Victor Child Care Center in Victor, New York, was on the brink.
Ravaged by costs incurred as a result of COVID-19, Laurie Lavery, owner of the business, needed to cut back more and more services to stay afloat.
Eventually, Lavery, 64, was forced to scrub the floors and bathrooms of the center by herself on weekends after working long 12-hour weekdays, just to make sure the day care center was clean and sanitized for the next week.
Yet, the bills still mounted.
In a final desperate attempt to save the business, Lavery’s son Kevin made a video pleading for help and sent it to a large national charity, hoping for some much-needed relief funding.
On Jan. 21, Lavery received a call that would change her life forever. She was going to get the funding needed to keep her doors open.
Victor Child Care Center is not alone in just how close it came to financial ruin. A September 2020 study by Yelp estimated that nearly 60% of small businesses that had to close due to COVID-19 have shuttered permanently, and that number appears to be growing.
Enter David Portnoy and Barstool Sports.
Founded by Portnoy in 2003, Barstool Sports is mainly known for posting pop culture and sports content on social media. Portnoy himself is an essential part of the brand, drawing attention to himself and the business by arguing online with various other internet personalities.
On Dec. 17, Portnoy announced the creation of the Barstool Fund.
Initially funded with $500,000 from Portnoy’s own pocket and focused exclusively on New York businesses, the charity has since ballooned into a behemoth. As of this writing, the fund has raised more than $29,000,000 from donors both small and large and has provided emergency relief funding to 165 businesses across the country.
Businesses can apply for funding on the Barstool Fund website by sending a video explaining who they are and what they need the money for. If they’re selected, the money quickly finds its way to the business owner, normally within two to three days.
Portnoy posts both the videos the small business owners send to him and videos of him calling the businesses on the Barstool Fund’s social media accounts.
Funding is available to any small business if it agrees to keep, and not to lay off, its current staff until the pandemic ends. The Barstool Fund checks in monthly with all the small businesses it funds to make sure they have the support they need.
In times when government fails to provide assistance for businesses to sustain themselves, the private sector has stepped up to the plate.
The Barstool Fund represents a fundamental truth: Private charity is more efficient at providing aid to the needy than the government is. That is to say, community-based initiatives work better than federal aid.
Signs from the federal government indicate that the Paycheck Protection Program, the program designed to help small businesses keep members of their staffs on the payroll, will be returning for a second round. Yet, the speed at which the first round of funding ran out does not inspire confidence that this time will be any different.
The National Coronavirus Recovery Commission, a project of The Heritage Foundation that brought together some of the nation’s top experts and thinkers to come up with policy solutions for preserving lives and livelihoods, strongly advocated for as many lifelines to small business as possible. Those lifelines include private, crowdfunded sources just like the Barstool Fund.
Thanks to the ongoing rollout of vaccines, America is entering a new stage in the battle against COVID-19, but we cannot become complacent. If we don’t act, small local businesses—who we can’t wait to patronize when the pandemic is over—may not be there.
Barstool Sports stepped up. So must we.
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