The past two years have been hell for small businesses. Lockdowns, loss of income, and store and office closures have been devastating. Thankfully, Congress has provided billions of dollars in aid to help small businesses, and millions have embraced remote working, e-commerce, and home delivery.
In fact, according to forecasts released earlier this month by the Institute for Economic Forecasting, growth in Florida will outpace the national economy and unemployment will continue to fall in 2022.
But as our COVID challenges continue, Congress is considering sweeping antitrust legislation that attacks large digital platforms and, in doing so, reverses the digital progress that is essential to the survival and long-term success of small businesses.
Surviving the pandemic has required both Paycheck Protection Program loans and digital technology for many small businesses – technology that has created a digital safety net that was critically important when our economy almost closed.
Google, Facebook, Amazon, Salesforce, GrubHub, Zoom, and Shopify have helped fuel these COVID lifelines. Additionally, small businesses that invested in digital tools before COVID-19 made 50% more revenue — and hired twice as many workers — as less digitally savvy businesses during potential shutdowns. In fact, digital tools have been incredibly instrumental in helping 11 million small businesses keep their doors open.
A 2021 3C study found that:
• 84% of small businesses in Florida have increased their use of digital tools during the COVID-19 crisis.
• 89% of small businesses in Florida say they will continue to use digital tools at a similar or greater rate in the future.
• 79% of Florida businesses believe digital tools are important to their operations.
The thing is, throughout COVID, digital tools have given hope. And contrary to the opinion of some commentators, the risks these antitrust bills pose to small businesses in Florida and across the country are not just theoretical. They are real – and they will hurt.
If Amazon can’t self-prefer its warehouses, logistics, and shipping operations, then Amazon Prime doesn’t work and small business sellers can’t guarantee 2-day or same-day delivery. Consumers expect Prime delivery when shopping on Amazon, and countless small businesses have benefited.
Additionally, while Google cannot self-prefer Google Business Profile pages that businesses can create and populate with critical information such as location, hours of operation, and health and safety information for free. security, your search for a small business may lead you to a third-party site that does not have the most up-to-date information.
While COVID still remains a threat, Congress should absolutely double down on helping American restaurants, daycares and small businesses get through. But it’s dishonest to provide aid with one hand while simultaneously undermining powerful small business platforms with the other – and that’s precisely what will happen if Congress restricts the operation of big tech platforms and helps small enterprises.
Rob Retzlaff is the executive director of the Connected Commerce Council, a national nonprofit representing 15,000 digitally empowered small business members..