COVID-19 has had a broad, complex and unprecedented impact on our state.

I have been consistent in saying throughout this crisis that there are COVID patients who have suffered from this terrible virus as well as economic patients who have tried to navigate the executive orders and departmental directives that have been issued in response. The health of both going forward is critical.

The day after Thanksgiving is one of the busiest shopping days of the year. It signals the formal start of holiday shopping — a very popular time for commerce. I ask that people be aware of the sacrifices small businesses have had to make this year as you make a list and check it twice.

Small businesses have been faced with crippling shutdowns that prevented their owners and workers from making a living through no fault of their own. They have been unable to keep people on the payroll who have been with them for years. They have had to buy personal protective equipment to keep workers and customers safe. Small businesses are hurting immensely from this upheaval. Some have already gone out of business after decades in existence. Some are close to going under and are just hanging on with each passing month.

December could be a make-or-break month for many small businesses, and it’s why I will continue to fight in the Legislature to keep them going in a safe and sensible fashion instead of shutting them down. I have heard from a countless people working in different professions in the four counties I represent in the Michigan House — Benzie, Leelanau, Manistee and Mason. I heard how damaging restrictions were going into the summer tourism season — a vital one for local economies in northern Michigan. I have heard from restaurant and bar owners who are operating in a limited fashion while bills and overhead costs still need to be paid.

Main Street has been consistently shri- nking even before this pandemic, and local businesses are being pushed to their limits and beyond now.

So when and where we can, let’s do our best to support these local job providers this holiday season. It may be the most important holiday shopping season for small businesses in 75 years. These are people who buy yearbook ads, sponsor youth sports teams, donate to charity auctions and give our kids summer jobs so they can have a little hard-earned spending money. The Michigan Legislature has regularly approved resolutions in past years designating a week of the year as “Buy Nearby Week” throughout the state, urging shoppers to look to local retail outlets and highlighting an estimated $9 billion in additional economic activity that would come from people in Michigan shopping locally.

Let’s expand this “Buy Nearby” support beyond a week this holiday season, because small businesses in Michigan are doing their level best for their employees and customers — and they are always here for our communities.

About the author: Jack O’Malley, of Lake Ann, is in his first term in the Michigan House of Representatives. He serves residents of the 101st District, which includes Leelanau, Benzie, Manistee and Mason counties.

About the author: Jack O'Malley, of Lake Ann, is in his first term in the Michigan House of Representatives. He serves residents of the 101st District, which includes Leelanau, Benzie, Manistee and Mason counties.

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