Policymakers are known to extol the virtues of small businesses, often referring to them as the “backbone of the economy.” These sentiments will surely be echoed by Republicans and Democrats alike during National Small Business Week (September 20-26).
After all, praising new and small businesses is good politics. Polls show near universal support for small businesses among Americans, regardless of age, background, or party affiliation.
But the unifying nature of entrepreneurship must extend beyond platitudes and inspire bipartisan action from policymakers at all levels of government. After the first round of relief funding, Congress has failed to meet the ongoing needs of entrepreneurs navigating the COVID-19 pandemic — even as the situation grows more dire.
“Over the past month of congressional inaction, small business owners are using every tool at their disposal to stay afloat with the hopes that additional relief might arrive soon,” said Small Business Majority CEO John Arensmeyer in a recent Forbes article. “Some business owners have depleted their personal and retirement savings, are behind on bills and rent, or are operating with a skeleton staff. Worse, for other business owners, the lack of additional relief was the final nail in the coffin.”
The article, titled Now Is Not The Time To Play Politics With PPP, concludes: “typical Washington partisanship [is] hurting hard working Americans.”
There is no shortage of guidance from policy experts and entrepreneurship advocates to help policymakers respond appropriately to the pandemic, beginning with Start Us Up’s Rebuilding Better plan. From inclusive funding mechanisms to offsetting health and childcare costs, there are actionable steps policymakers can take now to give new and small businesses the support they need to survive and grow.
The question is whether the will to act exists.
National Small Business Week comes this year at a time of extraordinary suffering, as more than 100,000 new and small businesses have closed in the past six months.
Without action, words from policymakers on National Small Business Week will ring hollow.