Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) attempted to demonstrate her support of Michigan’s small businesses Tuesday, promising her commitment to the local economy. She was promptly met with backlash from social media users and business owners who remember her “draconian” COVID policies.
The governor tweeted her stand with small businesses from her official account, saying, “Supporting Michigan’s small businesses means supporting the vitality of our local communities. The data shows that small businesses are at the forefront of driving innovation, jobs, and economic growth in our state, and I’m committed to getting them the support they need.”
In response, Michigan small business owners criticized how she portrayed herself as a warrior for local business.
Diane and Eric Schindlbeck opened a restaurant in rural western Michigan just six months before the beginning of the COVID pandemic. Their steakhouse survived the first lockdown, and they were able to keep their staff by providing meals to first responders in the first 12 weeks of the pandemic.
In the summer of 2020, the restaurant reopened, but a second shutdown from the Whitmer administration in November 2020 was too much, and the Schindlbecks had no choice but to shutter their business permanently.
“This governor put fear into our hearts and in our minds and in our businesses because no one knew what the rules were,” Diane Schindlbeck told The Daily Wire.
On March 16, 2020, Whitmer ordered public spaces such as bars, theaters, bowling centers and casinos to close and only allowed restaurants to serve food through delivery and pick-up orders. For months, Whitmer ordered restaurants to limit the number of customers served at a time, requiring that all businesses enact social distancing and masking requirements.
Theaters, bowling centers and other small businesses were forced to shut down completely from mid-March 2020 through the end of that summer. Then, Whitmer allowed casinos in Detroit, the state’s most populous city, to reopen in late July 2020 while forcing small bars in northern Michigan to shutter indoor service.
The governor’s COVID restrictions affected the state’s small businesses for over a year after a second shutdown in November 2020. It wasn’t until late June of 2021, a year and four months after the governor signed her first emergency order, that the restrictions on businesses finally ended.
The Schindlbecks purchased new property in February 2021 to open their new restaurant and general store in hopes for a second chance at their goal. However, a struggling economy reeling from a supply chain crisis is making it difficult for them and other small business owners to get by.
Mrs. Schindlbeck criticized Whitmer’s tweet and questioned how the governor was backing up her words with action. “The comment of ‘I’m committed to getting [small businesses] the support they need,’ where is that support?” she asked.
Whitmer’s Republican opponent in the upcoming gubernatorial election, Tudor Dixon, has been a consistent critic of Whitmer for her lockdown policies, arguing that they harmed local business and negatively affected other parts of Michigan life.
“Gretchen Whitmer implemented the most draconian and extreme lockdowns in the country throughout the pandemic,” Dixon told The Daily Wire Thursday. “She destroyed our small business community, stole years of schooling from our kids, and forced hard working Michiganders to follow her intrusive orders that picked winners and losers.”
Dixon then revealed how she would have taken a different approach. “As governor, I would have instead partnered with our community leaders, neighboring states, and the people of Michigan to follow the science, share the facts, and enable individuals to make choices for themselves,” she commented. “There would have been no extreme lockdowns, no extended school closures, and no restrictions and mandates that were outright confusing and cruel.”
“I think [Whitmer] has been given opportunities to help us, but she refused to do it,” said Karla Wagner, another small business owner. She explained that the governor often claims to help small businesses by directing money to programs that don’t address the direct needs of small businesses. She gave a grim outlook of Whitmer’s policies going into the future, saying “We’re not going to survive another four years of Whitmer.”