(CNN) — Work from home. Self-quarantine. Canceled sporting events. Social distancing may help mitigate the coronavirus crisis, but it also threatens to devastate small businesses.
The drop in foot traffic and a reluctance to go out will leave shops and restaurants empty.
In Seattle, already hard hit by the outbreak, a recent survey found that 60% of small businesses there are considering wage cuts and staffing cutbacks, while 35% said they may have to close. More than 80% expect the situation to get worse.
While federal, state and local governments will need to step in with financial help and other policy measures, there also are some small ways that individuals, if they have the means, can help their favorite small businesses stay afloat through the crisis.
Buy gift cards
Purchasing a gift card to your favorite shop, theater or restaurant is an immediate way to put cash into the business, said Amanda Ballantyne, national director of The Main Street Alliance.
That’s exactly what Luz Urrutia, CEO of the Opportunity Fund, a nonprofit microlender, has done. “I just bought gift cards to every one of the [local] restaurants that I love. They get their cash today. And I’ll be able to use it later.”
Shop local — online and off
Molly Moon runs several ice cream shops in Seattle, which already has been hard hit by coronavirus. Moon, who employs 120 people, said she’s now considering “extremely reduced hours … It’s breaking my heart.”
For healthy customers running errands, she encourages them in good humor to “stock up on pints for the hard times.” For those who stay home, Moon invites them to buy gift cards and store merchandise on her company web site.