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Local business owners need a tax break after COVID-19


We have all struggled this past year as we tried to both physically, psychologically and economically survive the coronavirus plague.
No one has perhaps struggled to survive as much as local small business. Restrictions had to be placed on the occupancy and activity of many small businesses to help reduce the spread of the virus and to help contribute to the eventual end of the pandemic.
Naturally, business owners were not pleased. They were forced into having to balance their role as citizens and humanitarians doing all they can to help save lives alongside their responsibilities and need to keep their business and revenue stream healthy at the same time. That wasn’t easy. For some, it was impossible.
Every small business lost money this year. The federal government created programs to help alleviate the pain: the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, the Small Business Administration Debt Relief Program as well as grants. That is certainly helpful and it certainly helped many businesses stay afloat, but many of those who did remain above water still suffered painful losses and still are not certain that even as we turn the corner that their plugging of holes on their leaking vessels is still enough to prevent their businesses from going into drydock. Thus we as a community must continue to investigate whether there are other lifesaving measures we might be able to provide them with.
I encourage our legislative leaders to consider the possibility or reducing if not eliminating the property tax obligations of those small businesses who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. I emphasize small, local businesses. Amazon and McDonald’s do not need that kind of help. JJ’s Boutique and George Burgers do.
Part of a tax assessor’s calculations on determining property value and property taxes due on business property can include the value the property achieves through its return as a business investment. The return has been gravely less if not minimal on many of our local businesses. But even if this loss of return isn’t considered as a factor, a concerned citizenry wanting to help our neighbors with their choice of livelihood to operate their own bakery should be just as high a priority as us banding together to assist the laborer laid off from their work as a movie projectionist or a waitress. We offer them unemployment benefits, stimulus checks, food stamps and government subsidized health care. We need to do the same for the health of our local businessmen.
Reducing this year’s collection of property tax revenue would of course affect our government services. Pot holes may not be able to be filled. Proposed infrastructure may have to be placed on hold. Amenities at parks may have to be reduced if not closed temporarily. It will be inconvenient. It may be painful … just like it has been for our struggling small businessmen. But if I have a choice this year to widen a road to improve traffic circulation or to help a family maintain their livelihood, I choose the later.
I feel many businessmen have unfairly ignored the real villain in this pandemic – it is the coronavirus that crippled their enterprise, not the government who was doing battle with the virus to stop its spread and save lives. But, on the other hand, let’s make sure our government doesn’t fall into the role of the villain — or at least the role of the calloused bystander — by not exploring all possible solutions to lending a hand to a struggling business.

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

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