You’re a community-minded person so you shop local. You eat Sunday morning breakfast at your town’s diner with your family, you buy your kids gear at the local sporting goods store, you patronize the area retail shops for clothing, jewelry and books. You even read your neighborhood newspaper.
But what happens when you’re quarantined at home? The restaurant owners, the retail proprietors, the local entrepreneurs of all stripes and their employees are suddenly facing severe economic stress. They’re either out of work or just scraping by.
And in this circumstance, when government inaction would allow us to slip into an American economic collapse not seen since the Great Depression, our elected leaders must — MUST — take bold action and take it quickly.
Thankfully, even though more can and should be done, the federal government has already taken forceful strides, like providing the opportunity for impacted small businesses in devastated regions to apply for emergency low-interest loans of up to $2 million through the Small Business Administration. And, of course, our local governments and business groups can help around the edges, like many did last week in encouraging landlords to work with tenants on delayed rent before the 90-day statewide moratorium on evictions was announced.
But given the gravity of the health crisis and corresponding economic fallout, we need more, especially from our state government.
To be sure, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has displayed incredible leadership, winning praise even from fierce critics, took the unassailably correct and necessary step to protect public health by essentially shutting down all nonessential activity in New York. Cuomo and our state legislators must now address the fallout of the needed but brutally painful executive orders.
Even the most ardent champions of small government and fiscal responsibility realize that only the state possesses the power and resources to adequately respond.
If small business owners across nearly all industries are dealing with empty accounts, with no new revenue coming in, and the inability to receive traditional bank loans or private investment, only one significant solution remains to stave off massive unemployment and economic Armageddon of the kind we haven’t seen in our lifetimes. That significant solution is state-sponsored measures to lift up small business owners until they can stand on their own two feet again.
Heck, a face of American capitalism and private sector success, Sen. Mitt Romney, was the first prominent Republican, but thankfully not the last, to champion the idea of the U.S. Treasury sending checks to all adult Americans.
New York State, for its part, with progressive leadership in the Senate, Assembly and governor’s office, can and should take notes from Romney on the role of government amidst unprecedented financial meltdown.
What would be a good start? With many establishments unable to meet payroll, zero interest loans of up to, say, $250,000, guaranteed by the state, would be a lifeline to Main Street businesses that might otherwise shut their doors. If possible, forgive loans entirely for businesses that avoid layoffs or hire back employees they have let go. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has been working on a similar bill on the federal side.
And with so many middle-class business owners (who themselves can often live a paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle usually associated with their employees) facing joblessness, government should extend unemployment benefits to everyone who is out of work, including freelance contractors currently ineligible.
Many elected officials, often poorly versed on private sector realities, conjure images of industry titans when crafting policy. Let’s not forget a business owner can include essentially working-class individuals who might just operate a tiny limited liability company. Given the very real health concerns, who is having that painter into their home right now to touch up their kitchen? The painter has no work dates on the schedule, with none in the forecast, and he laid off his one employee.
Other than my grandmother and her generation, who endured the Great Depression as children, many of us might have concluded even the prospect of a gargantuan economic collapse featuring 20+ percent unemployment was just for the history books, despite 2008 and the Great Recession. My Nanny Roo’s lessons, and the lessons of the Greatest Generation more broadly about community, patriotism and prudence, have never been more instructive.
And let me make clear: Examiner newspapers are no doubt impacted by the calamity. It would be wrong to avoid transparency on the subject when newspapers call on and expect unfiltered truth from the people and organizations we cover. We’ve shed payroll, consolidated much content between our four print editions, offering the possibility of unique front and back pages, and have created a new business model that will allow us to emerge from this disaster a leaner and stronger local news organization for our readers and advertisers.
But, in the meantime, there’s a human toll, and we’re hustling every day to make good on our promise to deliver professionally reported local news to communities across Westchester and Putnam counties, in print and online. And with necessity being the mother of all invention, we’ve already seen an exploding expansion of our online readership and digital advertising support, both incredibly encouraging signals during uncertain times, as we begin to think online-first in order to provide nearly real-time publication of critical information to our audience.
Already receiving well over 50,000 users per month on average and quickly growing on TheExaminerNews.com, we’re working to lift that number above 100,000 in the weeks and months ahead as we redouble efforts to publish daily digital journalism and distribute it on our social media platforms and e-mail newsletters.
The bottom line is this: we are impacted together and must dig our way out together. Black and white, rich and poor, Republican and Democrat, we are inextricably interconnected in myriad ways. We were reminded of that enduring fact in recent weeks in the most sobering fashion but, with lessons learned, and as our world reinvents itself for the long-term to function more remotely, for better and worse, we are, undeniably, all in this thing together.
Stay safe, stay strong, stay calm, stay diligent and we’ll all eat Sunday morning breakfast together at the diner on the other side. I’ll see you there.
Adam Stone is publisher of Examiner Media.