Business owners have long been the “chief cook and bottle washers.” We can now, thanks to Covid-19, add to that list of duties “securer of PPE.”
With the government, large health care systems and other essential public service businesses Hoovering up much of our nation’s supply, small business is left with fewer and higher-priced options to meet for their PPE needs.
Although the Department of Justice formed a Covid-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force and is operating under an Executive Order to prevent predatory practices, we all know commerce moves faster than the government. Additionally, the Secretary of HHS issued a notice to ensure people understand the items that must remain freely available, including the disposable mask, shields, gloves, and disinfecting devices and products that small businesses need upon reopening.
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And this is where public/private partnerships are critical. It is one thing to provide guidance on what should be available under free-market conditions. It is another thing to work as a collective to create a market of reasonably priced products that can be found quickly and efficiently by businesses that do not have a corporate procurement function.
The group-buying model is nothing new, but it is being newly applied to PPE. I remember in the 1990s, healthcare costs were skyrocketing, and small employers struggled to offer competitive health benefits. Many small businesses joined large organizations—similar to the way PEOs work today—primarily for the cost-effectiveness of group health insurance these associations made available to their members. The American Electronics Association (now TechAmerica/CompTIA), was one such organization that made it possible for many tech startups to access resources they couldn’t get on their own.