Small businesses struggle with the pandemic and protests
Share Now on:
The nation is in the middle of a hard — and long overdue — look at racism and police brutality in the country. That has many big corporate brands scrambling to find an appropriate response, and small businesses navigating their role while trying to stay afloat amid the pandemic.
At LocLov Salon in Washington, D.C., owner Salih Watts has recently started welcoming back clients and staff when the protests in response to the killing of George Floyd by police broke out.
Watts said normally, he and his staff would be deeply engaged in the protests, posting photos of his team at demonstrations and donating money to social justice groups. But his salons in D.C. and LA have been closed for months under COVID-19 lockdowns, and, like many small businesses, he said it’s all he can do to just keep the business afloat.
“It’s tough to see all that it’s happening,” he said, “and to and to be juggling both situations — I feel terrible that I can’t even be more responsive in the way that I normally would be.”
Watts said he is still supporting the movement as best he can, but he says a big part of that is trying to keep as many of his staff employed as possible.
“We have the same amount of rent, and then back pay,” Watts said of his business challenges. “And then temporary plastic drapes and masks for staff, masks for our clients, face shields, you know, UV ovens …”
Higher costs for PPE moving forward are also playing into the calculations for Shobha Tummala, who owns Shobha, a chain of hair removal salons in New York, D.C., and Maryland, almost all of which are still closed.
One of her locations in D.C. was boarded up when early protests turned into violent clashes with police. Tummala said she is constantly recalculating how she can keep her business going, and the protests were happening just as she was shopping around for new business insurance, which expired June 1.
She said, based on the quotes she’s seeing rates have gone way up, while, at the same time, her income has gone way down.
“We are probably going to end up paying close to what we paid last year for what we’re estimating will be maybe a third or a quarter of the revenues.
In Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed in police custody, Lee Wallace owns Peace Coffee, a coffee shop and roastery located in the same neighborhood where the police precinct burned. Wallace recently opened her doors to the public again, but said she’s not really focused on business plans for the future.
“I suppose I should be,” she said. “But, to be honest, when you’re in the middle of the kind of heartbreak and, and pain that our community is going through. I haven’t been able to think that far ahead yet. I think everybody here is, is trying to support the peaceful protests that are going on, and looking forward to the state’s investigation into the Minneapolis police department.”
Wallace’s business sustained little damage in the protests, but she said she sympathizes with all the small business owners who’ve lost what may be their life’s work. At the same, she said it’s time to acknowledge the pain in the community that needs addressing.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?
This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.
Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?
India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.
Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?
As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy continues reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.
We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.
Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.
In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.
Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.
Give today and get our limited edition tote.