The Obama Administration's recent announcement that it will not move forward with long-awaited evidence-based updates to smog standards is disappointing news for Main Street small businesses.
Clean air is a Main Street value. It always has been. And for good reason: cleaner air improves health and productivity, and reduces absenteeism and business health costs.
By the same token, the decision not to move forward with the new smog standards shifts the costs of lost work days and increased health care costs from smog-related illnesses (like asthma) onto small businesses. The proposed ozone standards would yield health benefits worth tens of billions of dollars annually by 2020, preventing or avoiding up to 12,000 premature deaths, 58,000 asthma attacks, 21,000 hospital and emergency room visits, and 420,000 lost work days.
Some groups that claim to represent the unified voice of the business community pit clean air against job creation. In their telling, we can have clean air or we can have jobs, but not both. In other words, jobs and a healthy economy can come only at the expense of healthy communities. Main Street small business owners recognize this as a false choice.
Healthy communities are integral to the success of America’s small businesses. While big corporations can dump pollution in a community and then close up shop and move somewhere else without their CEOs or shareholders ever having to breathe the local air, small businesses can't. Small business owners, their employees, and their customers all breathe the same air.
That's why clean air is a Main Street value. And that's why we'll keep fighting for standards that protect clean air, protect the public health, and protect local communities and local economies.
The Main Street Alliance voted recently to officially endorse a new issue: paid sick days. Why do small business owners care about this issue? For a wide range of reasons - like workplace productivity, public health, and a commitment to treating workers like family. In short, it seems like the right thing to do... and it makes good business sense, too.
The productivity case alone is a strong one. According to the Center for Worklife Law, "presenteeism" (employees going to work even though they're sick) costs U.S. employers and the U.S. economy an estimated $180 billion a year in lost productivity. When workers don't have access to earned sick time, they're more likely to go to work sick, risk infecting co-workers (and potentially customers), get less done, and take longer to get back to 100 percent.
We'll be posting periodic updates about paid sick days in the weeks and months to come. In the meantime, if you're looking to learn more, check out this nifty infographic from medicalinsurance.org.
Ground-level ozone - commonly known as "smog" - harms public health and worker productivity. Ozone reduces lung function, inflames airways and aggravates respiratory problems like asthma and lung disease. According to the EPA, strengthening ozone standards will annually prevent or avoid up to 58,000 asthma attacks, 21,000 hospital and ER visits, and 420,000 lost work days.
But efforts to strengthen these standards are under attack by major polluters using an old trick - hiding behind small business. The Main Street Alliance is inviting small business owners to sign a letter to the White House to demonstrate that you support clean air and strong ozone standards to protect community health and productivity.Please join us in signing on!