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CEOs call on Washington to help small businesses

Marielle Segarra Aug 4, 2020
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A shuttered small business in Brooklyn. Large corporations want small businesses to be kept afloat because the two sectors are interdependent. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
COVID-19

CEOs call on Washington to help small businesses

Marielle Segarra Aug 4, 2020
Heard on:
A shuttered small business in Brooklyn. Large corporations want small businesses to be kept afloat because the two sectors are interdependent. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

More than 100 current and former corporate CEOs have sent a letter to Congress pushing for a relief package that specifically props up small businesses with loans that go beyond the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

But a lot of the names on the list are actually CEOs of major U.S. corporations, like Starbucks, Walmart, Dunkin’ Donuts and Ulta. Why do such large corporations care about small businesses?

Remember in, like, sixth-grade science class when you learned how every part of the environment is connected?

Say an invasive species of fleas ends up in a lake. And those fleas eat all the plankton. Then the fish starve because they usually eat the plankton. And on and on. Neil Bradley at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says the economy is kinda like that.

“We think of it as an ecosystem,” he said.

To survive, big retailers need small businesses. They make a lot of the products that we all buy. Think about that when you walk into a big-box store.

“You go back to the sporting goods department, and maybe you’re buying fishing lures to go out and go fishing. You’ll find that many of those things are made by small businesses,” Bradley said. “You go into the crafts department, you’ll find the same thing.”

So if those businesses are closing, retailers might have trouble stocking shelves. Also, small businesses are a large part of the economy — they produce about 44% of U.S. GDP.

“They employ 58.9 million Americans,” said Karen Kerrigan, president and CEO of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council. “So, you know, these are people that shop at a lot of these big businesses, these big retailers.”

And if they don’t have jobs, they may be less willing to spend money at Walmart or Ulta.

The CEO letter asks Congress to create a new loan program for small companies that lasts more than a few months. They want it to include at least partial loan forgiveness and target loans to businesses owned by people of color, who’ve traditionally had less access to them.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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