By MICHAELLA BLISSETT WILLIAMS, CEO
As a small business owner, I welcomed the COVID emergency relief bill Congress approved in the waning days of 2020, a disastrous year for many of us working to keep our operations afloat and our employees on the payroll.
Unfortunately, the rescue package falls far short of what’s essential to sustaining small businesses, the backbones of our communities, as we approach the darkest days of the pandemic and with a COVID-19 vaccine still many months away for most Americans.
That’s why next week I’ll be joining more than 1,600 other small business owners from 48 states across the U.S. — including almost 200 from New York City — to virtually take our concerns directly to members of Congress and urge them to embrace a comprehensive, long-term recovery agenda that puts us front and center.
Every small business owner in New York City and beyond knows that navigating this continuing uncertainty requires more than Congress’s survival stop-gap measure. At my salon, we have had to cut hours for staff out of concern for COVID-19 safety and put off plans to bring on new hairdressers.
We also know that with help from Congress, small businesses can survive the pandemic, support our employees, continue contributing to the economy and be of service to our communities across the country.
Here’s what it will take:
- Short-term pandemic survival policies, including access to long-term capital to cover up to six months of payroll, benefits and fixed operating expenses; rent deferrals or assistance; a temporary liability shield; and tax incentives to help small businesses reopen.
- Medium-term pandemic recovery policies, including streamlined Request for Proposal processes for small businesses, and incentives to encourage larger companies to use more small business vendors.
- And longer-term policies addressing age-old challenges facing small businesses owners and their employers, including access to quality, affordable health care and child care.
Trust me, this is not where my fellow small business owners and I expected to be when this year started. I began 2020 with plans to bring on 10 to 15 new trainees, growing and scaling our business, and we weren’t able to do that this year because of the virus. The pandemic brought everything to a screeching halt.
My story is not unique. I’m part of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices community, and a survey late last year found that 42% of us have been forced to lay off employees or cut compensation, more than half had to stop paying ourselves and a third dipped into personal savings to keep our businesses operational.
While grateful to legislators for agreeing on a relief package, I’m pleading, as a small business owner, for our elected officials to step up with a comprehensive plan for small businesses. We employ nearly half the private sector workforce and play a crucial role in the economies of every state, big city and small town across America.
That’s why I’ll be adding my voice next week to the chorus of small business owners urging members of Congress to hear us and help us. Our nation’s economic recovery depends on it.
Williams owns Salon 718 in Brooklyn. She is an alumna of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices community.