Online retailing and over-retailing have decimated big box stores, department stores, and malls. The coronavirus is going to provide a second punch. Unfortunately, small businesses, stores, and restaurants are taking a wallop as well. Just when things were starting to hum locally. While state and federal resources should be prioritized towards expanding and supporting our stressed medical system, they must not forget the small businesses that employ millions of Americans. Buffalo is a city made of hard working small business owners that will have to weather the storm. Let’s figure out how they will do that.
Some of the larger stores and restaurants should be able to weather the fall-out. The same can’t be said for many others where cash flow is low or has stopped and bills continue to come in. Reducing staff or temporarily closing may help the business, but it doesn’t help the employees. The loss of business and income will be snowballing.
What can be done? Support your local businesses! Many restaurants are ramping up take-out service. That may keep the lights on and the kitchen staff in place until a new normal is found. But it may not be enough. Action is needed on the federal level. It appears as though workers that have found themselves out of a job or with reduced hours can qualify for unemployment. That will help hold them over. But will they have a job to return to?
Here’s a radical idea – a federal mandate that businesses directly impacted by the crisis have their loan payments paused without penalty. Some cities across the country are forbidding utility shut-offs for businesses and residences. Commercial landlords should assist their tenants where necessary. If they are shut or have reduced business, freeze or reduce their rent payments. It may be cheaper than finding new tenants later if they go under. The state or federal government should back-fill some of the lost rent. Provide low or no-interest bridge loans for small businesses immediately.
Sending checks to every American may help but if your job is stable, do you really need it? Focus it on where it will do the most good, lower income households and newly unemployed. And finally, support industries such as hotels, cultural institutions, large manufacturers, and banks but make sure it’s to keep them operating while helping their employees. Don’t allow them to bail out shareholders and then turn around and stick it to the public when times are good (hello airlines and oil companies!).
Is it possible that we can forgo commercial mortgage payments for a time period, so that commercial tenants can also take a breather? Same with utility bills. Alleviate these types of hardships that are hanging around the necks of building owners and their tenants, so that they can ride out the storm.
Trying times call for radical measures.