Coronavirus has turned the economy upside down, especially for the more than two million Texas small businesses. I don’t mean the “fake news small businesses” like the Los Angeles Lakers and Ritz-Carlton hotels that got millions of government dollars. I mean local restaurants and retailers, plumbers and small manufacturers that have five, 15 or 50 employees – and that work hard every day to satisfy customers, pay their bills, and make payroll.
Embracing digital tools and e-commerce is the best way for many businesses to survive the Covid Crisis, and to emerge from it poised to grow and really succeed. Since the Covid Shutdowns started, millions of small businesses have improved their websites, focused on their Facebook and Instagram feeds, invested in digital advertising, and taken their business online. Digital is helping businesses stay alive and keep at least a few employees on payroll.
Some in the Government are really helping small businesses, but missteps and missed opportunities are frustrating. For example,the Congress has set aside nearly $700 billion dollars for small business loans and grants. But if Congress had also amended the federal definition of “small business,” then billionaire sports teams and publicly-traded companies would not be taking taxpayer money away from family-owned restaurants and retailers.
The Small Business Administration and state unemployment offices are working overtime to support small employers and laid-off employees, but their websites are overwhelmed by millions of applicants. Had governments prepared in advance by signing up with Microsoft or Amazon cloud infrastructure, many of their website problems would not exist.
In Texas, right now, hundreds of thousands of small businesses are using digital platforms and business tools to stay connected, stay in business, and stay safe while working from home. Washington, DC and Austin should be doing everything possible to support those businesses. It is nonsensical, then, that some in Congress and Attorney General Ken Paxton are investigating and threatening the digital companies that provide small businesses with valuable online resources. His misguided investigation threatens to disrupt digital platforms precisely when Texas small businesses need them most. These are not normal times; it should not be business as usual.