In the wake of an ongoing pandemic and higher civil tensions than we’ve seen in decades, the results of this year’s presidential election will be impactful. As society continues to reopen and COVID-19 persists, there’s no doubt that the results will have profound effects on the event industry. Although the entire industry has taken a hit, small businesses have particularly critical concerns about the future as they struggle to rebuild. And while the government’s influence on the future of the industry is not exactly a welcome consideration for many, it can’t be denied. COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on the industry as a whole, and the ways in which we move forward as a society will dramatically affect businesses.
It’s important to keep in mind that the ways in which current politics influence events is a complex issue. For one thing, the results of the election will be at least somewhat more favorable for some businesses than others. Furthermore, specific plans put in place by either party may have both pros and cons for many businesses, and it’s important to weigh them out. Now more than ever, knowledge is power. Here’s what both parties have made public about their plans to manage the pandemic going forward.
A Brief Summary of The Trump Administration’s COVID-19 Strategy
The difference in Democratic and Republican approaches to the pandemic response have sparked no small controversy in America. But rather than segue into politics, let’s take an objective look at how each pandemic response directly impacts the event industry- especially small businesses. (This is in no way meant to minimize or overlook the profound effect of this year’s politics on human life, which is always the most important issue at hand. It’s just meant to keep today’s focus on how the election results will affect events).
Consider the Trump administration’s COVID-19 strategy. We all remember what the president infamously told the world at the first debate: “I don’t wear masks like him”. He was, of course, directing the snide comment toward Biden, who was in fact wearing a mask at the debate. Shortly afterward, the president himself came down with the coronavirus. This after exposing his staff and massive crowds to the virus while allegedly being aware that he had been recently exposed to it.
It’s also commonly known that the Democratic party took a much more conservative approach toward reopening businesses and the event industry than the current administration. Despite CDC recommendations, many decisions about public safety, such as wearing masks and social distancing, were left up to individual states. This was good and bad news for the event industry. Depending on location and risk level, some events were held before the CDC recommended, many of which did not adhere to social distancing protocols.
Essentially, event businesses across the nation were placed between “a rock and a hard place”; with limited stimulus support, which we’ll cover next, they had to find a way to make money and sustain their resources. Virtual and hybrid events were already trending, and many businesses were able to temporarily convert to a virtual platform; however, doing so takes time and resources, which not all businesses readily had at their disposal. When society began to reopen, it was up to them to assess their risk and decide whether they had the resources to hold events safely.
The disbandment of the White House’s pandemic response team might have been a predictor of the Administration’s conservative response, which remained consistent throughout the coronavirus outbreak. In the second week in March, White House officials claimed that the U.S. would have tested one million people that week; after that, the U.S. would begin to complete 4 million tests per week. However, at the end of that week, the CDC showed that they had completed just 4,000 tests. The following week, President Trump declared a national emergency. However, this was 70 days after the Administration received its first formal notification of the outbreak in China; it was 52 days after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the U.S.
Event Planning for the Future: Trump and Biden Unveil Their COVID-19 Strategies
One of the most, shall we say, memorable parts of the first debate focused on how both candidates would handle COVID-19 if elected. As was already widely known, the Trump Administration’s strategy would differ vastly from Biden’s. While Democrats want to increase funding for the CDC and contact tracing and testing within states, the Trump Administration boldly overlooks those considerations. Aiming for more of a quick fix, which would undoubtedly please Americans if it unfolds as propagated, Trump is promising a vaccine by the end of 2020. The promise goes further to allege that the country will “Return to Normal” by 2021, which is unlikely even if a vaccine is approved before the new year.
How does the current Administration plan to follow through on their promise? Mainly, they’re making a concerted effort to expedite the vaccine approval process. Part of this strategy seems to disregard the guidelines stated on the FDA website, which advise vaccine makers to follow trial participants for at least two months before seeking emergency approval. The goal of this advice is presumably to rule out any major side effects associated with the vaccine before it becomes available to the public.
