Self-employed small business owners do not have the financial security and benefits that come with working for non-profit organizations or corporations, such as health insurance, paid time off, paid sick leave, and someone else handling their own paychecks. Yes, it is highly rewarding if the business is successful, but the risk of financial loss is greater. The American dream feels all the more out of reach in this pandemic, as business owners are feeling the pressure to figure out their next move.
An analyst predicted the coronavirus outbreak would take out 15,000 retail stores this year alone. The Economic Policy Institute projects a loss of over three million jobs before the summer starts (Bivens, 2020). As you can imagine, this has implications for Deaf* business owners. Convo has a directory of Deaf* owned businesses, from artists to restaurant franchises and freelance writers.
One example of what might happen is Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon–the world’s largest legendary independent bookstore since 1971, where you can find new, used, and rare, and out-of-print books. As Amazon grew and increased their shares of sales in the book industry over time, wiping out smaller family-owned and indie bookstores, Powell’s Books has fought to stay alive.
A somber message from Emily Powell, current owner and chief executive order, was posted on the formal website of Powell’s Books for employees and the community to read. All five Powell’s Books locations have been temporarily closed until further notice, although their online sales remain open, and Powell was forced to lay off most of her employees. Fans fear the coronavirus could lead to a permanent closure of Powell’s Books, which has been family-owned for three generations (Powell’s grandfather founded the bookstore).
While this is just a real-world scenario for a hearing business owner, Deaf* business owners face additional challenges in ensuring success. There seems to be little to no discussion on the impact of coronavirus on Deaf* business owners, even on the Deaf Small Business Network, which is a public Facebook group. It is somewhat odd.
The American dream has become the American nightmare, and the fate of business owners is dependent on the upcoming federal stimulus package bill. If it passes as law, self-employed people could be eligible for pandemic-related unemployment benefits. Bivens reminds us that once the nation recovers, we need to focus on figuring out why our country wasn’t more economically resilient to this kind of scenario.