Small Businesses (Op-Ed)
March 14th, 2020. The day my dad calls his “last good day,” and probably for most small businesses it was considered the true last good day. The small mom and pop restaurants and cute, quirky, small businesses all faced the same question: how do we learn to operate in a new way and in a way we can keep the community together? When I look at the way my grandfather started his small restaurant, it shines true to the sentiment of learning to connect to the community and being a part of it. He learned to make the town of Kensington one with his small pizza place, and like so many other small businesses, his business values what the customers and community members think.
That’s what makes small businesses so special. It’s the connection you get when you go to a small business, whether a restaurant, an antique store, a barber shop or a boutique. It’s the genuine smile, in my opinion, of owners happy to see you choose them over the larger companies like Amazon that can get you what you want (don’t worry, I’m guilty of using Amazon too). Small businesses are the unsung heroes of communities because they foster the way we connect and the way we interact, but with the pandemic that was almost taken away.
After the shutdown built stress on all small business owners, the hope of the Paycheck Protection Program money from the government was seen as a blessing that would help small business owners weather the storm. Now, not to place blame on anyone, but the government itself did not do a good job in the way they handled this situation. The main point of the Payment Protection Program was to give small businesses two months worth of payroll and general expenses. The payment was technically a loan (meaning you needed to pay it back) but was considered forgivable if you proved that you kept your employees employed for those two months during the lockdown.
One of the problems with the program was that the government gave banks the prerogative to issue these loans, and large companies received money they didn’t need (i.e. The Lakers, Shake Shack and many independent schools and universities). While this scenario is technically legal, this use was not the intent of the program. The program was intended to help keep open and fund small businesses that don’t have access to as much capital like larger companies do. While many of these larger corporations that applied for money were approved, due to public outcry many did not accept the money or decided to give it back.
In the end, this program could be seen as a little bit of a disaster; however, its example goes to prove a larger point the way many do not appreciate at times local or small businesses the same way, especially restaurants.
With small businesses still struggling to figure out and adapt to this new way of interacting with their community and customers, whether that is doing carry-out only or staying open to try and pay their employees, I urge everyone to try and take a look around your neighborhood and your community. Try and support your local friends whether by getting carry-out from your favorite restaurant or going to get that really cute book from that second hand bookstore this holiday season. Because unlike some of us, since March they have been getting up everyday, going to work to try and keep their places open to try and maintain that community pride. While our worlds have all changed this year, remember those small businesses that are out there trying to spread a little joy.