As a new administration and Congress take the reins, Americans are yearning for a return to something that seems a little more like what we remember as normal day-to-day life. Almost everyone has been impacted by the pandemic in some way, and sadly, some much more than others. Like many, I have personally seen the devastating impact of Covid-19 taking the lives of friends.
The impacts of the pandemic are well known. They include the exhausted first responders, and the researchers and medical staff who have in record time developed and administered vaccines to slow the virus. If that is not enough, we now see a resurging, new, and more pernicious variant of this virus. Hospitals and their staffs are at their breaking points but continue to treat and fight for the survival of every patient in their care.
Amid all of this, there is an entire segment of our economy that is also victim to the pandemic, and we must not lose sight of their plight. The small businesses, entrepreneurs, and their families are all victims. They are mentioned because they are, in fact, the backbone of our U.S. economy – and of economies across the globe – and many of them are also at their breaking points as they work to survive.
I have spent a good part of 2020 focused on Main Street where our small business owners have fought and shown incredible resilience as they work to save their livelihoods in the face of the pandemic. I have written in previous articles that as Main Street has begged for help, Wall Street, thanks to quick action by the Federal Reserve and Congress, achieved a rather remarkable recovery from the depths of the stock market sell-off last March. But Wall Street is not Main Street, and we must not forget that it is Main Street that will ultimately determine the long-term strength of a successful economic recovery— one that could well be in jeopardy. In recent surveys, estimates are that in the U.S. alone, over the next few months, between 3.5 and 7.5 million small businesses may be forced to close their doors. Main Street businesses are the driver of employment and economic growth, and as the pandemic continues to spread and persist, and restrictions continue, those businesses operate in world lacking typical customer interaction and who are rightfully concerned with their health and are also watching their spending.
But more help is on the way, thanks to the efforts and relentless advocacy of many business associations like the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, National Federation of Independent Businesses, National Retail Federation, International Franchise Association, the National Association of Manufacturers, and many others. Through their efforts, Congress finally landed on new stimulus legislation that will provide access to the additional resources needed now to sustain businesses as the pandemic continues and until the vaccines provide protection.
Furthermore, President Biden and his capable team are now in place and ready to address the pandemic and the small business crisis. They are already working to identify and advance even more stimulus measures that will provide much needed fuel for the engine of our economy and ensure that small businesses are able to thrive and drive employment and economic growth. With this new Administration ready to act and provide the lifelines needed by this important segment of our economy, I am reminded of a comment made by Martin Wolf in his December 2, Financial Times editorial, “A light shines in the gloom cast by Covid”. He noted that we must not make the mistake of pulling economic support prematurely, nor permit a slow recovery that leaves deep and lasting scars on the economic, social, and political fabric. I completely agree.
With many business owners at their breaking point, we are grateful to have an Administration that is ready to act and which is supported by the continued advocacy of strong business associations and their members. All this will ensure the economic support that small businesses will need, and ultimately ensure their survival and a strong economic recovery.
Michael J. Roman, Non-resident Senior Fellow, American Council for Capital Formation; President, CertainPoint Strategies, L.L.C.