Posted on

Government can’t leave small business hanging


Tax breaks next year, will do little to help struggling small businesses make payroll during the COVID-19 crisis.

As reported in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the legislation will:

• Provide two weeks of paid sick leave, and up to three months of paid family and medical leave.

• Extend unemployment insurance to furloughed workers.

• Beef up food assistance for needy families, including seniors and students, and food banks.

• Increase Medicaid funding for local, state, tribal, and territorial governments and health systems, to help cover response to the emergency which has claimed dozens of lives and infected hundreds across the country.

The legislation only applies for companies with fewer than 500 employees. While the businesses will pay their employees, they will be reimbursed through tax credits on a one-to-one basis.

While this will be a major boost to millions of American workers, it does not go far enough in making sure employers are able to weather the COVID-19 crisis.

The crisis has already had massive economic impacts with canceled events, limits on business hours, and some types of businesses forced to close their doors or alter their operations.

Restaurants, taverns and entertainment venues have been especially hard-hit during the crisis. Given the small margins businesses operate on, there is a very real possibility that the COVID-19 crisis could lead to them shutting down entirely. This will be devastating for communities, not only by job losses, but with shuttered storefronts leading to further decay.

Just as the Centers for Disease Control and state healthcare officials are working to save people’s lives, so too must state and federal agencies work to prevent economic casualties from the COVID-19 crisis.

Republican members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation opposed the measure, because of the potential negative impacts it will have on businesses. The state’s four Republican members in the House of Representatives were among the small number that voted against the bi-partisan legislation.

While Congress and the White House needed to take action to protect American workers, they need to follow up with ways to help businesses impacted by the crisis, other than through plunging owners into debt.

These solutions could include things like loan abatement programs, which would have the federal and state government ensure that qualifying business owners would be able to make loan payments during the crisis, as well as potentially waiving the often hefty fees for licenses and inspections.

Both of these measures would provide immediate support for small business owners impacted by the crisis. With the federal government poised to spend billions of dollars to keep the airlines afloat, giving direct aid to ensuring small businesses needs to be on the table.

The cost of these measures could be significant, but will be money well spent if it helps ensure that businesses survive the COVID-19 crisis. Helping small businesses weather the rough seas of the current crisis needs to be a priority, if the economy is ever expected to return to normal.

Members of the Courier Sentinel editorial board include publisher Carol O’Leary, general manager Kris O’Leary and Star News editor Brian Wilson.