Take April Ibanez and Small Business Owners: We can do better to weather this pandemic together | Editorial

Consider the crossroads of crises in two front-page articles from Tuesday’s Sun-Times:

Ald. Tom Tunney was caught serving customers inside her restaurant Ann Sather during the pandemic, violating state and city orders. He shouldn’t have done that, as he admits, but restaurants are definitely hopeless.

And 450,000 unemployed in Illinois, like April Ibanez, a worried single mom from Chicago, risk losing their unemployment benefits on Boxing Day. Ibanez was put on leave from a restaurant job last spring when the pandemic first hit.

Both stories tell a single story of how the coronavirus pandemic is hitting our country’s economy, with devastating consequences for small businesses and individuals.

The most responsible national response, both to save entire sectors of the economy and to help desperate people, would be a more aggressive federal fiscal stimulus – on a scale already seen in some other countries.

Go home safely

Our nation will go through this pandemic. The vaccines are on their way. The only question is whether we will get there as humanely as possible, by practicing the mitigation rules, without allowing COVID-19 to spoil our economy and our livelihoods.

Congress is considering a bipartisan, $ 908 billion pandemic relief plan, which beats nothing at all. That’s better than a previous $ 500 billion plan proposed by Republicans, even though it falls far short of a $ 2.2 trillion package proposed by Democrats. But if the goal is for our nation to come out of this stable and whole crisis, ready to bounce back, that is simply not enough.

The unemployed would receive $ 300 per week in enhanced federal unemployment benefits, only half of the $ 600 per week workers received from the CARES Act last spring. Small businesses would also be bypassed. Most notably, a $ 120 billion proposal to help independent restaurants and bars under 20 locations – the Restaurant Act – is nowhere to be found in this back-up plan.

Taylor Street vs. Olive Garden

How could this play out, for example, as we move towards a post-pandemic world? A great little Italian restaurant on Taylor Street – a family business – could be forced to close for good, even if a business chain with deep pockets like Olive Garden makes its debut. And even this Olive Garden is not a sure thing.

The restaurant and bar industry is expected to lose $ 240 billion this year, reports the Washington Post, and some analysts are warning that 85% of small independent restaurants will close without federal help.

In a letter to Congress on Monday, the National Association of Restaurateurs warned that “500,000 restaurants of all types of businesses – franchises, chains and independents – are in economic free fall.”

By all means, the NRA has urged Congress to pass this $ 908 billion stimulus package if it’s the best you can do right now. But think of it as a “down payment” towards a larger relief program early next year.

No fault on their part

In normal times, we could understand the reluctance of Republicans to support more generous government assistance to businesses and workers. The free market chooses the winners and the losers. But these are not normal times, and nothing in them reflects how free markets work. They reflect the workings of a modern day scourge.

Ann Sather’s famous cinnamon buns are as good as ever, and Tunney would reopen his restaurant to eat inside in the blink of an eye – this time legally – if he could. And April Ibanez would love nothing more than to find a new job in the hospitality industry, preferably on a day shift so that she can put her 3-year-old daughter, Ruby, into daycare.

But that just doesn’t happen.

Congress “should understand”, Ibanez told Manny Ramos of Sun-Time. “People have bills to pay, kids to look after, and we just can’t do it right now. ”

Pull the stops

The argument, made by some Republicans, that more generous unemployment benefits would encourage laziness is absurd. The argument that a bigger stimulus package would dangerously increase the federal deficit, coming from a Republican party that inflated the deficit by $ 6.6 trillion in the past four years, is dishonest.

As President Franklin D. Roosevelt understood during the Great Depression – and as the leaders of other countries now understand during the pandemic – there are times when a nation must do everything it can.

Japan’s economic recovery during the pandemic was equal to 21.1% of that country’s gross domestic product. Canada represented 16.4% of its GDP. But the United States, where the social safety net was so much smaller to start, provided stimulus funding equal to 13.2% of GDP.

For the good of every business and every worker, we can do better.

Send letters to [email protected].

Richard V. Johnson

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.