COVID-19

What small business owners might expect from Biden

Justin Ho Dec 7, 2020
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Biden has called for flexible grants to businesses that have lost substantial revenue. He also wants to refocus the Paycheck Protection Program on businesses with fewer than 50 employees, instead of the current 500. Alex Wong/Getty Images
COVID-19

What small business owners might expect from Biden

Justin Ho Dec 7, 2020
Heard on:
Biden has called for flexible grants to businesses that have lost substantial revenue. He also wants to refocus the Paycheck Protection Program on businesses with fewer than 50 employees, instead of the current 500. Alex Wong/Getty Images
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It’s been months since Daniel Jacobs ran out of Paycheck Protection Program money for his Milwaukee restaurant, DanDan. Now, he’s tapping into an economic disaster loan from the Small Business Administration.

Jabobs said it’s helpful, but it’s not the type of aid he’s hoping for.

“Giving us another loan is not the answer, man,” Jacobs said. “We need grantable money.”

Jacobs said a grant would be more flexible than his PPP loan was. He had to spend that on payroll, rent and utilities in order for the loan to be forgiven. But Jacobs said his restaurant has plenty of other costs.

“Thirty percent of my income is spent on food,” Jacobs said. “If it’s not our biggest expense, it’s our second biggest expense monthly, outside of labor.”

The economic team that President-elect Joe Biden announced last week will have to figure out how to help the millions of small businesses that are struggling to survive the pandemic economy.

Biden has called for flexible grants to businesses that have lost substantial revenue. He also wants to refocus the Paycheck Protection Program on businesses with fewer than 50 employees, instead of the current 500.

“That’s actually the right focus, when you talk about small businesses,” said Veronique de Rugy, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

De Rugy said making funds available to businesses with as many as 500 employees took the focus away from the ones that needed the money most.

Biden also wants to make it easier for small businesses to access capital more generally.

Amanda Ballantyne is executive director of the Main Street Alliance, a small business advocacy group. She said the smallest businesses — say, those with fewer than 10 employees — often have a hard time raising money.

“They’re generally considered high risk in private lending, so there’s a lot that can be done to create programs that are really looking at micro-entrepreneurship,” Ballantyne said.

Whether or not the Biden Administration will be able to accomplish any of these goals will depend on which party controls Congress. And we won’t know which one controls the Senate until January.

But Ballantyne said Biden could work on some goals through regulation and by working with the Federal Reserve.

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 begins 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.

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