You reach a certain august age and you pretty much have your life’s rhythm worked out. Sleep at a certain time, up at a certain time. Eat at a certain time, go to the gym at a certain time. No drama, no fear, little uncertainty. All kind of boring and predictable. Then, along comes a nasty little virus like COVID-19 that turns your world upside down and then shuts it down.
There actually are some nice things about this involuntary shutdown. Life is much slower. My calendar, both business and personal, is much emptier. There are parking places on PCH and the ocean and the air kind of sparkle. You start catching up with old friends and relatives on the phone and everyone seems to have little more time. We’re all worried and scared but, as long as you mainly stay home, your risk here in Malibu is relatively low, we hope. And if not, I think most people are fatalistic, sort of, “I’ve done what I can” and, “que sera, sera.”
It’s the business and professional side of our lives that’s been thrust into turmoil. We all, typically, have mortgages and loans and lines of credit, and investments in real estate and stock, and a variety of other things. We have employees and creditors who we have to pay and people who have to pay us and typically, in a healthy economy, the money flows and if your business is successful it works out, except when it all stops. And it has all stopped. So, where to from here?
The Malibu Times will continue to put out a weekly print edition and also an electronic edition online. Go to malibutimes.com and scroll down and you will find the complete Malibu Times turn-page edition online, as you always have. We will continue our daily newsletter (you can sign up for it on our website) and all of our digital media, which includes Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The Malibu Times Magazine will continue to come out quarterly and, additionally, our visitors guide. This newspaper has been in business since 1946, publishing every week, never missing a week, and Karen and I have owned since 1987—that’s almost 33 years. Karen and I were looking forward to retirement but every time we get close, something happens. Last time, we had buyers and along came the Woolsey Fire and we cer tainly couldn’t leave then. Things finally settled down and along comes COVID-19 and we certainly couldn’t leave now. In the words of that great American philosopher Michael Corleone, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
We will all be going through the aftermath of this virus while trying to keep our business alive or our jobs intact. It’s all uncertain and unknown because we’ve never been through anything like this before. We are on a journey together and we’re going to take you with us as we go though the steps.
1. Business Continuation Insurance. We have it and I pulled out the policy to read it. They always say, “First, read the policy.” So, I did what any good lawyer would do and looked at the policy. We have a Hartford Insurance, a good carrier. I’ve been a lawyer for 55 years but that insurance policy might just as well have been written in Sanskrit. One paragraph gives while another paragraph takes away and you have to be someone who does this all the time to know what it really means. My advice: file a claim. Get what help when and where you can and if and when they turn you down, soldier on anyway because most carriers try to avoid paying at first. We’ll take you along on our journey as we go through the process.
2. If you have a mortgage, talk to your bank or mortgage company. Some of them will give you a moratorium on payments for a few months; in fact, the government may force them to give you a moratorium. But the problem is complex because some banks may own your mortgage, and they have flexibility, while others may have bundled a bunch of mortgages together and sold them to someone like an insurance company. The bank may just be a middleman. I understand that several major banks have agreed to a moratorium but some, like Bank of America, are not sure, although my information may be old.
3. The congress just passed and the president just signed a $2 trillion relief bill. There are provisions for small businesses, including loans and grants and forgivable loans and payments to individuals and bailouts for certainty industries who need it to avoid going bankrupt, etc. There are probably also a bunch of goodies for certain senators to get their votes. But it’s going to take time for them to create a process to get access to that money. We’re all puzzling about what we do in the interim. Do we lay off people so they can apply for unemployment insurance? Do we cut hours? How do we cut expenses, both in business and personally? I must admit, we’re sure saving a lot of money by not eating out and I even found I dropped a few pounds since I’ve given up restaurant food.
4. There are apparently some moratoriums in effect. The banks can’t foreclose on mortgages because there is a moratorium and landlords can’t evict tenants during this crisis. I’m sure there are dozens of other impacts from this virus we haven’t seen yet. Tell us about your experiences. How are you doing? How are you handling this? How are you managing to stay sane with all this going on?
I’d like to hear about your experiences. Send me a letter to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org and also to our managing editor, Emily, at email@example.com. You can make them “personal” (meaning not for publication) or “OK to publish in the newspaper and online.”