Where would the West Side be without its mom-n-pop shops?

Small Business (especially Black, women owned, and mom-and-pop shops in all areas), artists, and gig workers have been neglected as money ran out in the federal Coronavirus stimulus plan while big business and banks made off with unaccounted-for trillions of dollars.  With the PPP program—already raided and depleted by big business and categorizing “small businesses” at over $1 million a year, “micro businesses” of under $1 million were totally left out of the setup.  Thousands of sole proprietorships, including those who are loved and relied on by their communities, are on the road to close and die, and with them, people’s livelihoods. 

We cannot stay on lockdown forever.  The 31st of May is forever to many of us.  Subjecting people to continued stress and  poverty leads to poor health just as surely as one virus.   We must implement sensible ways to maintain physical distancing while businesses, including beauty and barber shops and restaurants, begin to reopen.  Consider compensating them for the lack of full capacity as people must spread out. Independent businesses should be prioritized, as chain stores are part of larger entities already benefitting from government bailouts.

The city of Chicago’s Connect2Capital applications are now closed.

How many people will be able to get help, and when? For artists, including our blues musicians, will the city-state 3A Arts relief program be adequately funded when applications reopen on May 4?

 If it’s too complicated to administer small biz help without involving bank red tape, local and state officials must demand that federal officials continue the individual stimulus checks at, say $1000 a month to individuals for the next six months to a year. This can help many super-small businesses survive. 

We ask the Governor, Cook County Commission President, Mayor of Chicago and other Mayors to hold an on-line forum specifically to accept suggestions from actual small businesses on how to conduct a safer reopening.  Public officials would use this info to define needs, then lobby for federal emergency funds to fill them.  (Citizens can help with this if informed where to direct our asks.)

New York lifestyle physician Dr. David Katz argues for re-opening society while sheltering vulnerable people,  and aiming for public immunity in this interview with Bill Maher.

Some ideas—

Could  barber, beauty,  nail shops and other small stores mark 6 foot distances with tape, and have people wait their turn outside the door? Banks and post officers are doing this now, along with plastic barriers for the clerks

Could cheap masks be made available in convenience stores for customers to wear indoors in tight spaces? This could also encourage people to wear masks when riding on CTA.

Could tables in restaurants be laid out 6 feet apart?   Could outside dining be spaced and enlarged?

Could parks and kid-oriented restaurants employ extra people to spray and sanitize play equipment, as well as asking people to bring sanitizer and wash their hands in the restrooms often? 

Could small festivals be held later in summer, with x-marks and circles on the ground showing where to spread out?

Note to public officials: Small businesses know how to innovate. They will help come up with many answers!

Bonni McKeown

"Barrelhouse Bonni" McKeown, the author of "West Side Blues Blog," has played piano and written about blues music for over 15 years. www.barrelhousebonni.com  She has led classes for young and old on...