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COVID-19

Caught in the crosshairs of a trade war and a pandemic

Kai Ryssdal and Daisy Palacios Dec 10, 2020
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Lydia Clarke owns DTLA Cheese at Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles. Courtesy of Lydia Clarke
COVID-19

Caught in the crosshairs of a trade war and a pandemic

Kai Ryssdal and Daisy Palacios Dec 10, 2020
Heard on:
Lydia Clarke owns DTLA Cheese at Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles. Courtesy of Lydia Clarke
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Lydia Clarke opened her second cheese shop, DTLA Cheese, in Grand Central Market in 2013. As a cheesemonger, Clarke said she is naturally interested in stories, but she also really loves cheese. What attracted her the most to the downtown Los Angeles landmark was its 100-year history.

“When I walk in here, there’s a pride of the steps because somebody has worked here for over 100 years,” said Clarke. “The history that’s in this building has just so dramatically changed since March.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Clarke said she sees about one-tenth of the customer base she had before March. Her business is not doing well.

“If things go how they are this week, we could make payroll, and then that’s probably it,” said Clarke.

Late last year, some of her cheeses were hit with the Trump administration’s 25% tariff on imported goods, and she had to raise prices a bit. But the coronavirus pandemic has made things much more difficult.

“It’s this weird fog of like, no, this will be OK. We will be OK. But the reality is like, no, it’s bad,” said Clarke.

She’s made many changes to her shop, which she co-owns with her sister. With COVID-19 safety measures, Clarke can no longer offer cheese tastings from behind the counter. There is no more downtown LA lunch rush, and she’s had to lay off half her already small staff.

“It’s not just small, it’s micro,” said Clarke.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?

The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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