small business

Program to Offer Some Relief for Small Businesses, But Advocates Say It's Not Enough

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As small businesses continue to struggle through the pandemic, a new state grant program might bring them some relief. But it falls short of what advocates had hoped for.

“I think it is survival mode,” said Bryce Hardy, owner of The Charles in Wethersfield.

For most small businesses, it’s been that way for the entire pandemic. The Charles restaurant opened its doors on Main Street in mid-June. Hardy saidthey’ve spent thousands on PPE and other items to keep employees and customers safe.

“We’ve put a lot of money into plexiglass dividers, the tent, the lawn atmosphere that we have here,” said Hardy. “UV filtration, air filters, and the supplies we need for our staff.”

To help some small businesses, the state plans to launch a grant program next week for those with 20 employees or less. Governor Ned Lamont said it would take $50 million of coronavirus relief funding and disperse it among thousands of companies, giving each up to $5,000. But that program is short of what a coalition of Connecticut business associations had hoped for.

“We all want to make sure that as many businesses in Connecticut stay open and make it through, see the other side of this pandemic,” said Connecticut Restaurant Association Executive Director Scott Dolch.

The Connecticut Restaurant Association, along with a dozen others sent a letter to state leaders, before the announcement of the new program, asking for a $70 million grant program for small businesses. They suggested a cap of 50 full-time employees, saying anything less would leave far too many out in the cold. Dolch said he’s hoping to speak with the governor’s administration to advocate for a more significant program, one that mirrors neighboring states. He said grant money can be a lifeline for restaurants this winter while they wait for another federal stimulus.

“These grants, if they’re a little bit larger, in my opinion, than $5,000, if they’re $10,000 or $15,000, they might be able to keep the doors open,” said Dolch.

Still Dolch and Hardy said every little bit helps, that they’re glad to see the state acting. Hardy said he’s spent well over $5,000 on needed changes to the restaurant to adapt to the pandemic, and that any grant money is welcome.

“This money could help us to continue to create a safe environment for diners to come enjoy our business,” said Hardy. “I think it’s a good first step.”

The governor said nonprofits would also be able to apply for the new grant. He said they’ll give more details in the coming days and that applications will begin within a week.

The governor said they’ll also roll out a relief plan for bigger event venues in the coming days.

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