Small business growing smaller
The continuing – and surging – pandemic has battered the Lee County economy. Especially vulnerable: small businesses, the backbone of our economy. In 2020, Women For a Better Lee submitted the letter below to our county commissioners urging them to allocate additional LeeCARES funding to our small business community (Leeflcares.com).
The commissioners responded by announcing that they were re-opening the Business Assistance Program on December 1, 2020 for additional grants to those establishments which had originally applied for funding.
Unfortunately, this gesture is too little, too late. Our county commissioners are small thinkers lacking vision, commitment and understanding. Business owners are struggling. Many of their employees have been laid off. Their contribution to our economy in employing workers, generating tax revenue, and servicing our consumer needs is huge.
More than $70+ million in program funds remain to be allocated. Money not obligated by December 30 must be refunded to the federal government. NOW is the time for our commissioners to act. What are these guys waiting for?
On Small Business Saturday let’s do our part by shopping at our local small businesses — and let our county commissioners know that they need to do more to help these establishments survive.
Commissioner John Manning
Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass
Commissioner Raymond Sandelli
Commissioner Brian Hamman
Commissioner Franklin Mann
Recently, Women For a Better Lee met with the owner of a small Lee County restaurant about her loss of business caused by the pandemic. We are writing to relate her experience with the LeeCARES program as well as to petition the county to jumpstart a program to further help small businesses using the more than $70 million remaining in the LeeCARES account.
This restaurant owner received $5,000 in LeeCARES funding and PPP money from the federal government. The grant from LeeCARES paid for ONE MONTH’S rent; the federal funds helped with paying employees for a short while, but, of course, the program has now ended. Furthermore, this business could not take advantage of the county’s Business ReLaunch program since the restaurant closes at 2 PM and, consequently, does not employ full-time staff. In fact, all staff work a second job, and as these are part-time positions, her employees do not qualify for unemployment insurance to help them through their layoffs. Currently, the owner is personally paying the rent on her business; since she has a 5-year lease, she cannot vacate the premises.
This is a heartbreaking story, more so because the county is sitting on $70 million in funds sent to Lee County to help businesses in exactly this situation. We believe many other small businesses are experiencing the same circumstances.
There is still time for the county government to design a program to help; it quickly ramped up last spring when CARES Act funding first became available, and there is no reason that it cannot take action now before the December 30 deadline when it must return the funds to the federal government.
Our small businesses are desperate for help. We strongly urge you to help them.