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Businesses struggle under extended closing


by Judy Reed

Busy Moms Bakery is one local business that continues to see good customer turnout during the stay-at-home order. Here, 3-year-old Maverick Hunt enjoys a tasty donut while out on a walk to get some fresh air. Photo by Rachel Hunt.

A temporary closure that was only supposed to be until just after Easter has now been extended until the end of May, according a recent executive order signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Executive Order 2020-69 extends her previous order that temporarily closes certain places of public accommodation such as theaters, bars, casinos, and more. In order to maintain social distancing the order also limits restaurants to carry-out and delivery orders.

“Although we are beginning to see the curve flatten, we are not out of the woods yet,” said Whitmer. “We must all continue to be diligent, observe social distancing and limit in-person interactions and services to slowthe spread of COVID-19.”

It’s been tough for many businesses here in Cedar Springs and the surrounding areas. Those that are considered essential—such as those that serve food—have taken a big hit. Some closed temporarily immediately, such as Classic Kelly’s and Big Boy. Others opted to stay open and try to do take out. Cedar Rock Café on 14 Mile Rd couldn’t sustain their business and closed their doors permanently.

Some businesses have been thrown a lifeline. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced Wednesday that more than 2,700 small businesses around Michigan have been awarded a total of $10 million in grants by local economic development organizations through the Michigan Small Business Relief Program. The grants under the Michigan Small Business Relief Program are intended to support businesses facing drastic reductions in cash flow and the continued support of their workforce and may be used for working capital to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility expenses, or other similar expenses that occur in the ordinary course of business.

In addition to the $10 million in grant funds, the Michigan Strategic Fund also approved $10 million in loans through the Michigan Small Business Relief Program that are being referred to the MEDC from the local EDO partners. Those loan applications are currently being reviewed by a loan review committee including the Chief Business Development Officer and Senior Vice President of Business Development Projects as referrals are made from local EDO partners. All loans made through the Michigan Small Business Relief Program will be approved through Michigan Strategic Fund delegated authority and announced as they are finalized.

Red Bird Bistro, a relatively new business in Cedar Springs, applied for both a grant and a loan. “I received a grant but they are still processing my loan application,” said owner Jody Arp. They are one of the downtown businesses doing take out. We asked how business was going. “We are just trying to survive this,” she said.

We also spoke with the Cedar Springs Brewing Company, who has been doing take-out, delivery, and putting some of their product in area supermarkets. We asked owner David Ringler how business was going and if he’d applied for any of the loans.

“We’re treading water, thanks to the amazing support of our community, which we appreciate greatly,” said Ringler. “We’re focused on diligent safety procedures, takeout, local delivery and catering at the present time and we’re doing our best to be here when we get back to normal,’ whatever the new normal may be,” he explained.

“We’ve applied for anything we thought was a fit, but most of these programs are ill-designed for hospitality and simply do not fit well…or they add debt, which is a separate issue for any small business,” remarked Ringler.

At least one new business in Cedar Springs is seeing a good flow of customers. “We are actually doing okay,” explained Tom Wilkes, owner of Moms Busy Bakery. “No real change in our pace. As long as things stay as they are we should be just fine.” He said that they did not apply for any of the loans.

The news media is also considered essential, and the Post, your local newspaper, is surviving week by week on advertising by the local businesses. We appreciate any support you can give us during this tough time, and hope readers will patronize the businesses seen on our pages.

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This is no way to run a government


By Lee H. Hamilton

In the days following the budget deal to stave off a government shutdown, the news was filled with reports on what the measure actually contained. Stories focused on the bits of budgetary hocus-pocus that got the White House and lawmakers to $38 billion in cuts, what was actually in those cuts, and the stray bits of policy-making that had nothing to do with reducing the deficit. But the news seemed to miss the most important point: the whole process got things exactly backward.
The way Congress used to work, budgets were crafted by a series of committees holding public hearings and debating separate appropriation bills. There was the occasional last-minute surprise, of course, but for the most part the process was organized and transparent.  Our elected representatives knew what was coming and had the opportunity to shape it, and the American people knew whom to hold accountable for what.
This budget deal, on the other hand, was put together behind closed doors by a handful of people striving to meet a doomsday deadline, handed off to unelected staff and a few legislators to work out the details, and then presented to the bulk of Congress for a take-it-or-leave-it vote. In some instances, no one has admitted responsibility for last-minute maneuvers that changed established policy; they emerged from the black box of negotiations as if untouched by human hands. Call me old-fashioned, but I fail to see either the “representative” or the “democracy” parts of our representative democracy at work here.
Yet the concerns expressed by many members of Congress in the lead-up to their vote on the agreement had nothing to do with how they’d been shunted to the sidelines. Rather, they complained about what they’d learned was in the measure—especially among conservatives, the revelation that the deal did not cut spending as deeply as had been advertised. Meanwhile, congressional leaders, according to The New York Times, were “rueful” that a final vote had to be delayed an extra day, “giving opposition an extra day to build.” In other words, leaders didn’t want legislators to find out what was in the bill because this would worsen its chances of passage.
What’s especially worrisome is that Congress seems to have gotten addicted to this seat-of-the-pants style of legislating. The next issue on its plate is the looming deadline to raise the debt ceiling, and it’s a good bet that once again we’ll be treated to the spectacle of last-minute negotiations, recalcitrant caucuses trying to hold the other side’s feet to the fire, and a dismaying sense of confusion in Washington. The ability of the government to function and its financial credibility both at home and overseas grows more tenuous with every passing day.  And only when it’s all over will we find out what actually took place.
This is no way to run a country, let alone a democracy. Comedian Jay Leno put it best: “A lot of people wonder what a government shutdown would be like,” he said. “I think a lot more people wonder what a government running properly would be like.”
Why is last-minute, dead-of-night negotiating among a few leaders so bad? For two major reasons. The first is its effect on government. As a shutdown loomed, public and private managers dependent on government funding found it impossible to plan ahead; agencies were forced to halt projects in midstream because the money they needed to continue hadn’t arrived on time; thousands of federal workers and contractors had no idea whether their programs would be shutting down; and confusion over which employees and which programs were essential paralyzed Washington and federal offices around the country.
Even more pernicious, the habit of cramming the federal budget—and other major legislation—into last-minute deals concentrates far too much power in the hands of a few leaders and staff members, effectively shutting most of the people who represent you and me out of the process. It also presents unparalleled opportunities for lobbyists pushing hard for narrow special-interest provisions to thrive in the confusion and shadows. It’s safe to say that some of them had more say in the recent budget deal than most members of Congress.
There is an answer to all this, and it’s a return to the procedure for crafting budgets that Congress developed over many decades of experience — committee hearings on individual spending bills, floor action allowing for an orderly amendment process, open conference committees, and then final votes in which every member knows precisely what he or she is voting on. That Congress has allowed itself to move so far from that time-honored process raises deeply disturbing questions about this government’s ability to govern.
Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.

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