Vanessa Pugh has a message for small businesses affected by COVID: When it comes to accessing finance amid the pandemic, which has particularly affected some of the black and brown communities, there is help.
“My best hope is that people understand that there are resources,” said Pugh, an independent contractor with the National Council, whose mission includes creating jobs through small business loans.
No business is too small, said Pugh, former deputy commissioner for economic development and planning for Suffolk County. And no situation is too serious.
For struggling business owners, this is a welcome message, although it may be something they need to hear repeatedly before they recognize that trustworthy assistance is needed. available. Some are so busy they don’t know where to turn for help.
âA business owner can be part of a team of one, two or three people, and all of his blood, sweat, tears and work goes into running the business,â Pugh said, who now runs his own small business, Acts2 Consulting.
It’s a tough situation that makes it difficult to find solid access to capital, and even when owners do, there are demands to fill out, meaningful narratives to gather, and financial records to assemble. The process can become overwhelming, with the pandemic making it much more difficult, especially for women and minority-owned businesses, advocates say.
As businesses contemplate an economic recovery, 44% of small business owners have less than three months of cash reserves, putting businesses and team members at risk in the event of a COVID-19-related shutdown or any other emergency, according to a recent poll. Highlighting what could be an “uneven recovery,” the number was even higher, 51%, for black-owned businesses. That’s according to Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Voices, which surveyed 1,145 participants from August 30 to September 1.
When it comes to prospects for access to capital, only 31% of those surveyed said they were very confident they had access to finance, while only 20% of small black-owned businesses said they were very confident. in their access to capital.
This prospect is “extremely disturbing,” said Matt Cohen, president and CEO of the Long Island Association.
âIt is imperative that we make sure they have the resources and the support they need to overcome this crisis,â he said. The LIA âconducted outreach to small businesses during the pandemic and developed partnerships with organizations such as the Long Island African-American Chamber of Commerce and the Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to ensure that businesses from Long Island can access loan and grant programs and receive technical assistance. “
And “concerns for black-owned businesses are still linked to Covid-19 as black communities have been disproportionately affected, and a level of reluctance persists in black consumer confidence,” said Phil Andrews, president. from the Long Island African-American Chamber of Commerce.
Access to capital, he added, “remains a problem due to significant gaps in government programs designed to support economic recovery.”
In addition to access to capital, “policymakers should be aware that a significant number of minority small business owners need technical assistance” as well as “access to advice for small businesses” in order to “Solving the complex needs of small business owners,” he said. .
Still, there are “great” programs out there right now, including with state and county resources, Pugh said. And homeowners disproportionately affected by the pandemic might be able, through the NDC, “to borrow up to $ 100,000 with attractive repayment terms” and get hands-on assistance throughout the life of the plan. ready, âshe said.
Pugh’s role is to follow up with homeowners who are matched with an NDC program, discuss loan terms, and see if they want to move forward. âSometimes it takes 10 calls for the cash on hand, that’s a resource,â she said.
In an age of information overload and misinformation, homeowners have their plates full and may not see the opportunity.
Some may fall into scams or get involved in loan programs where they might receive a rapid increase in funds, but the terms turn out to be very unfavorable.
âAdditional financing is not easy to find,â said Leslie Tayne, founder of Tayne Law Group, a law firm specializing in debt solutions.
Traditional loans can be “a long process,” she said. “It requires a certain number of hoops to be approved.”
Homeowners with limited cash flow and poor credit history may be susceptible to adverse programs, she said.
Tracking payments in these cases can “hinder a business” and “choke them,” she said.
And, she pointed out, these types of programs are ânot consumer loans,â and therefore do not come with the protections of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
âIt can be very abusive for the business owner,â she said.
Pugh said owners need to hear âtrusted and valued voicesâ to recognize the right opportunities.
This is why it is essential to find trusted resources in the community. The LIA has a comprehensive directory of resources for minority businesses.
And there are places and events where owners can talk with resources, as well as peers about their experience in accessing capital.
The Art of Giving & Ujamaa Fest, featuring black-owned businesses at Plaza de Wyandanch on September 25 from noon to 6 p.m., is one such occasion. Dan Lloyd, the head office of the Babylon Industrial Development Agency’s economic inclusion program, will be present at the festival. He said he was eager to speak with people about the financial, technical and legal assistance the program provides to minority-owned businesses, women and veterans in Babylon Township.
âThere are many potential grants and low-interest loans available,â including through New York Forward through Empire State Development, he said.
He said the program had recently partnered with Hofstra’s Ascend Long Island (where Pugh is also a consultant) to support marketing and technical assistance – covering sales and profits, business growth and sales rates. closure and more – for eight organizations.
And Pugh said the Boost Nassau Resource Center will help identify âstart to finishâ opportunities. Another trusted voice for information, Pugh said, is the Minority Commerce Weekly published online by Jim Woods.
Lorraine Kennedy-Gayle, owner of Island Jerk, with offices in Babylon and Wyandanch, said she was exchanging access to capital information with business owners. Thanks to the Suffolk Department of Economic Development, she was able to apply for the federal paycheck protection program.
“The money came in a timely manner,” she said, adding that without him her business “could not have survived”.
âI share this with other business ownersâ who have since seen similar success, she said.
These types of efforts help homeowners find meaningful resources.
It’s with a strong message, said Pugh, that will help experts “make sure they’re getting information to the people who need it most.”