Just as artist Aaron Bowersock was laid off from his UX designer job and preparing to work as a stay-at-home art dad, the coronavirus outbreak took over Seattle.
The city’s Comic Con was canceled, which garners a huge portion of Bowersock’s business, PopMuertos’, income. Bowersock isn’t alone in this surge of financial losses. As COVID-19 spreads across the United States, shutting down whole cities in its path, individuals and independent businesses are struggling to survive.
With the economy coming to a grinding halt, governments across the globe are rushing to pass vital legislation to prevent businesses from shuttering their doors permanently. After a whirlwind of back and forth on the hill—including bill failure, long fights about how many millions in bailout money to give to airlines, and whether those people too poor to pay income tax would be included in the stimulus package at all—congress was finally able to agree on some relief.
How the Government is Responding So Far
- Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which deals with emergency paid family and sick leave for workers affected by the coronavirus outbreak — whether that’s because they or family members are sick or because their children’s schools have closed.
- Emergency leave and unemployment insurance will also extend to self-employed individuals.
- This is the largest government-funded economic stabilization package in modern American history.
- It designates 25 percent of its budget, totaling $500 billion dollars, to subsidized loans for big corporations, like airlines and hotels.
- $50 billion goes to a tax credit for employers who retain their employees during this time.
- $130 billion goes to hospitals, and $150 billion dollars in loans will go to state and local governments
- Over $350 billion dollars in emergency loans go to help small businesses to pay their workers.
- Unemployment is given an additional 13 weeks and benefits will increase by $600. Freelancers and gig workers can now also receive payments.
- Small businesses will be required to provide two weeks sick leave at full salary up to $511 a day and up to 12 weeks paid family sick leave at ⅔ salary and the government will repay them. This applies to both full and part-time employees.
- Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees can exempt themselves from offering paid leave if they feel it would impact their viability as a business.
- The tax deadline has been moved from April 15 to July 15, without any penalties for filing later.
What’s Missing From the Federal Relief Plans
As relief bills are pushed through, advocates believe that the legislation doesn’t extend far enough.
“What small businesses need right now isn’t necessarily loans that contribute to whatever controlled debt that they are experiencing. They need cash and grants to be able to pay their workers, pay their commercial rent, to basically keep their doors open because right now they’re really struggling,” says Awesta Sarkash, Small Business Majority’s government affairs manager. “We had one small business owner who had to lay off 100 employees, and if he had access to this immediate stimulus release that wouldn’t be the case.”
And it’s not only small businesses that need more from the government right now. According to Saru Jayaraman, president of the advocacy organization One Fair Wage—which is currently providing cash assistance to restaurant workers, car service drivers, delivery workers, personal service workers and more who need the money they aren’t getting to survive—actions related to unemployment insurance and paid sick leave are not sufficient either.