COVID closed

The impact of COVID-19 has hit hard with businesses being severely affected. Questions being asked now include what impact does the loss of income mean for owners of small businesses and who has answers for the conglomerate mess that is faced?

City leaders in DeSoto County are constantly monitoring the risks and the federal and state government guidelines, such as Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite.

“As mayor, I process facts without panic in order to make timely decisions,” Musselwhite said. “It's still too early to judge the (long-range) economic impact that the virus will have on Southaven, but I know the 'shutdown' of local businesses must be limited or we will face significant economic damage.”

Musselwhite has proposed a phased-in return, which he called a “33/50/100 Comeback Plan,” referring to the limits on non-essential customers doing business over a period of time. At a Southaven Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday evening, Musselwhite asked board members to wait to vote on his plan until after Gov. Tate Reeves has eased restrictions at the state level, which he expects will happen in the next week.

Another DeSoto County mayor, Allen Latimer of Horn Lake, said there will be long-term effects past the end of the pandemic, although it’s too soon to quantify.

“It is still too early to accurately judge long-term effects, but Horn Lake's immediate concern is the decrease in sales taxes and how that will affect the city since they represent 25 percent of our working budget,” Latimer said. “What effect this will have on planned development will depend on the (speed of) recovery and availability of capital in the months to come.”

Dennis Long, owner of Salon Bliss in Southaven, said the mandated close of his salon has severely hurt his bottom line and that of his nine stylists.

“Our shops are closed by mandate, we're not making any money, and in my case, I've had to let my staff stay home,” Long said. “ So, they're not making a paycheck and it's adversely affecting them.”

Long said he has fallen behind in lease and utility payments. As an owner, he is being told he can’t qualify for utility discounts or payment suspension. Right now, Long said he still plans to reopen once he is allowed to, however.

“It's going to be hard because of the financial obligations involved,” Long said. “But my goal is to move on.”

Musselwhite believes the economy will recover when the “Open For Business” signs are allowed to return.

“You can call me an eternal optimist,” Musselwhite said. “Although I'm not making light of the damage already done (to small businesses by COVID-19), I believe our small businesses and the city economy – as well as the whole county – will rebound, will roar and come soaring back.”