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Opinion
Conor Sen

Amazon and Microsoft Need to Give Businesses a Break

Landlords in the real world are cutting tenants slack. Landlords in the virtual world should do the same.

This is where business is done now.

This is where business is done now.

Photographer: Jasper Jacobs/AFP

A large part of managing the economic disruption from the coronavirus crisis has been keeping businesses and individuals afloat amid the shutdown of large parts of the economy. Banks, landlords, the federal government, hospitals and workers have all chipped in to do their part. But one notable group of companies has been missing from this process -- large technology companies such as Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. But they have a role to play as well, and they too now should offer relief to businesses.

The general idea behind the efforts so far is that in a pandemic like we've experienced, large parts of the economy need to be shut down to slow the spread of the virus and that the economic harm needs to be managed and mitigated. Companies and workers lacking income still have bills to pay. In response, banks, in some cases with government mandates, are letting customers go months without paying mortgage and credit-card bills. Landlords have offered relief to tenants unable to pay rent, and some businesses, such as Cheesecake Factory, have simply refused to pay rent. The federal government has provided loans to businesses to keep them solvent and avoid job cuts; for workers who have been laid off it has increased unemployment benefits to help them pay their bills. Many hospitals, meanwhile, have cancelled profitable elective surgeries to create more capacity for the surge in Covid-19 patients.