Friends, it’s not snowing in Bend today and can I let you in on a little secret? We’re going to be OK. No, really. This pandemic is really serious and it’s awful and it’s going to be bad for a while yet but we are not helpless and there’s reason to be as optimistic as ever even . . .
If you or a loved one has COVID-19: I’m really sorry. The good news is that the vast majority of people with COVID-19 do not require hospitalization, and recover at home.Even a large majority of those hospitalized recover. Worldwide, more than 200,000 people have contracted the disease and already recovered. It’s very serious, but it’s far from a death sentence.
If you’re scared about getting COVID-19: It’s good to be concerned and careful and follow the rules, but according to this ICU doc from New York, who treats really sick COVID-19 patients, you shouldn’t be scared. He says we can avoid 99% of possible infections by becoming “hand nazis.” Being constantly aware of what we’re touching and washing/sanitizing our hands before and after touching things other people are touching, and not touching our face (I’ve touched my face three times while writing the section, so I have work to do).
If you own a small business that’s been hurt by COVID-19: Which is the same thing as “you own a small business,” because outside of a few niche hand sanitizer distilleries and toilet paper boutiques, we’re all being hurt by COVID-19. You’re already taking action to reduce risk and retain cash and make the best of the current situation, but there is also help for some from the feds. Most prominently in the following forms:
SBA Disaster Loans: If you own a small business and apply and your application is accepted, you apparently get a $10,000 “loan advance”. which you don’t have to pay back. I don’t know why they call it a “loan advance” if you don’t have to pay it back but check out the terms and talk to your CPA about whether the “loan advance” might be taxable before applying.
Payroll Protection Act: This program goes into effect today, and allows businesses to borrow up to 2.5 times their average monthly payroll or (up to $10 million) to pay for payroll, rent, utilities, mortgage interest and some other business expenses. If you use the funds for payroll, rent, utilities or mortgage interest in the first eight weeks after you receive the money, the loan isn’t a loan anymore and is instead a grant. Again, make sure you read the rules and talk to a CPA or lawyer before you take the plunge.
These programs won’t solve everything and are not for everyone, and they will surely be delayed and inefficient and frustrating initially because government. My point is that there is reason for hope and you’re definitely not in this alone. The same ingenuity and work ethic that allowed you to start and operate a small business is going to get you through this.
If you’ve been laid off: Man, I feel you. When I was growing up in the 80s and 90s my dad worked in the wood products industry and if you know anything about that industry in the Pacific Northwest in that time frame, it was bad. He got laid off multiple times as the industry more or less collapsed. It’s awful. Here’s the thing, you and 10 million others in the past two weeks have already applied for unemployment. If your employer receives Payroll Protection Act support, it may be able to hire you back. Also, as the restrictions are eventually lifted, there will be a lot of pent up demand for the stuff that’s been hurt the most, and we’ll see hiring come back. Hang in there and know that (a) this is not your fault, and (b) this, too, shall pass.
If you live in Oregon: It looks like social distancing is starting to bend the curve and if we keep it up our hospitals won’t be overrun and we will minimize the number of deaths. We’ve got a long way to go, but this is really good news, some of the best in the country that I’ve seen. It gives hope that things can be relaxed here sooner rather than later.
If you’re stuck at home, bored and have already watched Tiger King: Become a subject matter expert on the question of whether New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has pierced nipples.
If you’re wondering if we’re going to come out of this: Remember, America has overcome big obstacles before:
We probably shouldn’t have even made it as a country to begin with. The American colonies had only 2.5 million people in 1776 when some of the colonial leaders told the most powerful nation on planet Earth that we weren’t interested in being owned by them anymore, and by they way their system of government was corrupt and contrary to the nature of human beings.Talk about audacity. And then General Washington got his tail kicked around the colonies by the Brits until he pulled off one of the most consequential surprise attacks in world history.
Our first system of government sucked. After we beat the Brits, the new states adopted the Articles of Confederation, which provided inadequate power to the federal government to keep the states from fighting with each other and with it. So, only eight years after the Articles were ratified a bunch of really smart guys under no real authority got together in Philadelphia to completely replace our federal system of government. Imagine fighting a long war for independence, starting a new form of government that you have to sack in less than a decade. That would be pretty dispiriting. But the Constitution turned out to be the best political document ever created by human beings.
The Brits burned down the White House in 1812. The War of 1812 involved a rematch between the U.S. and the British. Things didn’t go well for us initially, and the Brits occupied Washington, D.C. and burned the still pretty new White House after ransacking it. Think about the national mood following that. By the end of the war (and even a little bit after) we were steamrolling the Brits.
The Panic of 1837 drove unemployment as high as 25% in some areas. Banks failed, the currency was in question and the deep recession lasted seven years. But the economy recovered and today no one who uses their brain cells for actual useful knowledge even knows about the panic.
As many as 750,000 Americans died as we kept the country together and ended slavery. The Civil War made much of our own country a battlefield and three-quarter of a million people were killed. At the end, the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution more fully realized the liberties for all at the heart of that document.
America fought its First World War followed immediately by the Spanish Flu. Over 100,000 Americans lost their lives fighting a war in Europe involving chemical weapons and helped to spread the Spanish Flu around the globe. Five hundred million people (2/3 of the world population) got the disease and 675,000 Americans died from it. The U.S. population was only 103 million at the time. This would be like 2.1 million people dying today. America recovered, and what happened next? The Roaring 20s – an unprecedented stretch of economic and cultural advancement.
We went from the Great Depression straight into World War II. Between 1929 and 1932, global GDP fell by 15% (for context, it fell by 1% in 2008-2009) and U.S. unemployment was over 20% for a sustained period of time. We were still in the depression when in 1941 the Japanese destroyed most of our Pacific fleet battleships and dragged us into World War II. The American people went from the depravations of the Great Depression to the depravations of war, including wide-scale rationing and 405,000 American war dead (and the shameful detention of Japanese-Americans). At the end of these horrific 16 years of depression and war, we had vanquished the Nazis and the Japanese and freed hundreds of millions of people around the world from the reign of authoritarian regimes. The economy at home was booming, and America was suddenly the most powerful nation on Earth.
Then we went right into the Cold War and won. The destruction of the fascist regimes in Europe brought with it the ascension of another form of authoritarianism, Soviet communism. While the depravations of the Cold War were felt less severely at home (with the important exception of the loss of life in Korea and Vietnam), Americans lived under the daily threat of nuclear holocaust for decades. Eventually, we stood down the Soviets without incinerating the planet, freeing millions more from authoritarianism in Eastern Europe. All this while giving real effect to the Civil War amendments by passing civil rights laws that once again brought us closer to all Americans realizing the liberties promised in the Constitution.
We recovered from 9/11 and the Great Recession. In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, most of us thought that major terrorist attacks on U.S. soil would be the new normal. They weren’t. In the depths of the Great Recession later in the decade, many thought the American dream of home ownership and rising incomes was lost forever. It wasn’t.
The COVID-19 crisis is called a crisis for good reason. But it’s far from the first crisis we Americans have faced. After each one, we’ve come out of it stronger and better. It can feel like we have no control over our situation, and there is a lot that is not in our control. However, if we put this crisis in historical context, and control those things that we can, for the better, this will all be alright.
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Have a great weekend!