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Ever since the lockdown of this past March, everyone’s been noticing the decline in the economy. All of the lost jobs, the closed businesses, losing the ability to do things like going to the pool or getting an ice cream on a hot summer day, something most everyone expected to be doing this summer — but instead, we’re locked indoors, worrying for our loved ones and their safety, not to mention our own.

Death rates have only gone up, so some may fear supporting a business. Maybe it’s the opposite for others; they don’t fear the virus enough and just end up spreading the virus to various businesses, possibly causing them to close down because they were trying to support them. It’s a never-ending question of what to do and when to do it. Being a consumer in these times is a hard enough job in itself, but what about the people behind the desk?

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, otherwise known as PNAS, conducted a survey over a network of small businesses across the U.S between March 28 and April 4. Most responses included businesses making statements of financial fragility and many are unsure of when the spread of COVID-19 will end.

Some are having trouble getting aid from the many supports such as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act because of “bureaucratic hassles and eligibility.” In other words, the circumstances are not good, despite efforts to help small businesses with government aid.

Sometime after the start of COVID-19 lockdowns, 43% of businesses had closed; industries, retail stores, personal services, food services and so on had employment losses of up to 50%.

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What does this mean? Basically, half of the businesses closed, and the other half that stayed open lost around half of their employees. That is serious damage to any state of an economy. Not to mention it’s lasted for about six months now. At the time of the survey, 41.3% businesses said they were closed temporarily, 1.8% said permanently closed, and the last 55.5% were operational. Those numbers have changed since then, considering the fact that some business owners don’t have enough cash on hand to last them through the predicted time of it ending. Which, the results show that the participants think the COVID crisis will end around somewhere between October and January 2021.

What can we, as consumers, do to help the businesses in our city, Charleston? Well, it seems pretty hopeless for the non-essentials. It’s seems like a never-ending gap. Trying to support these places can be difficult for those who don’t have stable jobs right now because of the coronavirus, and that’s a lot of people around the country. If roughly 35.1 million jobs are lost, how can we support the other workers?

While it’s recommended to help them out if income allows it, it’s also important to save money in times like these. The most obvious and biggest solution is to stop the virus altogether, and then we can have a chance to fix the economy. Bringing awareness to those who are in a good enough position to help the businesses and people who need help. Recovery from this crisis will only be worse if we don’t at least try to lend a hand.

By buying school supplies from a local store instead of from big companies, such as Amazon, you can help. Even if it’s only a little, that money can end up changing a lot of things for one business. If you’d prefer to get carryout from a restaurant that isn’t open for indoor seating one night, you’d be helping. It doesn’t have to be all of the time, and doesn’t have to be very much.

There is no need to feel guilty if you’re not in a financial spot to do so, but if you can, it could seriously help West Virginia as a whole to support the people who are struggling right now. We’ve already had so many temporary closures and too many permanent ones. As consumers, we can prevent those closures by staying safe and being a supporter.

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