Our recent thinking on how local governments can structure their fiscal responses to pave the road to recovery stressed that these efforts need to stay in place as long as the economy is weak, have a long time horizon, and be creative, speedy, and structured based on economic conditions. Local governments should recognize that these investments could yield desired community benefits just as any economic development investment or incentive would. Rather than just trying to return to the baseline before the pandemic, economic development and local government efforts should seize the moment to foster more equitable development practices and embed resilience into the recovery. Framing business assistance around the local economy’s context means understanding:

  • What are the businesses most impacted?
  • What is the size of the business that needs help and structuring programs on these businesses by number of employees, annual revenue, sales, etc.? 
  • What are the needs of the ““smallest of small” businesses?  
  • How are different types of business owners affected? Those that are unbanked or not banking with an SBA-approved institution and/or located in low-income neighborhoods? How are business owners who are people of color, disabled, and veterans affected? 
  • What are common services that small businesses may need help with now more than ever such as procurement of goods and services, back-office functions like legal or accounting, technology platforms, and joint marketing? Add nonprofits to this mix.
  • How are specific types of workers doing and does this include gig workers?

Efforts to bend the curve of the forecasted economic decline will mean that we learned something from the last decade and that we understand this crisis is different. It is more intense in its initial effects and requires more intense and focused local governments responses. We can also see this crisis as an opportunity to build equitable resilience and enable holistic programs and projects that can weather shocks and lessen the growing inequities that emerged out of the Great Recession.