Small businesses search for solutions amid crisis
Monday, March 23, 2020
With each succeeding daily briefing from White House and governors’ offices across the country, small businesses are taking more and more of a blow. As sweeping new safety measures are enacted to curb the coronavirus pandemic, businesses have been left to wonder what comes next.
A business environment that was very recently reaching 50-year-lows in unemployment, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, is now teetering on the edge with the economy grinding to a halt.
Small businesses, which make up over 50% of the U.S. economy, according to Moody’s Analytics, have been forced to scramble. As bars and restaurants are shuttered to dine-in patrons, gyms are temporarily closed and retail stores are struggling in the new, self-quarantine environment, finding ways to stay afloat has become the main business objective.
Efforts by the government to potentially install a $1 trillion stimulus package that could include direct payments of at least $1,000 to citizens have buoyed some spirits in the small business community. Still, it has not calmed fears completely nor has stopped reality. Layoffs, furloughs and cut hours have defined the first weeks of the pandemic and the end of the crisis is not clear by any means.
Across the spectrum of locally based small businesses, different sectors are gravitating towards alternative solutions to stay afloat. Restaurants and bars have been relying on take-out options and pickup. Without anyone allowed in, business owners have resorted to Facebook to get the message out to the public they are still open.
For waiters and waitresses that rely on tips to sustain their income, it has been even more of a struggle. Some bars across the country are putting up gift cards on their websites for people to buy. The proceeds of these go directly to the waiters and waitresses that would have otherwise been receiving tip money over this time period. As only a skeleton workforce is eligible to man the to-go orders, businesses are hoping this will sustain the rest of their staff as the pandemic roars on.
As the White House has noted earlier last week, and as most economists have concurred with, this practice can only go on for so long. Some local businesses have been forced to lay people off outright because the money supply to pay absent workers is short.
The longer this pandemic goes on, the more people will be looking for work. Certain states, like New York, have already seen a surge in people filing for unemployment insurance.
In retail and customer service jobs, it has been a similar experience. Many gym staffers, secretaries, and store workers have been told there is no longer a job or their hours have been significantly cut. With self-quarantine in full effect, the solution to keeping operations alive has been less obvious for these types of businesses. Some have opted for curbside pickup where customers don’t have to leave their car for the items they wanted from the store.
In all of the chaos and uncertainty, the end is not clear. The measures small businesses have taken may not be sustainable. It will be an experiment in wait and see as the economic landscape changes seemingly every hour.
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