Hard-working Americans had no idea what was coming in February of 2020. It seemed unfathomable that many small businesses would face the possibility of permanently closing or their employees would be without jobs in the spring. With the resurgence of Covid-19 cases, the situation for both small businesses and their employees has become even more dire. As more businesses shutter, an unprecedented number of American workers will be forced to grapple with the need to go to a food pantry to feed their families. More people will face the possibility of becoming homeless.
Politicians have done too little for small businesses and their employees. Indeed, the ripple effects of Congress’s inability to compromise and agree on a stimulus package until right before the new year has caused significant and unnecessary collateral damage. There is grave concern that the loss of businesses and jobs will result in mass evictions and foreclosures. Eviction moratoriums will not last forever.
We are strongly urging legislators to support small businesses and organizations that serve the homeless population. We must take care of the small businesses devastated by the pandemic to keep people employed. When layoffs simply cannot be avoided, we must take care of those who are facing the prospect of homelessness as a result. Politicians should make it the highest priority to secure the financial viability of our small businesses so jobs are also available as our economy recovers. In the interim, they must ensure that those who are suddenly homeless because of the pandemic have a safe place to live and critical support while they get back on their feet.
Politicians should invest in robust job retraining programs, so homeless Americans can learn the skills needed to start a new career. Our economy has changed. There should be widespread support for these programs because successful retraining programs will create jobs and foster economic growth. We must fast track Americans ability to find new employment.
Organizations that provide critical services to the homeless are perfectly suited to retrain those who have lost their livelihood. Small businesses that have made it through this crisis can also play an important role in retraining struggling individuals. Together, small businesses in the technology, manufacturing and health care industries can partner with non-profit organizations to retrain and subsequently hire those unemployed because of the pandemic. This is the way to proactively create opportunities to rebuild lives and businesses.
Imagine a hard-working individual living paycheck to paycheck who became unemployed because of the pandemic. With proper training, he or she can pivot into a career in high demand. This can change the lives of individuals and families. We can make that happen!
There have been fierce debates regarding whether mitigation measures have been appropriate and proportionate. There is no doubt advocates will continue pressing their position on this issue through the winter. That is not the focus here. Rather, this is our call for leaders who enact mitigation policies to provide swift relief to those facing the prospect of homelessness and small businesses fighting to keep their doors open.
The weight of the financial burden caused by this relentless pandemic is overwhelming. Many small and local businesses are unable to retain their employees. This is causing severe hardship for those living paycheck to paycheck. Inevitably, evictions will follow and more individuals will face the prospect of homelessness. We must help resilient Americans in crisis because of the pandemic recover. A full and comprehensive strategy that supports non-profits and small businesses that provide critical job training to the homeless is the type of forward-thinking we need from our civic and political leaders now.
Elliot Richardson is the President and Co-Founder of the Small Business Advocacy Council. The SBAC is a nonpartisan, policy-driven organization that advocates for the small business community.
Neli Vazquez Rowland, is President and Co-founder of A Safe Haven Foundation (ASHF). ASHF is a Chicago based social enterprise model holistically addressing homelessness, since 1994.