Nation & World

Workers, small businesses worry about a tailspin after stimulus talks break down

One in five small businesses say they might close

Bill Winkler, president and owner of Peoria Charters, stands next to buses in his company parking lot in Peoria, Ill., o
Bill Winkler, president and owner of Peoria Charters, stands next to buses in his company parking lot in Peoria, Ill., on Wednesday. (Washington Post)

Americans left in the lurch by President Donald Trump’s announcement Tuesday to abandon negotiations over a long-delayed stimulus package expressed disbelief and desperation Wednesday.

In interviews with the Washington Post, unemployed workers and struggling business owners said they are counting on an influx of financial support, as they watched bank accounts dwindle since the expiration of most of the previous aid programs in August.

Two small-business owners said they will be laying off workers in the coming days, and one unemployed woman said she had $13 left for groceries.

Latonya Carter, 46, has been out of work for six months after losing her job as a cook at an Elks Lodge in Pensacola, Fla. Her job hasn’t returned because the lodge didn’t reopen.

She worries about her water and lights being shut off, and the state denied her unemployment claim.

“I was hoping for another stimulus check so I could pay my bills,” she said. “I’m worried about us being in the dark or being without water.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this. I just don’t know how it got so bad.”

The nation has 26 million people on unemployment aid, and more than 4 million small businesses that relied on government aid over the summer.

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The economic recovery is slowing on several fronts and could be in danger of backsliding without more aid.

Business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable warned that a lack of economic stimulus could “worsen” and “prolong” the downturn.

Already, the unemployed have seen their income cut by more than half in most cases, after the extra $600 weekly benefit expired at the end of July.

Debra Traniello, 68, a grandmother in New Hampshire who has been out of work as a part-time nanny since March, has been struggling to make her payments recently.

But instead of celebrating the news of another stimulus check, as she had hoped, she spent Wednesday buying food, taking two items out of her bin so she could get the total under $13.

One in five small businesses warned in August they would have to close in the next six months if their situation didn’t improve and they did not get more aid, according to the National Federation of Independent Business.

Owners in industries hard hit by the pandemic warned they likely will have to layoff more people now.

Bill Winkler, the owner and president of an Illinois charter bus company, Peoria Charters, had a simple answer for who to blame.

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“Anybody who has any leadership in Washington, DC. Our politicians,” he said. “It’s everybody.

“Get together, help us out, that’s what we put you in office for. This is unprecedented — it will never happen again. Unprecedented times means unprecedented decisions.”

Winkler’s company typically employs more than 130 people running busses across the state. But business is down 94 percent compared to last year.

Only 30 people are left on the payroll.

Without more aid, he’ll only be able to keep the business going through the end of November, he said.

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