Mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses

By Tammye Nash | Managing Editor

As the rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2 — the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 — is forcing local governments across North Texas to issue disaster declarations requiring residents to “shelter in place” and “non-essential businesses” to shut their doors, small businesses are feeling the weight of a burden too heavy for many of them to endure for long.

And there are a lot of small businesses and small business owners in the LGBTQ community. But, according to North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tony Vedda, there are ways to help those businesses stay afloat.

“For those LGBTQ businesses that are still open — restaurants that are offering take-out and delivery, for example — keep frequenting them.

Every delivery, every take-out order is helpful. Purchasing gift cards for future use is helpful as well,” Vedda said. “Travel and hospitality are taking the biggest hit right now, so everything you can do helps.”

Another priority, Vedda added, is to stay abreast of what is happening in Congress as lawmakers try to hammer out emergency legislation to help stem the spread of the virus and keep the economy going.

“We are working hard to keep our members informed,” Vedda said, noting that the Chamber’s website has information on bills under consideration as well as links to resources and more information. “The bill under consideration now [as of Tuesday afternoon, March 24] does have some resources built in for small businesses.”

Vedda also encouraged small business owners in the community to consider applying for a loan from the Small Business Administration. Those loans, he said, were created to provide assistance to small businesses impacted by natural disasters. “This [epidemic] is different from a hurricane, of course, but the situation is similar.”

There are, of course, various bills under consideration in Congress that would provide at least some relief for businesses impacted by the epidemic. There are, Vedda said, advantages and disadvantages with each one.

One proposal that has been considered, for example, includes provisions for employees who have to be off because they are sick or because they have to care for a sick family member to get extended paid sick leave and extended family leave. The businesses paying the costs of extended leave would get a tax credit in return.

“The employees on leave will get the money they need, but the businesses have to rely on tax credits, and those tax credits are only paid once a quarter,” Vedda said. “We are certainly not against paid sick leave and family leave, but if you are going to mandate that small businesses have to provide that, then there should be more funding options for the businesses themselves. Hopefully the current bill will bridge that gap.”

The key, Vedda said, is that community members “do what you can, when you can. Purchase what you can and, when necessary take action. We will be posting [calls to action] and information on our Chamber website as they come up, and we are already putting methods in place to help our members reach out to Congress and make their voices heard.

“It is important that we remember this is a tough time for all of us,” Vedda continued. “This whole working from home thing isn’t easy for anybody and having to shut down our businesses is having a significant impact on our community. I really feel for the bars, which have had to shut down completely.”

But, he said, calls from some state and federal leaders, including Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and President Donald Trump, to focus on the economy rather than public health and start lifting restrictions is tremendously short-sighted.

“This whole idea that older people should sacrifice themselves for the sake of the economy is ridiculous,” Vedda said, referring to comments Patrick made on Monday night, March 23. “The most important thing we can all do right now is to stay home if you need to stay home. Shelter in place, practice social distancing. We have to do these things or this will just go on and on and be worse in the long run. In spite of what the president says, it is not going to just miraculously disappear.”

Supporting small businesses and finding ways to help them keep people employed will “make the recovery that much better when it does come,” Vedda said. “If we can keep people employed, then we will have people already in place and already trained when things get better. But if people are laid off or let go completely, it is going to be a mad scramble to find and train good employees when this is over. Keeping more people employed will be better for all of us in the long run.”

Vedda also encouraged those who are financially able to do so to make donations to charitable organizations to help them keep running, suggesting that places like the North Texas Food Bank and Resource Center’s food pantry.

“We are also going to have a lot of recovery issues when it comes to the arts,” he added.

“If you have purchased tickets to an event or maybe have season tickets to something, consider not asking for them to refund your ticket price for events that have had to be cancelled. They need that money to keep working.

“The more selfless we can all be, the more we can all think about our neighbors and our community as a whole, the better we are all going to be, and the sooner we will all get through this.”