June 25, 2020 Blog, COVID-19

The Effects of COVID-19: Small Business Owner Interview

Dawn Drouillard

COVID-19 and the resulting health crisis have affected me and my business partner on so many levels that ultimately it’s causing us to consider closing the business we’ve had for 21 years. Our loss of income is directly related to COVID-19 and it is becoming harder to keep the lights on and try to ride it out.

I started my catering company in 1999 as a chef wanting to cook nice, beautiful food for people. That desire grew into a solid company with a lot of infrastructure and personnel. We have been a thriving business and 2020 was going to be our most profitable year yet. Instead, because of COVID-19, we’ve had to let everyone go. It is difficult to know that our employees are losing their jobs as well as their health coverage because we no longer have the funds to cover it. This really adds insult to injury because not only are you deprived of your livelihood, but you’re also, potentially, losing your life. It’s heartbreaking and I can’t fathom how we got here as a nation. I simply don’t understand why my employee’s lives are essentially my responsibility. As a business owner, I feel my duty should be to create a fair, equitable, and safe work environment which supports people and gives them valuable skills in the workforce. I don’t understand why the burden of employees health insurance and their family’s health and well-being is my obligation without the additional safety nets that protect my and my employees wellbeing in cases like this crisis.

It is sad to say that there are probably many people living lives and working jobs they despise because of the access to health insurance. Oftentimes people’s employment decisions hinge solely on the benefits package. As an employer, I absolutely want to take care of our employees, but we know that if we don’t offer decent benefits, we can’t access the same pool of quality people. Good health insurance is something that many small businesses really have to work hard to provide in order to compete in the labor market. I think COVID has exposed the limits on what businesses can do to provide and maintain health care for their employees. Our health care system’s reliance on employers to provide health benefits is not working. We’re all seeing the skyrocketing unemployment statistics, but what are the statistics of the people who are also losing their insurance because of COVID-19? That’s probably one of the more alarming statistics to watch.

For me, COVID-19 is really showcasing the major problems we have in the American healthcare system. I think we’re really going to see an uptick in long-term issues with this, and that is very frightening. Six months from now, we’re going to see a lot of hardships. I can’t imagine how we’ll face that as a nation because clearly we don’t appear to have the right social safety nets in place. We’re seeing what’s been happening in other countries. I have a brother-in-law in the Netherlands and in Europe, everyone is at home on lockdown the same way that we are, but unlike here, they’re not terrified of losing everything they have. I’ll be very lucky if at the end of eight months I still have my healthcare insurance, business, a car, my home and can be debt-free.

I think COVID has also exposed the vulnerability of small businesses and how we are so fragile in the face of a pandemic and economic calamities. The one thing I would hope our policymakers would try to do is take some of the strain off of people and small businesses.

Honestly, what I hope we’re going to see on the other side of COVID is real, solid change. Maybe now we will learn what’s important and recognize the things we actually want in our lives and hopefully priorities will move in the right direction. You know, out of crisis comes creativity which also means opportunity. I really feel we have the chance to work towards the things which hold value and a deeper meaning for us personally as well as in the greater society. That’s my hope.