SCHNEIDER: Coronavirus Extracts Outsized Sacrifices From Small Business

LETTER from FRED SCHNEIDER

Coronavirus Extracts

Outsized Sacrifices

From Small Business

To the Editor:

So… here is the state of affairs for everyone who chose to create jobs by rolling their dice with their own capital, their own sweat, and their own ingenuity on building a business, only to have it pulled out from underneath them through no fault of their own:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce (not a government entity but a very important pro-business non-profit) recently announced a $5,000 small business grant available to all applicants… until funds run out, first come first served, starting at 3:00 Monday, April 20.

According to their site, they imagined issuing grants for the next few weeks. I imagined getting one. But I took no chances, and logged in at 2:57 to wait for the “Apply” button to appear.

And I waited… and refreshed… and waited… and refreshed until the dreaded “we are experiencing historic volume” message appeared. No surprise, and not their fault. So desperate are small business owners like me (all across America) to save their life’s work, keep promises to their employees, and NOT lose retirement, that the well-intentioned U.S. Chamber’s website fizzled, quivered, then blew up by 2:58, one hundred and twenty seconds before the grant rush was set to begin – a rush, by the way, for $5,000! Five. A week’s operating cost? A month’s?

This is how communities might want to fully digest the impact of this lock-down. Calling for a take-out order from a beloved restaurant is important (please don’t stop) but if you think that’s how we overcome this, please think again. There is no queue of cars outside the local boutique, or spa, or quick-change oil, or gift store, or yes, B&B.

Make no mistake, I am thankful for the U.S. Chamber and its grant… and really happy for those who received it.

But as I search for help, I find a Dickensian phrase dangling like poison upon my lips – “May I have some more sir!” I feel this way with my bank. I feel this way with my government. Tonight, I feel like I want to swallow the poison and let it be done, because there is no greater bane to an entrepreneur than to ask the government for help. My tongue curls even as I write this.

Yet here I am, it’s true, begging, because the government has literally taken my business under eminent domain for the greater good, and then, rather than pay a market price as required by law, ransomed it back in the form of loans I will now have to work beyond the grave to pay back.

Not satisfied with this seizure, the government has inadvertently stacked the deck against small business, requiring that we re-employ staff now making more through unemployment than while working, and making much more than tourists are willing to underwrite. Hundreds of dollars a week more. We are happy for all the laid off employees. We just can’t compete.

We certainly know we are not alone! Nearly every person in America (the world?) has paid a price for this virus, whether in endless days of seclusion, or endless nights at the hospital, or, yes endless jobs lost. Yet despite this shared sacrifice with its nod to the greater good, small business – and its legacy in the American Dream – is paying an outsized price. It is being condemned to the gallows without honor. Forced to drink poison.

To equate small business’s fate as just another virus catastrophe is convenient, expedient, but so unfair. If you’re lucky enough – ok smart enough – to have personally shrugged off the entrepreneurial American Dream in exchange for income guaranteed by a large corporation, or municipality, or union, or even (God bless you) a pension, then seriously… seriously!… good for you!

I honor you!

But please be aware that a vast amount of small business owners across this country and Cooperstown, who bet on the American dream, are groveling right now – at 6:15 PM – for a measly $5,000 as if it were their life line, which indeed it might be.

God bless us, everyone. Stay healthy.

FRED SCHNEIDER
Entrepreneur
Cooperstown


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