You’ve likely heard of the struggle of major retailers – like Neiman Marcus, J.Crew, and JCPenney – due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But from big to small, all the storefronts dotting your city and town, providing the essential products and services you need, are part of a much bigger economic ecosystem. When you pick up flowers and a card for Mother’s Day, or stock up for summer during Memorial Day sales, that helps pay employees, rent on the store, electricity bills, and more.
When all retail activity suddenly froze as stores closed and people were forced to stay home, it wasn’t just inconvenient to shoppers; the broader consequences to the American economy were staggering. Retail supports one in four American jobs, and millions of these disappeared overnight or were put at risk. Retail sales plunged 16.4% in April. 10% of retail demand may be lost forever. 100,000 stores are expected to close over the next five years – 100,000 places people earn a living.
Even when we start opening back up, retailers must adjust to an entirely new operating environment with new associated costs: face masks, gloves, sanitizing protocols, distancing measures, and fewer customers entering their stores.
American businesses need more support from Congress, and they need it now. Current programs were a good first step, but more needs to be done. Creating America’s Recovery Fund will provide funding to help businesses like retailers cover essential operating costs, rehire employees, adapt to new operations, and deliver what their customers need – safely.
Lexi DiYeso, owner of Hazel Twenty, a small boutique in downtown Asheville, North Carolina, described being denied Paycheck Protection program loans and the need for more support: “If you want the little guy to make it, like me and my friend right around the corner, and everyone really — we need this funding. There is absolutely no way that we are all going to be able to make it at the end of this, whatever that looks like, without support from our government.”
If Congress doesn’t create America’s Recovery Fund, the consequences won’t just be more boarded up storefronts – it will be a ripple effect to jobs, families, and towns across the country.