William and Mary, this week officially marks one month since we embarked for spring break — many of us leaving campus for potentially the last time. The past month has brought a slew of negative consequences for all Americans, not just students at the College. The rapid growth of COVID-19 has forced more than 100 million people in the United States into a government-mandated lockdown, according to the Wall Street Journal. Consequently, nearly 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment insurance, according to the New York Times, while the economy has begun its plunge into a global recession.

Does that sound dire to you?

It should. In fact, it should set off all the proverbial alarms in your head that for the near future, things aren’t going to be normal.

In times of nearly universal crisis, one would assume that all affected by our new normal could come together and find some humanity. More specifically, this means placing aside petty partisan politics while working toward the common goal of restoring any sense of order and regularity to our crazy world.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. A quick view of anyone’s Facebook feed exposes the keyboard warriors in one’s friends list. Liberals will tout the news that the United States now has the highest number of reported coronavirus cases throughout the world as a “progressive victory” against President Donald Trump, notwithstanding the problematic insinuations that people’s lives should somehow constitute a chess game of political opportunism in Washington.

As an aside, I still find it a ludicrous notion that the media hold any regard to China’s reported numbers because the Chinese government has lied its way throughout this whole crisis.

Conversely, the President’s initial mishandling and downplaying of the novel virus cost us precious weeks, lives and money and does merit criticism. As an American and Mexican dual citizen, I lament the fact that Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has continued down the same initial haughty path of ignorant self-destruction, instead of learning from the mistakes made by other world leaders, including, but not limited to, our president.

In passing the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or the CARES Act for short, politicians took a step in the right direction for our country in a glowing act of bipartisanship, stained only by the partisan resistance of a few stragglers. Though not without its flaws, the bill contained two very important provisions: stimulus checks for low-income taxpayers — both citizens and documented immigrants — and financial support for small businesses.

“However, this support is not granted as it should be for many small businesses that lack the capacity to navigate the bureaucracy of the Small Business Administration and its rigorous application procedure. With over half of new small businesses founded in the past decade being owned by minorities, many owners struggle with a language barrier, making it even more difficult for the most vulnerable to navigate such a daunting bureaucratic process.”

However, this support is not granted as it should be for many small businesses that lack the capacity to navigate the bureaucracy of the Small Business Administration and its rigorous application procedure. With over half of new small businesses founded in the past decade being owned by minorities, many owners struggle with a language barrier, making it even more difficult for the most vulnerable to navigate such a daunting bureaucratic process.

Consequently, as members of our own communities — whether that be in Williamsburg, the rest of Virginia, across the United States or even around the world — we must do our part to support small businesses as best we can. As the employers of nearly half of the private workforce, according to the SBA, small businesses are quite literally the backbone of America.  It is imperative that we allow these businesses the capacity to function. Without small businesses — many of whom are suppliers — hospitals will not be equipped with the necessary resources they need to save lives.

If we don’t support them now, and therefore their employees, then by the time the world economy can spiral toward normalcy, we’ll be overrun by big-name corporations who don’t quite care as much about your community as you might. I have made sure to support small businesses located in Nevada as much as I can. Though I’m a college student without a bunch of steady income or a trust fund, I still try to tip well when I order takeout from local restaurants. Even if you don’t have much money, the likelihood is that you know someone who does — so recommend them your favorite places.

Growing up in Las Vegas during the Great Recession, I know how depressing it can be to find entire strip malls purged of “mom ‘n pop” shops that couldn’t make rent because tourists stopped spending money, causing local workers to lose their expendable income. I saw my neighbors foreclose out of their residences of years or even decades, only to be replaced by the nouveau-riche caste coming out of California. That was 12 years ago, though. If we can play our cards right, we can unite around our future — flattening the curve and stimulating our economy before it’s too late. Otherwise, 2008 will seem like a good time compared to what’s coming next.