A Wilson Times Co. publication · Serving Southern Nash County Since 1947

Small business owners need a leader who has our back

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There’s arguably nothing more American than starting a business. The freedom to take an idea, create something new, watch it grow and evolve and hopefully one day build a better life for yourself and your family are at the core of the American Dream.

As the owner of a small business in Rocky Mount, I know that before any business gets off the ground, and certainly before it makes money, it’s important to assess the opportunities and risks, and develop a business plan that is flexible enough to change. But there’s one factor that I never thought I’d have to consider: the president of the United States mismanaging a pandemic and leaving small businesses to fend for themselves.

The pandemic has been devastating for small businesses around the country. In North Carolina, between January and August, 12.4% of the state’s 930,000 small businesses closed. Our state’s unemployment rate currently sits at 7.3% — double what it was at the beginning of the year. 

The thing that infuriates me and the small business owners I speak with is that President Trump has failed to protect the country because he’s failed to plan. And, eight months into the pandemic, after more than 260,000 cases in North Carolina and 4,200 deaths, he still has no plan.

In March, Congress passed the Paycheck Protection Program into law, but many businesses like mine were unable to access that support. And for those who did, the process was chaotic and poorly managed. Recognizing the need for fixes to the PPP and greater stimulus for struggling workers and families, the Democratic House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act in May. Since then, the president and Republicans in Congress have continuously opposed additional relief measures that could have kept more people employed and prevented businesses from closing for good. 

Even before the pandemic, President Trump failed the small business community. Early this year, he submitted his annual budget proposal asking Congress to slash more than $200 million from programs that support Main Street. Trump also tried to eliminate the Minority Business Development Agency, which is the only federal agency focused on the development and growth of minority-owned businesses. 

Gov. Roy Cooper and local officials are doing their best to limit the virus’ spread and support small businesses like mine, but we still need a coordinated federal plan — one that includes additional support for small businesses that have run out of PPP funding or were never awarded the funds at all.

I’m voting for Joe Biden in this year’s election because he has a plan to beat COVID-19. He’s called for a true small business fund to fix what’s broken in the current PPP program and ensure the funding goes to the small businesses that need it the most. 

He would increase access to capital by creating a new $50 billion small business opportunity initiative, providing $100 billion in low-interest loans, strengthening community-based financial institutions and making certain tax credits permanent. For minority and women-owned businesses, Biden shows his deep commitment to racial and gender equity by eliminating barriers to technical assistance and making an historic $400 million investment and commitment to equalizing federal procurement.

Small businesses are at the heart of most communities and the foundation of our local economies. They’re also an expression of who we are as Americans and the values we hold dear: freedom, opportunity and prosperity. If we want to survive this public health crisis and emerge stronger, we need a leader who truly has our back. That leader is Joe Biden.

Celeste Beatty is the founder and owner of a brewery in Rocky Mount.