Local business on the brink: We’ve got to get this right

covid-19 economy
(© Alexander Borisenko – stock.adobe.com)

The trillions promised to small business in the COVID-19 lockdown aren’t trickling down to the front lines, and a Downtown Waynesboro business with roots dating back almost two decades is on the brink.

We won’t name the business here, because the owner is still hopeful, less so every day, but still hopeful, of being able to figure a way to keep afloat.

But the story is one being told over and over across the country, as the lockdown has created numerous victims of unintended consequences.

The business applied for a PPP loan through local banks, but somehow the paperwork got lost in the shuffle, and before the situation could be rectified, the money was gone.

One reason the money was gone came to our attention Monday, with the headlines about Shake Shack, which isn’t a small business, by any common-sense application of what a small business is, with 8,000 employees at 189 locations across the country.

The headlines have Shake Shack magnanimously deciding to return the $10 million that it had been granted under PPP, after blowback over how it ever in a million years qualified for small business help.

The grant to Shake Shack is one of more than 4,000 approved for $5 million or more, with 12 companies with annual revenues at $100 million or more getting PPP grants.

According to Fox Business, more than 25 percent of PPP monies went to fewer than 2 percent of businesses that were granted relief.

What the actual hell, right?

Because then on the front lines, we have our friend downtown, whose business history tracks through the 2007-2009 recession, surviving that one, and growing steadily over the decade of recovery, providing jobs for eight employees, and some years adding more temp employees during the Christmas retail season.

We’re talking a stable, thriving business, as of a few weeks ago, that is now on the brink.

According to JP Morgan Chase, 18 percent of all U.S. employees work for businesses with less than 20 employees.

These are the people in the line of fire during this lockdown.

The PPP was aimed at helping get them to the other side, before the Shake Shacks of the world pushed their way to the front of the line and gobbled up the money.

The lockdown is aimed at preventing an immediate public health catastrophe, but in the process, we’ve created an economic catastrophe with effects that will play out for a generation.

We know that those who lose jobs in an economic recession suffer economic consequences that linger on for 15 years after the recovery.

And that those who lose work in hard times literally end up losing years off the ends of their lives.

Twenty-two million Americans have lost their jobs in the lockdown, and the damage might not be done.

It’s not popular to say this, but it’s what some people mean when they suggest that the cure might be worse than the disease.

At the least, we need to do a better job balancing out what we do in the name of the immediate in terms of public health with the long term in terms of public health.

That’s what gets lost when we make this COVID-19 vs. the economy.

It’s really health vs. health.

We’ve got to get both sides of this right.

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press news