Help for small businesses is needed now

A letter to state leaders, Gov. Inslee from Beaches Restaurant & Bar Owner Mark Matthias

Courtesy of Beaches Restaurant & Bar

*This letter was written by Beaches Restaurant & Bar Owner Mark Matthias, and sent to state leaders and the governor’s office.

State leaders, governor and friends:

I had always been the one who just worked behind the scenes on social issues or would call one elected official at a time to chat. I know hearing from me on this level may be shocking to many of our local leaders who know me, and it certainly is not my intent to be one of those who makes you cringe when a new correspondence comes through.  And even though I will have lost a big chunk of money, I will survive this in the end.  So maybe someone like me should just be silent.  I cannot and let me tell you why:

  • I have friends who own small businesses who are struggling.  I have always chosen to help whenever I can no matter who it is. I believe that is what it takes to truly be part of a community.
  • I have a team that I consider family. I had over 200 of them one year ago, and today I see maybe 20 on a weekly basis. They are a big part of what makes our industry fun (and you thought it was just you, the guest)! It is emotional for me to see them struggle, which I take it personally. I will do whatever I can to help them.
  • I am a firm believer that you must be part of the solution.  And if it has not come across that way lately, well, frustration can make me be blunt and aggressive. I can assure you I will do whatever I can to help solve these tough issues, as well as a whole lot of folks here in SW Washington.

I know this is difficult for everyone. Small businesses because their livelihood is slowly fading away. Our elected leaders who are trying to navigate solutions to problems with no historic perspective to help you. And even those that are thriving who desperately want to pitch in because they can see how our communities are being fractured and citizens are suffering. But we must find a way to work together with a sense of urgency that at least stops the bleeding so that we can turn the corner and have a clear vision for the path out of this. It is more than a vaccine. It will require us to broaden our thinking a little bit more beyond just the pain the virus is causing, and trust that we can move forward safely to limit all the other collateral hardships.

My request from each of our elected state leaders, the governor and his team is to consider the issues below and remove any hurdles that have been established in the past since this is a whole new world. We can change anything we want if we have the will to control the outcome. I refuse to believe a virus can alter our motivation to find creative solutions and rise to these challenging times quickly. 

1.  If we must close businesses, lets figure out a way to get money to the ones who are struggling now. This is our state, our citizens, and waiting for Congress cannot be our only solution. Why not use the Budget Stabilization Fund? Yes, we would have to change a few rules, but if it is the right thing to do to keep people afloat, let’s do it.

2.  For those on unemployment that need help. It sounds like there is a back-up plan if Congress does not come through this month. Why not trigger that plan now? We need to remember, the folks most affected need food today. The end of the month may be fine for you and me, but it is a lifetime away for many of our neighbors and is causing incredible anxiety.

3.  I think it is reasonable to expect our elected officials to react quicker and be more visible in conversations and the decision process. I can assure you I am asking so that we could help, and provide a different perspective, not just criticize. I still believe that small businesses who have made tremendous efforts to provide safe environments are part of solution. Statistically, households and private social gatherings have a substantially higher risk. Let us help control the outcome not only of the virus, but the economic livelihood of people. Why can’t we trust our businesses to help?    

4.  I would ask that the state of Washington consider a reversal or deferral of the decision to allow the minimum wage increase to move forward in 2021. People who think it is only 19 cents do not know the overall impact of any increase. We need to remember at the end of 2016, it was $9.47. In five short years it has increased 45%. Is it deserving … absolutely. But combined with all the other realities we now face it just piles on a little bit more. It is the accumulation of everything that creates the overall problem.

5.  Is it reasonable for the state of Washington to ensure that industries forced to lay off employees will only have experience ratings at the 2019 levels? I know it is a change of thinking, but the ones who profited from our closures may have to carry some of this burden. In fact, I would love to be one of those people!

This is much bigger than the virus. It is how we connect with each other and respect different opinions. I believe it is possible to devise solutions quickly if we approach it with an open mind and motivation to do what is “right.” I would love to hear from any of our elected officials on what we can do together and your thoughts on the issues I have listed.

Thank you in advance for your efforts.

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Joanna Yorke is the managing editor of the Vancouver Business Journal. She has worked in the journalism field since 2010 after graduating from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University in Pullman. Yorke worked at The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground for six years and then worked at and helped start ClarkCountyToday.com.