COVID-19 has maintained its stronghold on Detroit’s economy, preventing small businesses from returning to any type of normalcy. Today, most small business owners are still dependent on external aid to keep their doors open. The Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC) has administered more than $15 million in grants to Detroit small businesses since the COVID-19 crisis began. Other small business resources include personal protective equipment (PPE), the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) and the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG).
Many small business owners credit the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which offers forgivable loans for payroll and other expenses, for allowing them to remain open. Unfortunately, analysts say more than 80 percent of Michigan’s small business owners will exhaust their PPP loans by July 1, 2021.
The American Rescue Plan is also offering small business assistance by giving tax credits to employers who provide paid time off to employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and for any time needed to recover from it.
According to a recent Goldman Sachs survey, Michigan’s small business owners overwhelmingly feel their companies will survive, albeit on shaky ground. However, I’m not sure I agree with that data. As a small business owner, I know how hard it is to make ends meet, and I know too many good people who have seen their dreams end with business closure.
While government subsidies help on a short-term basis, community immunity is at the core of significant improvement to the small business landscape. A vaccinated population is our only chance of long-term economic survival.
In Detroit, 31.1 percent of residents ages 16 and older have received at least one vaccine dose, compared to a 50.5 vaccination percentage statewide. And while our City trails behind in vaccinations, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Detroit reached an all-time high in April 2021. COVID-related deaths are down, but COVID-19 inpatient and ICU bed capacity are at a peak.
Vaccine supply is no longer the problem – every Detroiter can receive a shot within a short distance from where they live with no reservation required. The problem – and opportunity – is persuading people to get vaccinated. We will never return to business if a sizable part of our population fails to do so.
Not only do vaccines save lives, they can help save Detroit’s small businesses. As an employer, I’m doing everything I can to encourage Detroiters to get vaccinated, and I challenge other business owners to do the same. Consider offering a bonus to employees who get the shot(s), or perhaps a special discount to customers who show their vaccine card. For example, national chain Krispy Kreme is offering a free donut for the rest of the year to customers who provide proof of vaccination. While most of us can’t afford to be that generous, a vaccine-related BOGO or dollar-off promotion might actually draw in new business. Your business might even be eligible for onsite employee vaccinations – just reach out to the City of Detroit.
As part of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “MI Vacc to Normal” plan, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) will base future pandemic order actions on four vaccination-based milestones. Until 70 percent of Michiganders ages 16 years or older are vaccinated, the Gatherings and Face Masks Order will not be fully lifted.
In all cases, Black Detroiters are impacted most by COVID-19. Black Detroiters comprise 75.7 percent of all COVID-related deaths in our City. When it comes to small business closings, more than 40 percent of Black-owned businesses were shuttered in the first three months of the pandemic, compared to 17 percent of small businesses overall. Black Detroiters must overcome the political, racial and economic barriers preventing us from getting vaccinated. We no longer have the time or luxury of being hesitant and mistrusting. We know with certainty that Detroiters will either get vaccinated or they will get COVID-19.
I urge all Detroit residents to be part of the solution and get vaccinated today. Please help us all get back to business.
April Anderson is owner of Good Cakes and Bakes, located at 19363 Livernois Ave. She is also a member of the DEGC Board of Directors.