Entrepreneurs have to make critical decisions under intense pressure, so we’re lucky that our President has such extensive experience as a business owner.
Even in the best of times, a business owner must make difficult decisions. In times of crisis, those decisions often determine the fate of jobs and livelihoods. The stakes are even higher with the crisis President Trump is handling now. Lives — potentially tens of thousands of lives — literally hang in the balance.
That’s not the case merely in terms of our direct efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic. The federal government is focused on saving American lives threatened by the virus itself, and the President is using every tool at his disposal to accomplish that, such as invoking the Defense Production Act to increase output of masks and other essential medical equipment.
But American lives are no less threatened by the possibility of a lasting economic disaster. As too many in the African-American community know all too well, poverty kills just as surely as any disease. Where there is rampant joblessness and despair, public health declines, support networks fail, crime increases, and drug addiction destroys countless lives.
Therefore, while the pundits like to pretend as though the President’s job right now is a simple matter of keeping everyone indoors, there is a much more complicated balance to be struck.
President Trump has been keenly aware of this from the onset of the pandemic, warning repeatedly that the cure cannot become worse than the disease. At the moment, he’s weighing the crucial decision of when and how to best get the American economy moving again, guided by the advice of the best economic thinkers in the country. He knows, however, that the process won’t be instantaneous, and that significant federal action is required in order to prevent Americans from slipping into poverty while they wait for their jobs to return to normal.
Nothing is going to be more important — especially within the black community — than keeping small businesses solvent and their workers employed. There are more than two million black-owned small businesses in America, and those companies form the backbone of the black middle-class. That’s why the President insisted that Congress include $376 billion in forgivable loans and debt relief for small businesses in the CARES Act, and is now advocating strongly for an additional $250 billion to buttress the successful Paycheck Protection Program.
These loans are designed explicitly to help business owners afford to keep paying their workers, which also means assisting with operating expenses such as rent and utilities. They are available to any business owner facing the nearly-impossible choice between laying off staff and going out of business. With the Paycheck Protection Program, they can now get up to $10 million to keep workers on payroll, even if the pandemic has forced them to completely suspend operations.
For those workers who nonetheless find themselves unemployed at this uncertain time, the CARES Act also extends unemployment benefits for four months and provides an extra $600 per week to jobless workers.
In addition, relief checks will be going directly to most American taxpayers, including 80 million this week — $1,200 per adult and $500 per child, which comes out to $3,400 for a typical family of four. This money will prevent the economy from stagnating and ensure there is plenty of pent-up demand to fuel a rapid resurgence of America’s small businesses when the economy does reopen.
The President will need to make many more momentous decisions in the coming weeks, including perhaps the most significant decision of his entire presidency — when and how to reopen the American economy. Fortunately, Donald J. Trump spent a lifetime honing his decision-making skills. Our country is in capable, competent hands.
Herman Cain is CEO of The New Voice, Inc and a former presidential candidate.