Lockdowns Test the Economic Endurance of Desperate Americans
American workers and businesses face a months-long survival test until Covid-19 vaccines become widely available as spending plunges with record daily cases prompting a sudden return to lockdowns.
More than 1 million U.S. virus cases were reported in the past week, leading states including Michigan, New Mexico and California to set tighter rules on movement and commerce. A wide swath of businesses -- restaurants, hotels, retail shops, bowling alleys and theaters -- will confront a devastating winter, if they are able to remain open at all. Many workers face the holidays with food and shelter in doubt.
“I’m looking for a sign of life,” said Jon Forman, founder and president of Cleveland Cinemas, an operator of four independent theaters in the metropolitan area that dismissed 90% of the staff. Two locations are closed entirely and ticket sales are scant at the others, making survival less than certain: “We will not stay open through thick and thin.”
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on Tuesday set a 10 p.m. curfew, a hindrance to late-show audiences. Even if DeWine doesn’t close theaters, as Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently ordered, the business might not be able to weather the pandemic without more federal stimulus, Forman said.
President-elect Joe Biden called on Congress this week to pass a $2.4 trillion bill to shore up the economy, in which more than 10 million workers will lose unemployment benefits by December, according to economists at Deutsche Bank and Evercore ISI.
Programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program aiding small business have expired, and U.S. companies in the hardest-hit services sector are cutting back hours or firing workers.