As a small business owner, I welcomed the COVID emergency relief bill Congress approved in the waning days of 2020, a disastrous year for many of us working to keep our operations afloat and our employees on the payroll.
Unfortunately, the rescue package falls far short of what’s essential to sustaining small businesses, the backbones of our communities, as we approach the darkest days of the pandemic and with a COVID-19 vaccine still many months away for most Americans.
That’s why this week I’ll be joining more than 1,600 other small business owners from 48 states — including more than 100 from Michigan — to virtually take our concerns directly to members of Congress and urging them to embrace a comprehensive, long-term recovery agenda that puts us front and center.
Sharon McRill is owner of The Betty Brigade, a relocation and organization company based in Ann Arbor
Every small business owner in Michigan and beyond knows that navigating this continuing uncertainty requires more than Congress’s survival stop-gap measure. At my business, The Betty Brigade, which I started in Ann Arbor 18 years ago with $10,000 and a dream, we are already reduced to operating at 25 percent of our pre-pandemic level, and even that will be unsustainable come spring.
We also know that with help from Congress, small businesses can survive the pandemic, support our employees, continue contributing to the economy and be of service to our communities across the country.
Here’s what it will take:
- Short-term pandemic survival policies, including access to long-term capital to cover up to six months of payroll, benefits and fixed operating expenses; rent deferrals or assistance; a temporary liability shield; and tax incentives to help small businesses re-open.
- Medium-term pandemic recovery policies, including streamlined Request for Proposal (RFP) processes for small businesses, and incentives to encourage larger companies to use more small business vendors.
- And longer-term policies addressing age-old challenges facing small businesses owners and their employers, including access to quality, affordable health care and child care.
Trust me, this is not where my fellow small business owners and I expected to be when this year started. I began 2020 with plans to expand the Betty Brigade’s services including moving, organizing and staging homes for sale by bringing on new employees and expanding my customer base. The COVID-19 pandemic brought everything to a screeching halt.
My story is not unique. I’m part of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices community, and a survey late last year found that 42 percent of us have been forced to lay off employees or cut compensation, more than half had to stop paying ourselves and a third dipped into personal savings to keep our businesses operational.
While grateful to legislators for agreeing on a relief package, I’m pleading, as a small business owner, for our elected officials to step up with a comprehensive plan for small businesses. We employ nearly half the private sector workforce and play a crucial role in the economies of every state, big city and small town across America.
That’s why I’ll be adding my voice next week to the chorus of small business owners urging members of Congress hear us and help us – our nation’s economic recovery depends on it.
When we lose small, we lose big.