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My neighbor crashed a truck though my house and then told me he didn’t have insurance or money to pay for damage. Then my insurance company told me that my policy would not cover the damage either.
That's how business owners feel right now. Everything was fine, albeit it with everyday challenges, until government officials imposed shutdowns, with no plan to mitigate the impact on businesses.
During the last financial crisis in 2008, as a contractor/property manager I was worried about keeping my subcontractors working. I took out a loan and added on to my house expecting to have more kids one day. It worked out for everyone. We survived the recession and I even got more clients from the advertising during the project. As an added bonus we also had a daughter.
Costs of living in Seattle continued to rise and I needed another source of income. In 2016, I borrowed some money and invested in a bounce house rental company. The company needed some work, so I spent the next 2 years turning it into a company that serviced some of the biggest festivals in the area, backyard parties and anything in between and paid back my loans.
November through February, the event industry is slow aside from holiday parties and winter school events. Most companies cut spending and wait for the influx of money from spring and summer bookings. This year we had a record breaking February, and I was anticipating a great summer. Then came the coronavirus.
Governor Jay Inslee was one of the first in the country to ban public events. Immediately, clients asked for refunds for cancelled events. Coming out of the slow season this meant that money in the savings was gone and I had to start drawing on lines of credit to issue refunds because money had already been spent preparing for the summer. I tried to get refunds on deposits, but distributors and manufacturers were in the same position.
Then the schools were shut down for the remainder of the year cancelling those events I had booked with them. Camps started to panic and cancelled their programs. I was in a position where I owed money on a company I owned free and clear and was refunding clients out of my own pocket. This means that 2020- 2021 will be spent paying back loans, assuming there are any clients or company left. Employees had to be furloughed.
Last year, I began hiring employees from the Millionair club which transitions people out of homelessness, trying to do my part to help Seattle’s staggering homeless crisis. I began making our annual inspection open to the public to raise funds for Millionair Club and Mary’s Place, another homeless organization. That event was now cancelled and those employees unable to be hired.
My annual safety inspection was still scheduled for March, but I wanted my staff to follow the stay at home order. Without the inspection we could not operate even when after the shutdown is over. I begged the Department of Labor and Industries (LNI) for an extension. We never had a violation or been cited. They denied every request. I was forced by a government agency to call my employees back to work.
At the inspection, we inflate all our attractions. If they don't inflate, they fail, but if an attraction doesn't inflate on a delivery, a client would never sign for the rental. LNI doesn’t do onsite inspections at events to make sure we are secured correctly or spot checks or audit worker training. These inflatable inspections, as they are, are a waste of everyone’s time and money. I was forced to bring in a skeleton staff and then I had to tell them there was no work for the foreseeable future.
The business standard used to be "recession proof," but no business is "government mandated shutdown proof." Many companies won’t survive. The other day I saw one of my competitors go out of business. Their equipment will be sold at auction for pennies on the dollar because there will be very few buyers. I was not happy at the potential opportunity.
I was sad and worried that I may be next. Those that survive will have to raise prices to pay back their loans. Customers will have less money to spend because their industry went through something similar and they got laid off. Meanwhile, governments are not cutting budgets or furloughing employees.
I decided that if the government was going to mandate that I open for inspections it was OK to operate. I appealed to the governor's office for an exemption and did not get a response. I switched our signature process to digital, I made sure all employees had masks and gloves and followed social distancing guidelines. We always clean and disinfect attractions but now we are ever more diligent. Even being open, we are down over 90 percent from where we usually are this time of year.
For operating, I was reported to the state and received a shutdown notice from the governor's office. No one is answering the phones at the office and you cannot respond to emails so I will write my response here, I will not comply. The governor released thousands of violent offenders under the guise of the pandemic and now wants to threaten me with fines and jail time for providing for my family?
The local government destroyed what was left of my livelihood after constant taxation and ongoing theft issues due to the criminal behavior they enable on city streets. People can camp on sidewalks in downtown Seattle, but campsites are close for recreation. Residential construction was shut down but government projects like a new sports stadium continue. Delivery companies can deliver toys, but I am not allowed to deliver our products?
No government employees have been laid off or furloughed. All politicians continue to receive a paycheck. In Washington, with all those "essential" government employees still working, no one created a plan to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on local businesses so that we don't come out the other end with mass unemployment, similar to the conditions that led to my grandfather's family suffering during the Great Depression, including losing multiple siblings in the tenements of New York.
Many of us did not receive the SBA loans even though we did everything right in applying. Our local governments did not try at all except to offer a fraction of a percentage of their budget to a favored few from our tax dollars.
We are all on our own because the government drove that truck through our homes.