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I.C. MURRELL — Money is valuable, and so is time

The news Thursday morning was a punch in the gut, but it wasn’t like we weren’t warned.

The first sign was when a plan to add to a stimulus package that would support small business foiled in Congress. It’s hard to fathom that $377 billion — about $1,152 for every American citizen — was not enough to loan establishments interrupted by a pandemic.

As much as it may matter to some who did what or who let what happen, the truth of it all is that small biz isn’t staying afloat. That matters because, according to a 2019 report from the U.S. Small Business Administration, such establishments generate 44 percent of economic activity in this country.

It used to be greater. From 1998 to 2014, according to the report, the small business share of the U.S. gross domestic product fell from 48 percent to 43.5.

One must wonder how much of our product will be impacted when this year is all said and done. So many businesses didn’t get to apply.

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Government on all levels is rightfully placed under the microscope that is the public eye. Congress, then, should not be let off the hook for not doing enough to support small biz.

America is always going to carry a debt and chip away at it when normalcy resumes.

Ah, but only if money were the only valuable commodity known to mankind.

The prevailing concern on a local front had a little to do with money, but more to do with the time it took to address a problem.

It should be more alarming, then, that 63 minutes to address Port Arthur’s travel policy — two weeks after Mayor Thurman Bartie’s expenses for a National League of Cities conference in Washington, D.C., was discussed and approved — was taken than the nearly $6,000 price tag of the trip itself.

Mayor Pro Tem Harold Doucet, who’s called out Bartie for the expenses for two straight meetings, posed a legitimate idea to have expenses for business trips approved before they are taken, citing citizens’ request for transparency in costs. Other city councilmembers said their piece, as is their responsibility.

There was just one (lengthy) problem: The time it took to rehash old business could have been better used for discussing how to help Port Arthurans who are laid off find jobs, promoting and practicing mental and physical health amid a health crisis or just plain quarantining in peace. For all the time that was used — no action was taken regarding the travel policy.

Bartie showed considerable (but tried) patience, remaining silent for 53 minutes before launching his vocal defense of the expenses. Those who watched the discussion might have felt a little testier.

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Civic leaders and laypersons alike are examining what’s most important in a pivotal time in our society. Leaders are tasked with setting examples, and followers are asked to follow.

The time it takes now to stay safe will largely impact the time we face a threat. For the time that we can use wisely, God bless the H-E-Bs, Walmarts and Best Buys, among other big-box stores, as they continue to feed, clothe and geek us.

But in a country where the motto reads “In God We Trust,” it’s going to take a prayer for small businesses to help us when cities like ours need it the most.

If Congress values time, it’ll realize the time to add much needed lending funds hasn’t run out.

I.C. Murrell is the editor of The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at 409-721-2435 or at ic.murrell@panews.com.