The COVID-19 pandemic has already caused small businesses to fail. With the resurgence of cases, many small businesses that have weathered the storm will struggle to make it through the winter.
Whether or not politicians in Washington pass a stimulus package prior to the publication of this article, the process has taken far too long. The gamesmanship in Washington has had a devastating impact on the small business community.
There are two immediate things Washington politicians can do to help small businesses.
First, politicians must make funds available to small property owners whose tenants cannot pay their rent.
Second, politicians must finally provide relief to local chambers of commerce and trade associations struggling to make it through the pandemic.
Relief for property owners
Many small businesses are struggling to pay their rent because of the pandemic. Others simply can no longer afford to pay rent. Property owners, many of whom are also small businesses, are running out of money. They will face certain foreclosure unless Congress acts now.
Congress must provide forgivable loans that property owners can use to make mortgage payments during the winter. Legislators can amend and pass pending legislation such as the Restart Act. They can also file new legislation laser-focused on helping small property owners through this pandemic. This legislation should be passed and signed into law immediately. Many commercial property owners will not be able to maintain their properties and pay their mortgages without relief.
Support for local chambers and trade associations
Chambers of Commerce provide pivotal support to the local businesses that support local communities. They foster growth, provide crucial support services and make important connections for their members. Chambers of commerce and trade associations also create a community that empowers small and local businesses.
Chambers of commerce have been devastated by the pandemic. Most of their large fundraising events have been cancelled and small businesses are struggling to pay membership dues. Like the businesses they serve, they have had to lay off employees. However, these chambers were inexplicably excluded from the CARES Act.
Chambers of commerce and trade organizations must be included in the next stimulus package to help them make it through the pandemic. There is no justifiable reason to withhold relief from the organizations that support small businesses.
Swift action is necessary
Politicians like to talk about small businesses driving the economy. But too often they do not follow through. The failure of Congress to pass meaningful legislation that will help small businesses keep their doors open since the CARES Act is completely unacceptable.
The small business community includes small business owners and their employees. It includes the families and friends of those who own or work for a small business. It includes anyone that relies on a small business.
Small businesses can lead our recovery. However, they must be given the resources to sustain themselves through this crisis. The small business community must come together during these difficult times and speak with a strong and unified voice. Together, we can compel politicians to pass legislation that will give businesses a fighting chance during these difficult times.
• Ellliot Richardson is co-founder and president of the Small Business Advocacy Council.