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Opinion | As Michigan businesses struggle, vulnerable families suffer, too

Rep. Tommy Brann

As many local job providers remain shuttered and others continue to struggle with a smaller customer base due to COVID-19, I’m worried we all may soon see what happens to the health of our state without healthy businesses.

Yes, the health of our small and large businesses directly impacts the health of our residents. That’s because without the revenue businesses provide, it will threaten some of the essential health and safety programs Michigan families and vulnerable residents rely on every day. Medicaid and programs to help pull people out of homelessness are two services that are important to me – and they’re both likely to suffer without a safe, complete reopening of Michigan’s economy. So is funding for our schools.

I want to be clear. My goal here is not to place blame. I know the COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented situation. I simply hope that once things are back to normal we all show a little more appreciation for the job creators and risk-takers who serve as the backbone of our state.

I own a restaurant that has been at the same location in Wyoming, Michigan for 49 years. I treat my small business like a baby, and right now my baby is hurting. So are a lot of my business friends. I spoke to the owner of a greenhouse back in April who was suicidal when we thought he might lose it all.   

The buildings might be brick and mortar, but the people who own them are human beings with feelings. They are human beings who pour their lives into those buildings and work seven days a week to meet a payroll. They are human beings who care about their employees and customers. They are human beings who pay property taxes, workers’ compensation, federal taxes, unemployment taxes and more. 

A few months ago, several of my fellow restaurant friends and I closed due to the coronavirus but ironically were still helping feed Michigan because businesses subsidize the unemployment benefits system. After 49 years, my small business has paid more than $2 million in Social Security and Medicare for my employees and I am proud of that. 

Business may sound like a cold word, but I urge everyone to change their way of thinking. As the late Sen. Paul Tsongas (D-Massachusetts) once said, “You cannot be pro-jobs and anti-business at the same time. You cannot love employment and hate employers.”

While I am not trying to claim anyone hates employers, I sure miss them in Michigan right now.

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