We Are on the Brink
Something is very wrong. The COVID 19 Pandemic has created a much different life for us all. But most impacted are those who are socially and economically marginalized. These are the individuals who will not be fortunate have family members or employment to return to. They are the families who face eviction. They are those most at COVID19 risk due to age, geography or ethnicity. They are the small business owners who do not have the luxury of a banking or financial relationship to navigate a PPP loan request. Socially and economically marginalized are our neighbors who cannot pay rent or buy food for their family (Peñaloza, 2020; Brooks, 2020). They are also the small property owners who are faced with mortgages, property tax, insurance costs with no source of income. The frightening fact is that the schism between haves and have nots is widening in a frightening and grossly unfair manner.
What may very well protect our nation from an economic depression to rival the Great Depression of 1930s is the quick response by Congress to build and approve the CARES Act. However, economic assistance is not being disbursed equitably. We get it. How do you fairly distribute and monitor $670 billion dollars in business assistance over 12 weeks? It is a monumental task and we believe the SBA has been an important component of controlling and (we hope) monitoring business loans. But let’s look at an example of who got what. The CARES Act classified eligible businesses using the standardized North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code, a system with a set of standard numeric references for different types of businesses. Consider the following CARES support guidelines for hotel accommodation:
During the covered period, any business concern that employs not more than 500 employees per physical location of the business concern and that is assigned a North American Industry Classification System code beginning with 72 at the time of disbursal shall be eligible to receive a covered loan . (H.R.748 – 116th Congress (2019-2020)).
The Classification System code is important in that it covers accommodation – which is imperative for our local small hotel and motel franchisees who had to shutter their doors for two months. These are the people who employ maintenance, housecleaning, and customer service workers. These are the people who live in our communities. But coverage also includes conglomerates including – yes – Trump hotels.
Our concern is that there are multiple examples of small struggling businesses who were not and are not able to access support dollars and will close their doors permanently. Forbes (Sherman, 2020) recently ran an important story that told the story of a small bakery that needed [just] $23,000 to produce bakery items to fulfill a “make or break” order placed by a regional store. The business, Sweet Potato Cake in D.C., needed to finish an 11,000 cake order for a cost of production that was a mere fraction of support given to the top five hoteliers. Unfortunately, no assistance was granted. This tale has, and is, being repeated by many of U.S. small businesses who are the backbone of our economy. These are the small businesses who struggle every day to produce and employ members of our communities, but are unable to access the same support as major players.
It is not just PPP loans that discriminate. Companies with established investment and banking relationships can easily borrow money at historically low interest rates. Our hope is that these dollars will be used to support and expand current business, and that these efforts will filter down to relieve a historically high unemployment base.
Our Country is Hurting
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed by police officer(s). The mistreatment and brutal murder was brought to our homes by graphic footage of a black man lying on a roadway with a policeman’s knee pressed against his neck. We are told the incident that led to Mr. Floyd’s death took 8 minutes and 46 seconds (Hill, et al., 2020). The heartbreak and emotion that has erupted has stunned and paralyzed a nation that is economically and physically compromised. We are in a world of hurt. Protests are an important exercise to get our attention and make us think. We live in a country that allows us to assemble and comment, but we need to dig deeper to discover the root causes of racial and economic injustice. Understanding on a national and global scale is imperative. Our police remain our heroes and we are humbled by acts of kindness and solidarity in police support of protesters. The recent simple acts of police assuming the knee has sent a radiating current of solidarity connecting race, gender, religion, and economic status. Let us not lose this critical opportunity to heal and come out on the other side more compassionate and understanding of our fellow brothers and sisters.
How Do We Make It Right?
Listen. We can come out on the other side if we each – individually – commit to understanding and dialogue. If we understand, we are better prepared to help those in need and to guard against the ravages of “have and have nots”. Know that opinions which differ from your own are shaped by very real experiences and beliefs. Each person deserves the right to speak, and you deserve the right to hear.
Meditate. Things are not going back to normal. If normal is a divided nation with racial and economic inequality – we should not want to return to the old normal. We should instead, embrace the opportunity to be better. But how can one person change a hurting globe? Each of us, no matter our religious beliefs, or non-beliefs, has the power to meditate on healing for ourselves, our neighbors, our nation and our globe. Our collective power of thought can, and will, change our world.
Stand Up. Do not let an opportunity to stand up for what you believe is right slip by. Doing the right thing includes standing up for those who are mistreated, hurting or marginalized. One basic truth we all learn at the end of our lives is that doing the right thing – standing up for our neighbor – may be the greatest gift we are given during our short time on earth. Don’t refuse this gift.
Vote. This is not the time to relinquish our power of the vote. Regardless of your political beliefs, you owe it to yourself and our nation to critically examine facts, draw your own conclusions and vote. When we lose interest, we lose our rights. Our forefathers and foremothers fought and sacrificed for our nation. We have the opportunity to protect this legacy.
Stay Strong. Whatever this means in your world, be kind to yourself.
Brooks, K. J. (2020, April 8). A third of U.S. renters didn’t pay the rent on time this month. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/april-rent-one-third-did-not-pay-multifamily-housing-council/
H.R.748 – 116th Congress (2019-2020): CARES Act. Retrieved from https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/748/text?format=txt
Dougherty, C. (2020, April 8). 31% Can’t Pay the Rent: ‘It’s Only Going to Get Worse’. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/08/business/economy/coronavirus-rent.html
Hill, E., Tiefenthäler, A., Triebert, C., Jordan, D., Willis, H., & Stein, R. (2020, June 1). 8 Minutes and 46 Seconds: How George Floyd Was Killed in Police Custody. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/31/us/george-floyd-investigation.html
Peñaloza, M., ( 2020, May 1). Rent Is Due Today, But Millions Of Americans Won’t Be Paying. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2020/05/01/848247228/rent-is-due-today-but-millions-of-americans-wont-be-paying
Sherman, E. (2020, April 25). Many Public Companies That Got PPP Loans Had Lots In The Bank. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/eriksherman/2020/04/24/public-companies-ppp-loans-money/#de27c1240d23