Reopening won’t spur a full recovery – it takes teamwork
Failure after well over a month to appoint 40% of a task force battling the impacts of Covid-19 in Miami-Dade’s two largest business sectors underscores the vast gaps in efforts here to deal broadly with the worst economic plunge since the 1930s.
While worthy public and private efforts help individual businesses win federal loans to fund two months of payroll and governments strive to reopen businesses under new health standards quickly, we keep looking for a vital unified team to strengthen a weakened economy.
As noted, the largest US loan program covers just two months. But even if every closed business reopened tomorrow, income wouldn’t bounce back quickly. In the pivotal hospitality sector, estimates are two to three years to rebound to where we were at the outset of 2020, and even that may be optimistic.
Once the small business loans run out, even many recipients may fail.
With business crippled, staggering unemployment is mounting. Opening business doors does not mean jobs will all magically return any more than it means customers will all magically reappear.
The public is understandably wary in a health context, and from a pocketbook standpoint hundreds of thousands of county households have within months lost vast buying power.
That makes it vital that business leaders here unveil a unified program to pull workers and businesses out of the well into which many have toppled. Federal, state and local governments that had relatively deep pockets in January are already stretched thin and struggle with income – they alone can’t rescue us.
Locally planned bootstrapping must leverage all of our assets – human and financial – in a full recovery that is going to take years.
When Miami-Dade commissioners more than a month ago created a Covid-19 Economic Recovery Task Force it was a welcome bid to target small business, hospitality and tourism. That team alone was far too limited to do our bootstrapping job, but it could have been part of the puzzle had all 20 members been named immediately, gotten right to work and attacked a corner of Miami’s mounting need.
Unfortunately, at the start of last week eight of the 20 hadn’t even been chosen, much less met. Four had not been named by commissioners themselves.
The other four appointments, incredibly, had not been made by four chambers of commerce that should have been rushing to move the effort forward.
Mayor Carlos Giménez, meanwhile, named his own team to get business doors open fast, starting this week for many of them. But even assuming early opening doesn’t exacerbate health risks, it also doesn’t guarantee that businesses can open profitably given handicaps that they must operate under to insure that safety measures are met. Those measures will limit business opportunities, as will a well-grounded fear of going out in public.
Sadly, government task forces aren’t the only teams Miami-Dade needs. Government isn’t geared to spark a business rebound and the members of government’s teams, while broadly representative, won’t be the power brokers who can best lay out what the economy needs for the long run and then have the courage and clout to make it happen.
Our troubles are well documented: airlines that bring 96% of visitors to Miami are crippled, cruise lines emblematic of Miami laid off thousands and closed, hotels were shuttered – that group alone imperils us. Add small business, nearly empty local transportation, social service and charitable needs that are mounting – it’s an ugly picture.
Miamians have always been resilient. Bad as it looks, we can and will recover. But coordinated teamwork now can ease the pains of workers and businesses and shorten recovery to reach full community prosperity that leaves nobody out.
It should have been easy to simply fill a 20-member county panel to attack part of the problem.
The harder part will be to see a broad private sector effort under a powerful fistful of leaders who recognize that just because businesses are reopening their doors everything won’t magically be right again tomorrow. Nobody can appoint that team – you have to step forward together and lead.
Miami needs you.