I was exasperated online yesterday in a discussion of whether there should be restrictions on businesses in the interest of minimizing the risk of people catching covid-19. I posted to agree that public health necessitated some restrictions on how business is done. Someone blasted me for that, claiming business owners are punished more by having to accept business restrictions that affect their profits than by operating as usual and risking their lives and the lives of their families, employees, and customers.
How do you answer a statement like that? This person believed that risking profits was more punishing than risking lives. In the end, I decided not to respond at all. After thinking about it, I realized it’s not people like this that frustrate me as much as it is the lack of action from the federal government on creating ways to prevent people from having to choose between their livelihoods and their lives.
The government stimulus package passed last summer was supposed to help small businesses. It helped some, but most companies that received the funds were large companies. And various members of the President’s family and inner circle also received money. Meanwhile, actual small businesses were left in the cold. Even the payments that were supposed to help ordinary people were botched. It took months for some people to get them. Some got a lot less than promised. And other groups were left ineligible, inexplicably, because of the way the law was written. I’d assumed that my son, age 18, would be eligible for either the $500 each that went to children or the $1,200 that went to low- and middle-income adults. He got nothing. As it turns out, the package excluded people between the ages of 17 and 22, with no explanation.
Even worse, the second stimulus package that should have been approved months ago never was. This should have gone to both individuals and to small businesses. And by small businesses I do not mean the multimillion-dollar corporations that received money last time; I mean businesses that a normal person would consider small.
The federal government also could have stepped in to extend the unemployment benefits that were keeping people afloat in the early months of the pandemic, to place a moratorium on evictions, to provide adequate tests and personal protective equipment, and to mandate common-sense, science-based measures like a national mask mandate.
Instead, we have people all over the country having to decide if it’s worth risking their lives to keep their paychecks coming in and their businesses viable.
I’m not angry with the people who called me out for agreeing that there should be local restrictions on businesses; I feel sorry for them. I hate the fact that they’re being forced to make that choice. Even more, I hate the fact that it didn’t have to be this way.