Small businesses nationwide are suffering from monumental losses as they face two crises at once: Covid-19 and the riots in the wake of George Floyd.
The effects of the global pandemic were devastating to business owners in the first place, causing record unemployment rates, disrupting day to day operations indefinitely and even ordering strict lockdown procedures on entire cities.
The protests for justice after the murder of George Floyd unfortunately and, occasionally, led to riots that resulted in looting, property damage or complete destruction of businesses. While anger is understandable after the case of George Floyd, it may be shocking to hear that “Federal and local authorities said they believe white supremacists and far-left radical organizations are behind much of the mayhem.”
In Minneapolis, peaceful protests faced an onslaught of police brutality due to the fear of further riots and orders to control the city. However, abusing protesters fighting against racially targeted police brutality with more police brutality only increased the violence on both sides. The Minneapolis government and police force fought fire with more fire, which left business and civilians to burn in the flames.
Over 530 businesses in the Twin Cities area alone suffered property damage and/or looting. Hundreds of these were corporations that have ample resources and funds to repair damages and replace merchandise. For them, the riots are merely an inconvenience. Small business owners do not have that luxury.
Small businesses directly impacted by riots should receive financial relief, and frankly are relying on it. The source of this funding is difficult to decide upon, especially after the US government showed us how little they value small businesses over corporations during the allocation of Covid-19 financial relief.
Many agree that those who are responsible for the damage should pay for the repairs. This is a murky subject as well, with unprovoked police and white supremacists instigating violence, along with masses of rioters and looters.
Instead of playing the blame game, it is justifiable to take advantage of the social justice movement that demands the government defund the police. The police had a role in contributing to and provoking vandalism, the financial relief for small businesses should come from their budget, or at least in part. Transfer the money currently going to gas masks, batons, tear gas canisters, rubber bullets and other riot gear to small businesses in desperate need for repairs.
Secondly, use the dozens of police brutality videos surfacing during protests to hold officers accountable for their illegal actions. Their salaries could serve as stipends for small business owners and employees during the period of construction.
This reformation of police funding would funnel directly into the communities impacted by the riots and police brutality. This would be a major step in securing equality and justice for people of color in the US, as well as stabilize local economies.
Another option for financial relief includes loans with below market interest rates. This would ease the process of obtaining money to repair damages.
A solution that has already been implemented to support small businesses is a network of community support to raise funds and morale. Gofundme’s, volunteer clean up crews and the encouragement of peaceful protests have the ability to raise communities out of the ash from riots and police brutality.
The world is watching as the US government and police attack their own citizens; the next step will determine whether or not the nationwide violence stops and the financial aid for small businesses begins.