Senate Republicans are trying their best to block a coronavirus relief bill on account of—get this—an assumption that minimum wage workers will enjoy unemployment too much if they’re assisted. MSNBC anchor Katy Tur has taken to Twitter to try to educate the ignorant. “As congress tries to come to an agreement, I’ve asked some of the small business owners I know to send me messages telling lawmakers about what they really need,” she tweeted Tuesday.
Matt Kliegman, a co-owner of both Black Seed Bagels and The Smile in New York City, responded first with salient advice for lawmakers, telling them to “stop deluding themselves.” The Smile employed 120 workers before New York became an epicenter for the coronavirus, Kliegman told Tur. That company now has no workers. And while Black Seed had 135 workers pre-coronavirus, it now employs only 12. “Our industry has suffered an enormous amount of layoffs just in the last couple weeks,” he said. “I read a statistic that last week alone, our industry has laid off nearly one million people. Those employees need help.”
Kevin Clark and Lisa Spooner, owners of the Home Grown restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia, also had to lay off their entire staff of 40 people. “We just need financial help,” Clark said in a Twitter video with Spooner. “The only way that we can survive and our employees can survive is money.” Spooner specified that they need grant funding or money that doesn’t come with an interest rate. She said their employees worked full time. They paid their bills from the income they earned at the restaurant. “We do the same thing,” she said. Clark added: “And now we don’t know what to do. So we just need help. We need those in charge to hopefully have our backs, and for me, I’m going to know who I need to be going with forward to see who has our backs.”
Steve Terranova, from KMA construction in New York, said he normally has 16 workers, and now he has seven. He said he wants to be able to continue to pay all his workers, who rely on him to pay their rent and mortgages. “Things are really looking bleak right now,” he said, “we could use a lot of help right away.” Jes Harrison, the owner of Dollface Brows in Kentucky, said she considers herself lucky because her landlord is forgiving her April rent, but not everyone is. “I’ve tried to stay on top of what’s available for myself and my employees in the wake of this pandemic, but it’s difficult,” she said. “I am as worried about my employees’ ability to make ends meet as I am about keeping my own business afloat.”
Chloe Kernaghan, co-owner of Sky Ting Yoga, said she would like rent abatement and access to loans and grants that’s easier to understand. Her company employed three full-time workers who now work part time, 20 now-furloughed part-time workers, and more than 60 freelancers. “Across all industries, freelancers need just as much support as regular employees,” she said.
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