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Small Business Owners Face Big Problems

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Steven Senne

I feel terribly sorry for the hundred thousand Americans who've lost their lives to the coronavirus.

I also feel sorry for all the small business owners in the country who have become innocent victims of the government's mishandled war on COVID-19.

They worked long and hard to start up their local restaurants, coffee shops, clothing stores, hair salons, health spas, book stores and pet grooming shops.

But in just three months their livelihoods - and the livelihoods of millions of their employees - were destroyed by the unnecessarily severe shutdown of most of our booming national economy.

An MSNBC business reporter I heard being interviewed on the radio predicted that 100,000 small businesses across the country will file for bankruptcy and never come back.

How are the owners of those doomed enterprises going to pay for their homes? Where will they find work in a seriously crippled economy? Amazon and Walmart can't hire them all.

The Democrat Party's answer to this tsunami of unemployed people is its usual one - "We'll send them a monthly check for a year."

But the people who run small businesses are by nature entrepreneurs. They don't want checks from the government. They just want to be allowed to reopen before it's too late.

Before the pandemic hit, we had more than 30 million small businesses. More than a third were owned by women and they alone employed nearly 10 million people.

No one knows how many of those self-employed small-business people are among the 40 million Americans who were thrown out of work overnight 10 weeks ago because the medical experts said we needed "15 days to flatten the curve" of the coronavirus pandemic.

Most bigger and stronger businesses will adapt to the strict and scientifically dubious new "guidelines" for social distancing and masks and slowly recover as the economy restarts.

But many small businesses obviously are never going to make it. Restaurants, bars and mom & pop stores especially will have a tough time adjusting, as that MSNBC business reporter pointed out.

He said when he picked up his lunch at his favorite restaurant that day the owner told him that according to the new rules he's allowed to have no more than seven people eating in his place at one time - instead of the usual 35.

The owner said there was no way he'd be able to survive. He was going to have to close.

A friend of mine who owns a hair salon in Long Beach that employed 30 people before the shutdown is also looking at a grim future.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has finally decided that hair salons in the state can reopen. But because my friend's business is located in Los Angeles County, which is still in an authoritarian lockdown that may last through July, his doors must remain closed.

Meanwhile, literally 50 yards away, across the county line in Orange County, one of his competitors has reopened.

"What do you think that will do to my business?" he asked. "Where do you think my clients are going to go?"

Closer to home, my wife Colleen is an example of an entrepreneurial woman whose business has been crushed by the global shutdown's devastating effect on the travel and hospitality industry.

After eight years of working for someone else, she opened up her own one-person travel agency in 1998.

Needless to say, she hasn't guided any tours to Europe or anywhere else since March and recently a river cruise in France that she had booked for 50 people in July had to be cancelled by the cruise line.

Colleen didn't seek a rescue loan from the federal government.

Like millions of other small business owners out of work through no fault of their own, she doesn't want a government check. She wants her travel and hospitality industry to return to health just like the mom & pop stores owners want their businesses to reopen.

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