Putting a strain on the little guy
Many small businesses are being affected by the government shutdown

By Brianna Stubler

Jan. 18, 2019

Instructor Sarah Kutz of Campbellsport helps children in her 4- to 5-year-old group add a raspberry vinaigrette to their salads with raisins, apples and sunflower seeds Thursday afternoon at Playful Hearts ChildCare in West Bend. The child care facility, which participates in the Child and Adult Care Food Program, has felt the effects of the partial government shutdown.
John Ehlke/Daily News

WEST BEND — The partial federal government shutdown has ranging effects throughout Washington County both directly and indirectly. Government employees are directly affected, but small business owners are indirectly affected in their vital interactions with the government, as well as providing goods and services to the community, which in turn is also indirectly affected.

Keith Hall, president and CEO of the National Association for the Self-Employed, said both have equal consequences because of the uncertainty.

“At the end of the day, everyone is dependent upon the same economy,” he said, “and when one part of the economy has a hiccup, then it naturally affects the others.”

Hall guessed that the shutdown has probably lasted longer than it has left, but the longer the government remains in this position, the worse the long-term effects will be, he said — especially the trickledown effects. “The longer this goes on, the more difficult decisions people have to make, meaning delaying a house payment or delaying payroll if you’re a small business,” he said.

In the past 27 days, some local businesses have already had to make these difficult decisions.

Playful Hearts ChildCare employee Jessica Howe explained how the center has already felt the effects of the shutdown. She said her center participates in the Child and Adult Care Food Program, which assists with monthly expenses related to providing healthy meals and snacks.

Playful Hearts was notified that CACFP would be funded for January, she said, but the December reimbursement was delayed, which can be problematic because those funds are needed to continue operating the childcare center.

“We are a small business and do not receive grants, funding, or donations from other outside sources like many larger companies might that can assist with expenses during times like this,” Howe said. These reimbursements are necessary for operational costs. “Therefore, we are hopeful that the temporary government shut down will have minimal impacts on the CACFP.”

Temporarily, the money has to be taken from other areas in the budget.

“Expendable things such as field trips, extra supplies, or items will be things that we will need to reduce or eliminate temporarily to persevere during this time,” Howe said, “since obviously the kids can do with out extra activities, but not without foods and other essentials.”

Kayla Barker, 15, of West Bend leans her head on the doorway as she speaks with office assistant Judy Dineen as she prepares lunch Thursday afternoon at Playful Hearts ChildCare in West Bend.
John Ehlke/Daily News

Although she said she is optimistic it will not continue long term, if it does reach a point when these temporary solutions are no longer feasible, Playful Hearts will review its budget and continue to eliminate expenses.

For directly affected businesses like Playful Hearts and small businesses that are experiencing it more indirectly, Hall offered suggestions.

Communicating with vendors, potentially delaying one vendor payment, managing personal expenses and balancing those with business expenses are measures he suggested temporarily.

“But there’s no substitution for communication,” he said. All small businesses, regardless of location or type, have a vested interest, and should reach out to their representatives to express concern over the shutdown and explain how it personally affects them, Hall said.

“I think the most important thing small business owners can do, and we can do for them, is to ask a question, be aware of where you are from a cashflow management.”

His organization has resources to assist those affected at NASE.org and Hall said he hopes this shutdown won’t discourage people from starting businesses in the future.

His wish may be granted — West Bend is home to many small businesses, and for some owners, while this is frustrating, it is not entirely discouraging. Paul Slesar of Slesar Glass said his company is alright, for now, but the government should respect the citizens more than to put them in this situation in the first place.

“They’re penalizing the guy that has nothing to do with it,” Slesar said. “If you really want to have something happen, make it affect the people that are working to resolve this, and it would be resolved very quickly.”