Dear Govs. Phil Murphy, Andrew Cuomo and Ned Lamont,
I know that you are responding to thousands of immediate needs, and I wanted to make sure that a very pressing need for small businesses with employees is also on your list — a commercial lease relief and payroll stimulus package. The passage of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act represents a major milestone in jumpstarting our economy. However, small, minority and women business owners like me need you, our governors, to do more.
We need to retain both our employees and our offices, so that when the self-quarantine orders are lifted, we have people and places to return with and to.
According to the U.S. SBA Office of Advocacy, 99% of all businesses in the New York City metro area are small businesses and employ nearly half of all working people in the tri-state area. As one of the 3.5 million small business owners employing 6.5 million people in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, I implore you to help us pay our office rent and make payroll.
I am grateful for the emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan grants. However, the current level of funding will only support 1 million of the 30.2 million small businesses nationwide. I also appreciate the payroll tax credits. However, we need cash to make payroll, not tax credits. I should not have to withdraw from my severely depressed retirement account to pay subcontractors or make payroll and office lease payments. I am already doing that with my business line of credit.
The CARES Act offers significant loan opportunities, yet provides for deferred loan payments — not forbearances, and distributes $275 million in restricted funding to support entrepreneurial counseling and training services. Perhaps you can redirect a portion of these funds to provide for more immediate and direct small business relief.
We lease office space that we are restricted from entering because you have understandably ordered all non-essential businesses closed. Our monthly lease payments, however, are still open, and in fact due in two days. We arrange for our employees to work remotely — an additional expense. It’s like sending our children off to college with laptops, appropriate business software applications, high-speed internet access and a quiet space to work. Yet, they are not our children and they are not going to college. They are our team members and they are heading home. We need your help.
The tri-state area’s supply chain must be fortified with cash, not counseling. Our employees need health benefits, not entrepreneurial training. The current model of low-interest loans, entrepreneurial counseling and training are repeats of older packages implemented during the Hurricane Sandy crisis and the Obama Affordable Jobs Act.
We need a new stimulus approach for this new economy.
I know that you are committed to seeing all residents, as well as small, medium and large businesses, through this calamity. As you develop your tool kit to tackle this crisis, I ask you to include a commercial lease relief and payroll stimulus package for small business owners in your strategic arsenal of solutions.
We are all in this together!
Cheryl McCants is a bilingual communication and marketing professional with more than 25 years of integrated strategic development and global crisis communication experience. She is the CEO and president of Impact Consulting Enterprises, which she founded in 1989 and is based in East Orange.