“A recent study found 800 small businesses a day are closing across the country,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) wrote Saturday on Twitter.
While some questioned the declaration, Klobuchar was citing a study by Yelp. “As of August 31, 163,735 total U.S. businesses on Yelp have closed since the beginning of the pandemic (observed as March 1), a 23% increase since July 10.” Yelp estimated that 60% of those closed businesses are not reopening, saying 97,966 are permanently closed, which means more like 500 businesses shuttered each day.
And those numbers are old, missing the last three months, when many state governors renewed shutdowns to stem the rising COVID-19 numbers.
Other data from the University of California Santa Cruz shows the number of closures could be even higher, with more than 316,000 businesses closed between February and September, which puts the number of daily closures at 1,500 a day.
Meanwhile, the New York Post recently reported that Harvard-run database TrackTheRecovery.org showed 27.8% of small businesses in New York haven’t reopened their doors since January. In New Jersey, 31.2% remain closed. The national average, according to the database, is 29.8%.
“It’s devastating how many restaurants have shuttered and jobs have been lost,” Andrew Rigie, executive director of NYC Hospitality Alliances, which represents bars, restaurants, and clubs, told the Post.
But what is Congress focusing on? Not help for businesses or Americans struggling under COVID-19 lockdowns. No, lawmakers are busying debating who can own lions and tigers and whether to legalize marijuana nationwide.
“The main bill on the House floor this week is a measure to decriminalize marijuana and provide a process for expunging marijuana-related convictions,” Roll Call reported on Tuesday. “The chamber will also take up several bills under suspension of the rules, including a bill to ban breeding and private ownership of big cats that was featured in the infamous Netflix show ‘Tiger King.'”
The House is set to vote as soon as Thursday on what Big Cat Rescue Corp., a Florida-based sanctuary run by “Tiger King” star Carole Baskin and her husband Howard call “the most important big cat bill ever.”
The summary of the legislation (HR1380) says: “This bill revises requirements governing the trade of big cats (i.e., species of lion, tiger, leopard, cheetah, jaguar, or cougar or any hybrid of such species). Specifically, it revises restrictions on the possession and exhibition of big cats, including to restrict direct contact between the public and big cats.”
The vote to decriminalize marijuana is expected to come Friday. The vote was set to occur before Election Day but was postponed because “some moderate Democrats, particularly ones concerned about winning reelection in November, had rejected the idea of voting on a marijuana measure before additional coronavirus relief,” Roll Call reported.
“While some moderates may still hold that concern, Democratic leaders’ decision to bring the bill to the floor signals they are confident it will pass. A few Republicans have said they plan to support it, which provides room for some Democratic defections. Support for the measure appears to be boosted by November ballot measures that legalized all marijuana in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota and medical marijuana in Mississippi,” the political website wrote.
Lawmakers passed the CARE Act in March, a $2.2 trillion package that eventually delivered $1,200 to millions of Americans. That bill offered aid to businesses via the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). In April, Congress passed another bill to provide another $500 billion in aid.
But since then, nothing. In July, lawmakers began debating the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act. Democrats wanted another $2 trillion, Republicans $1 trillion. Talks repeatedly broke down and Congress took no action.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Tuesday unveiled a $908 billion coronavirus relief proposal, but there are no $1,200 checks for Americans as there were in the CARES Act. The bill would deliver another $160 billion to states and cities and $180 billion for unemployment insurance, two issues Democrats have pushed hard. The unemployment benefits would pay $300 per week for 18 weeks, retroactive to Dec. 1, which is half of what was included in the CARES Act.
It didn’t take long for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to reject the proposal.
“We just don’t have time to waste time,” McConnell said.
But they’ll make time for big cats and weed.
Sounds about right.