A number of small, minority-owned, Connecticut businesses are still feeling the effects of the pandemic and are seeking help. Friday in Hartford, a round table discussion was held with Sen. Richard Blumenthal to discuss what can be done moving forward.
Before heading to Washington next month, where he intends to further address recovery efforts for small businesses, Blumenthal convened with a community he says is struggling.
“Minority-owned businesses have lost more revenue. They’ve closed at a higher rate,” Blumenthal said.
Surrounding the room were business owners who have faced, head-on, the financial burden the pandemic has created.
“We need help. We need money. We need money to stay alive,” said Patricia Newton-Foster.
Newton-Foster owns two caretaker facilities, one in New Haven and another in Bridgeport. Both require $1,200 per month in rent, and she says she needs financial assistance.
“$50,000 right now would give me a good night’s rest,” she said.
The conversation included struggles of long-time businesses as well as challenges faced by those who opened during the pandemic.
“I’ve been unable to have a grand opening and been unable to do a lot of the advertising that normally takes place for a small business,” said Norma Brown, who recently opened ProVision CT in Hartford.
Most common among the concerns though was the current labor shortage.
“People want more money and we don’t have that kind of money to pay our employees,” said Julian Gordon, owner of Precious Gifts Preschool in Bridgeport.
Historic Events and Banquets, a wedding hall in Manchester, was to open in May but postponed opening until October because a lack of workers caused construction to stall.
“We probably went through 15 or 16 people just trying to get them to work,” said owner, Drew Angelo.
Blumenthal attributed the labor shortage to multiple factors and vowed to go back to Washington to discuss ways to address it. Meanwhile, those in attendance were thankful their voices were heard but still expect more.
“I think it’s important that this is a fabulous listening session, but we need to move from a listening session to an action session,” said Black Business Alliance, Executive Director Anne Marie Knight. During the session, the senator mentioned the possibility of another round of PPP but said he doubted there’d be an extension of federal unemployment subsidies, which are set to end next month.