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Why won’t Delaware help small businesses?

A Better Delaware has consistently spoken out against poor leadership regarding economy and business in Delaware during the COVID-19 pandemic. We were not the only ones. The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce, the Delaware Small Business Chamber of Commerce, the Delaware Prosperity Partnership, legislators, and business owners and leaders have all called for more attention to this critical issue Delaware faces.

When the Chambers and DPP offered to help, little was done. When industry leaders begged for help, state leaders told them that they were not the priority—only health was. While the health-related efforts here were commendable and necessary (Delaware currently has the 13th highest per capita case count in the nation), we firmly believe that saving lives and saving livelihoods goes hand-in-hand.

On April 13, three weeks after the mandatory stay at home order issued by Governor Carney, and after much outcry from the business community for a lack of attention, Delaware entered a multi-state task force to address reopening with New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.

As if Delaware leadership was controlling the task force itself, transparency has been missing from the efforts of the task force. At the time of publication, we could not locate a website or report for the Covid-19 Regional Advisory Council. What we do know is that New York and New Jersey have recently turned their backs on Delaware despite the alliance.

On June 1, perhaps after realizing the futility of this partnership, Delaware announced its own entity that would, through a subcommittee, address business issues related to COVID-19. It took 69 days, a weak regional effort, and continued pressure from various stakeholders to finally establish Delaware’s Pandemic Resurgence Advisory Committee.

So far, the committee itself has taken little action, despite meeting twice a month and having supplemental weekly subcommittee meetings. The Business Subcommittee has met several times, and the most they have accomplished is asking for data on the impact of COVID-19 on Delaware’s agriculture industry and requesting better communication and more transparency (sound familiar?).

Frankly, Delaware’s efforts to help its own businesses have been next to nonexistent, spare the H.E.L.P. loans that are only available to the hospitality industry. It’s not that we can’t afford to help our small and family-owned businesses: we just gave $2.5M to a British bank that only a year ago took 500 jobs out of Delaware, and the state also received close to $900M in CARES Act funding that has yet to be allocated. We have simply chosen not to help.

Delaware can and mustdo better. Below is a list of what other states have done to help their small businesses, and shows what could be done for our own in the First State.

Arkansas: $7M for zero-interest loans from Arkansas’s Quick Action Closing Fund

California: $50M loan guarantee program

Washington DC: $33M Small Business Recovery Microgrants program

Florida: $49M for Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program

Illinois: $500M Small Business COVID Relief Program, $20M from Community Development Block Grant funds for small business grants, $60M for small business grants

Indiana: $30M for Small Business Restart Fund (funded by CARES Act)

Iowa: Iowa Small Business Relief Fund, Iowa Targeted Small Business Sole Operator Fund

Louisiana: $50M loan guarantee program for small businesses, $300M of CARES for small businesses

Maryland: Emergency Relief Grant Fund for small businesses, Emergency Relief Loan Fund for small businesses

Massachusetts: $10M Small Business Recovery Loan Fund, Empowerment Grant for Small Businesses

Michigan: Michigan Small Business Relief Program, $100M of CARES Act funding for Michigan Small Business Restart Program

Minnesota: Small Business Emergency Loans (interest free), $62.5M in CARES Act funds for a small business grant program

Mississippi: $300M of CARES Act for a grant program for small businesses, with priority for businesses that did not receive federal PPP loans

Montana: Will use some CARES Act funds for business stabilization, deploying funds over an immediate- to mid-term time frame for forgivable loans, and low- or zero-interest loans

New Hampshire: $400M of CARES Act funds for small business grants

New Jersey: $10M for New Jersey Small Business Assistance Loan program, $5M for the New Jersey Small Business Assistant Grant Program, $6M for Small Business Lease – Emergency Assistance Grant Program

New York: $100M for New York Forward Loan Program for small businesses

Pennsylvania: $60M for Working Capital Access Program for small business loans, $225M for micro-business grants

South Dakota: $10.5M for a Small Business Relief Fund

Tennessee: $200M of CARES Act funds for the Tennessee Business Relief Program

Vermont: $400M in CARES Act funds for an economic relief and recovery package

Washington: $10M for the Working Washington Small Business Emergency Grant program

Wisconsin: $75M for a small business assistance grant program

Wyoming: $50 million in grants through the Wyoming Business Interruption Stipend