Don’t torture small business ownersSad videos have been popping up all over YouTube. Small merchants and self-employed people have been making videos showing them shuttering their worksites. Some avoided shutdowns but are barely surviving. “We earned 40,000 won ($33) today,” lamented a shop owner. “You cannot imagine the feeling of sitting all day in the shop without a single customer,” said another.
Applicants for the government support program for closed businesses have surged by 35 percent compared to a year ago. Companies in central Seoul’s Hwanghak-dong neighborhood that help to clean out shops going out of business are thriving. Businesses that empty out factories and shops are in high demand.
The government has been offering rescue funds to merchants and the self-employed since March. It had banks provide 12 trillion won in cheap loans at a lending rate of 1.5 percent. But the loans came slowly and the funds were hardly enough. Many grumbled and said that it would take until their stores were shut down for them to finally get their loans.
Some were notified that they could not get the loan event after their documents had been accepted a month prior. The funds for merchants with low credit have run out. Small merchants are sensitive to consumption cycles. Yet they are responsible for one-fourth of the country’s jobs. If they crumble, many will go down with them. The number of laid-off workers totaled 1.26 million last month. Many of them are part-timers who have been let go by shopkeepers.
The government has a duty to protect small business owners and their employees. It is said to be packaging another loan program for them. The funds should be enough and they must be expedited. As social distancing measures have been in place for the past for two months, shops have been trying to endure without customers.
A survey showed that one-fourth of small merchants fear that they will soon have to shutter. The rescue loans must reach them immediately. Tantalizing them with hopes of loans is too much torture.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 21, Page 30