However, White House officials have argued that this delay would be unreasonable. Now let’s consider this from an events perspective. The release of a safe, reliable vaccine would cut millions of dollars off preventative costs for event planners in the U.S.. In previous articles, we’ve discussed the expenses associated with COVID-19 screening, sanitation measures, social distancing protocols, safety-related broadcasting, and more. With an effective vaccine in place, restrictions would begin to lift, and social gatherings could slowly return to normal.
But just how realistic is the promise of a vaccine before 2021? Top scientists working to develop vaccines have repeatedly stated that this timeline is highly improbable. However, President Trump continues to voice that a vaccine is very likely to be authorized before the new year. The current Administration is certainly pushing for it, and will continue to do so if elected. Upon returning to the White House, President Trump tweeted a video describing his positive results with Regeneron, the antibody drug given to him in the hospital. He claimed that emergency use authorization was “all set” for Regeneron to become publicly available in the hospital. If this happens, it may be very good news for coronavirus patients in the U.S., but it still doesn’t replace an effective vaccine.
We already mentioned that Democrats want to increase funding for screening, tracing, and testing measures. They are also motivated to get a vaccine approved as soon as safely possible. Biden has made it clear that he would make access to testing and a vaccine free.
Will Democrats Provide More Financial Support to Small Businesses?
It appears so, but both parties are in agreement that small businesses need more government loans. Event planners can probably expect to receive more funding, but how much exactly? The Democrats are aiming for significantly more relief. They recently proposed a $2.2 million stimulus package, and concurrently rejected Secretary Mnunchin’s compromise of $1.5 million.
The Trump Administration has gone into detail about creating manufacturing jobs, but they’ve been less specific about how they plan to supplement the losses of small businesses. Trump also plans to create up to one million small businesses if elected, but many existing ones are still drowning in this year’s losses. According to the Verizon Business Small Business Survey, 67% of small businesses say they are still experiencing declining sales since the pandemic first began. Added to their financial burden is the fact that converting to virtual and hybrid platforms can be expensive. The Verizon Business Small Business Survey also reports that over a third of small businesses say they’re already using new systems or technologies to facilitate remote collaboration.
It’s also important to note that Democrats are in favor of expanding and extending unemployment benefits and sick leave. With many event planners out of work or working sporadically, this is an important consideration.
It’s relevant to look at how the impending election results will impact the economy in general.
According to the Verizon Business Small Business Survey, 84% of small businesses believe that the results of the election will affect the economy as a whole. 57% say the results will impact their own financial security. In fact, data from the Q# 2020 MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index shows that a majority of American small businesses consider the economy one of the top two issues influencing who gets their vote. Perhaps even more telling is that they view the current economy as negative.
The Facts on Taxation
What do Trump’s and Biden’s tax policies mean for small businesses? Donald Trump has talked about a reduction in the top marginal rate for pass-through businesses. He describes this as being a boon for “over 30 million small businesses”, which may be true. But just how “small” are the small businesses that would benefit from this policy? Right now, only 670,000 taxpayers report high enough income to qualify for that reduction.
Biden, on the other hand, has proposed raising the corporate tax to 28%, but also doesn’t plan to lower taxes for people earning $400,000 or less per year. He has also said that he won’t raise taxes on small businesses with fewer than 50 employees, but doesn’t make any promises about businesses with a larger amount. Biden does, however, want to set up a small business fund for businesses with less than 20 employees. This plan would have to pass through Congress to be put into action, but the additional financial support for small businesses could be helpful to both individual businesses and the middle class economy.
On the other hand, Biden has claimed that he plans not to renew many of the tax cuts and write-offs that Trump has initiated. This massive tax cut included auto deductions, real estate deductions, and bonus depreciations that benefited some small businesses.
Obviously, the issues in a presidential election are exceedingly complex. This is only a small fraction of the information you need to know when voting as a small business owner. More than anything, we hope this article encourages you to explore facts independently- and talk to other small business owners, too. The issues here are so complex that what we need is a collective conversation about the impact of this election on small businesses. The more we learn from each other, the more knowledge and resources we have at our disposal. And with COVID-19 complicating the economy, the most empowering thing we can do is learn from and help one another.