Southfield — During the pandemic, Tara Young, owner of 44 Burrito in Detroit, had to gradually reduce her opening days as she lost nearly 80% of her staff.
“I didn’t have a break,” she said. “We were feeding the frontline workers. I’m taking a break now because of the lack of employees.
Young was among several women small business owners and leaders in sectors such as manufacturing and construction to voice their concerns this week during a roundtable in Southfield with Isabel Guzman, Administrator of the US Small Business Administration.
U.S. Representative Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, moderated the conversation at Lawrence Technological University’s Centrepolis Accelerator in honor of Women’s History Month. She was joined by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and fellow Representatives Haley Stevens, D-Waterford Township, and Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit.
Guzman said the SBA has issued more than $33 billion in pandemic relief through initiatives such as the Paycheck Protection Program and COVID-19 Economic Disaster Loans.
“Obviously it’s had a huge impact on helping businesses,” she said. “But now they still face some of those challenges on the horizon where we wanted to make sure the SBA is positioned to support them with the capital they need and continue to take advantage of opportunities and grow on the horizon. future, as well as providing them with technical assistance on the strategic changes in the business model that they must adapt to in the market today.”
Guzman said the SBA has more than 1,300 centers across the country to help small businesses develop their strategy and address workforce challenges.
Among the top concerns expressed by business owners was how to access capital and contract opportunities. Participants also discussed childcare and labor shortages.
Shawntay Dixon, program manager for the Women’s Business Center at the Great Lakes Community Business Council, said she has seen many women benefit from COVID-19 relief programs, but there is still a need for more funding, especially in the hardest hit sectors, such as the restaurant industry. .
“We still find that now that the economy is coming back, there are still gaps with the women we serve,” Dixon said.
Guzman said the SBA’s pandemic relief programs were closed Dec. 31; however, people who are still being reviewed for economic disaster loans or those who received less than $150,000 before the limit was raised to $2 million can still apply for funds.
Tlaib noted that a bipartisan bill would replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund with $60 billion; the US Bailout Act enacted last year provided $29 million to the fund.
“I love that it’s not just the owners but also the workers who have come to the Hill to say we need to do something about this,” she said.
Tlaib said childcare must also be addressed to recover some of the workforce. “My concern is that we will create the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, but will it get people back to work?” she says.
Gilchrist mentioned the $700 million in state stabilization grants to support child care providers.
“Childcare is our business and a very productive business,” he said. “Nothing unlocks productivity in the community like a place where your kids can be safe, loved.”
Lawrence said that as chairwoman of the congressional Democratic Women’s Caucus, she knows the restaurant and child care industries are overwhelmingly female.
“That’s why we’re so committed to child care,” she said.
Members of Congress have also expressed support for President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better social spending bill, which is stalled in the Senate.
Stevens said meeting the women was inspirational.
“But we also got our marching orders in terms of what we need to go back to Washington and do,” she said. “Tackling child care costs, investing in workforce development, unraveling some of the supply chain complexities that we face. We obviously have legislation to address our chip crisis as well. “
As for Young, she said she plans to figure out what her next steps would be for her food truck and restaurant. In 2020, it reduced its days of operation from six days a week to two. It also has three employees now, compared to 14 before the pandemic.
One of its options is to place its products in grocery stores.
“I have to go do some legwork,” she said. “I also need to find out what other program I can tap into to help me, because really trying to find employees is my main concern.”