Main Street Recommendations for Pandemic Resilience

Main Street Businesses Need Government Leaders to Do Their Job So We Can Do Ours.

Main Street business owners know public health and economic prosperity go hand-in-hand. We cannot fight the economic crisis without fighting the health crisis.

The pandemic has devastated millions of small businesses, with owners running through personal savings and juggling payments and debt. Systemic racism has led to an especially steep toll in communities of color while worsening the crisis for everyone in the country.

The job of Main Street now is to adapt, but small businesses can’t go it alone. They need government to do the job of fighting the pandemic while sheltering Main Street and protecting businesses in our hardest-hit communities. 

Though many governors and local officials have acted to slow transmission, our elected leaders -- starting at the federal level -- have not established an infrastructure for pandemic resilience. Our abysmal testing levels are just one example.

To phase in operations, we need a fully-funded and coordinated strategy guided by evidence-based thresholds at all levels of government. Businesses should not be asked to put ourselves, our workers and customers at risk until these common sense measures are met. 

No Main Street business should be forced to reopen because government leaders have quit the fight. We need the following in place:

Direct support for small businesses for the duration of the pandemic and that allows reopening at the pace and level businesses need to safeguard the health of owners, staff, and customers.

  • Grants to small businesses to handle their full range of expenses, over a timeframe that allows reopening at the pace and level businesses need to safeguard the health of owners, staff, and customers, with specific support for minority-owned businesses
  • Technical and financial assistance to help businesses pivot and adjust operations
  • Technical and financial assistance to repurpose spaces for social distancing and other mitigation steps (including helping businesses move online if necessary)
  • Retool and remove barriers to SBA and other small business financing programs that produce racial disparities; invest in institutions and programs that deliver financing in communities of color; and track demographic data to monitor outcomes
  • Protection against predatory lending and financing, price-gouging, and other pandemic profiteering off small businesses

Adequate testing, tracing, supported isolation, and clear, industry-specific workplace safety standards and support.

  • Mobilize resources to produce level of testing recommended by public health experts
  • Produce and distribute PPE to small businesses according to industry needs
  • Cover COVID-19 in workers’ compensation (without impact on experience rating) and set, enforce, and provide assistance with industry-specific workplace safety standards
  • Clear, consistent communications from public health officials to small businesses
  • Hire public health workers for tracing, pandemic monitoring, and supported isolation
  • Federal funding to states and municipalities to adequately fund public health measures

Health care and economic protection for all workers and families -- without immigration-based discrimination -- to support both a healthy workforce and local spending.

  • Allow workers to continue to draw unemployment insurance benefits until testing, tracing, isolation, school, and child care are in place
  • Provide wage or income subsidies to help small businesses address staffing issues and transition employees back to work
  • Cover health care and vaccination for all (e.g., expand Medicaid and Medicare)
  • Prohibition on pandemic profiteering by pharmaceutical corporations
  • State and federal investment to meet health care, housing, food, and other basic needs

Establish sufficient care infrastructure (child care, schools, paid leave) so parents and caregivers can return to work knowing their families are safe and protected.

  • Adopt universal, federal paid sick and family/medical leave programs covering full pay for every worker who needs to self-quarantine, care for themselves or a sick loved one, or care for children when schools or child care are shut down 
  • Dedicated outreach and funding for survival of child care and family day care centers
  • Make child care infrastructure a core part of our federal and state recovery plans with investments to ensure
  • Child care workers receive a fair wage and families pay no more than 7% of income toward child care
  • Provide support for child care centers to meet OSHA and other safety standards

Mechanisms to tackle systemic racial and economic inequities that are devastating businesses in communities of color and pushing people of color onto the frontlines of the disease.

  • Promote equity in COVID-19 business recovery by removing barriers that produce racial disparities, investing in programs and institutions serving communities of color, and regularly collecting data
  • Evaluate all proposed pandemic-related programs for potential to produce racially disparate outcomes and adjust to promote equity
  • Remove immigration-related restrictions on recovery programs, health care, unemployment insurance, and other programs needed to protect health and safety