Alabama is opening, and I couldn’t be happier about it. For months, residents have had to shelter in place, stay at home, and watch local businesses lose money. There are some that will probably never recover. Local businesses make up the fabric of a community. Owners are there when kids ask for money for baseball and softball teams. They’re there when an event needs support, especially when it comes to the food industry. But how will they offer support for the community now that most have been closed for weeks?
Did you know that most businesses are only just surviving even in a good economy? Restaurants are a hard industry. The profit margin is low already, and people are funny about what and where they eat. There are many boutiques to compete with, especially considering online-only boutiques. Businesses that offer services or other household or automotive goods have big box stores to compete with. It’s rare that local small business owners become rich. In fact, they’re just like you and me – paying bills, taking care of their children’s needs, and praying for an economic rebound.
Let’s talk about unemployment. Alabama went from a 2.7 percent unemployment rate in February to nearly half a million Alabamians filing unemployment claims since the COVID-19 pandemic closed businesses. With the extra $600 per week from the CARES Act added to the unemployment benefit of $275, a lot of people are making more money on unemployment than they were while they were working, especially if they were in the food service industry. With the reopening of restaurants and businesses, it’s going to be much harder for owners to find workers who are willing to give up that extra cash in favor of going back to work.
But, we need our community to go back to work. We need to support our local businesses. We need to eat local and shop local now or we won’t have these businesses that support our causes when we need them. I’m happy to see ours and more states open back up. Of course I care about the safety of our community. So wash your hands, keep your distance, and stay healthy.
By Denise DuBois, Executive Editor