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Keeping America running: Here's to the rebels

Keeping America running: Here's to the rebels
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In his landmark 1997 ad, “Think Different,” Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said: “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes, the ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

“About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them, because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the ‘crazy ones,’ we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do.”

To be a small business owner, I think you must have a little of all the qualities that Jobs mentioned. You have to be a little bit crazy to start your own business, but it’s exactly those with the courage to become entrepreneurs — those who imagine life as it can be, instead of just what it is — who are the ones who change the world. 

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You see, small businesses make up 99.9 percent of all business in the United States and employ roughly 60.6 million people. In other words, 47.1 percent of all the jobs and two-thirds of the new jobs in America are jobs with small businesses, accounting for between 44 percent and half of U.S. economic activity.

So it’s safe to say that small business owners are the trees that provide shade for the rest of us in America. Yet, as I’ve said before, our small businesses have taken a serious hit during the coronavirus pandemic. While many industries certainly were bruised, small businesses have been cut deeply — and the pain is real.

Here are some facts:

  • From February to April 2020, the number of active business owners in the United States dropped by 3.3 million, the largest such decrease on record.
  • In those same two months, Asian-owned business activity declined by 26 percent, Latino owned business saw a 32 percent drop, and Black-owned business activity plummeted 41 percent.
  • A Wall Street Journal report in November said that one in five small businesses had closed, many of them for good, and a whopping 42 percent of small business owners acknowledged they were at risk of going out of business by the end of the year. 

That’s a pretty bleak picture, but there is some good news: Help is on the way. In fact, it’s already here. 

Bringing the skills she honed through her years with the Small Business Administration (SBA) and as the director of the California Office of the Small Business Advocate, new SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman — who learned the value of hard work as the daughter of a small business owner — has hit the ground running to guide our nation’s small businesses through this crisis. 

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According to the most recent numbers from the SBA, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has approved 2.9 million loans averaging around $64,000 since January 2021 alone. That’s $190.5 billion, roughly half of which (95 percent of total loans) has gone to small businesses with 20 employees or fewer. 

On top of that, the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) program has approved $200 billion in loans since April 2020, most of which (78 percent of all loans) were for less than $100,000.

Combine that with the individual stimulus checks of up to $1,400, the expanded Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, $28.6 billion in relief to help restaurants and bars meet payroll, and all the other tenets of the American Rescue Plan, and there can be no doubt: help is indeed here.

Republican critics of the Biden administration can say what they want. They can say the rescue plan was too big, or not big enough, or that it’s “typical government overreach.” But we know better. Because every time they call Democrats crazy, I can’t help but think to myself, “Here’s to the crazy ones.”

Antjuan Seawright is a Democratic political strategist, founder and CEO of Blueprint Strategy LLC, a CBS News political contributor, and a senior visiting fellow at Third Way. Follow him on Twitter @antjuansea.