Williams wants investment in small business services

NYC Public Advocate,Jumaane D. Williams.
NYC Public Advocate,Jumaane D. Williams.
Kevin Fagan

Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams has emphasized the urgent need for the city to invest in small businesses, the backbone of New York City’s character and economy, in the FY2023 city budget.

In testimony submitted to a hearing of the Committee on Small Business on Monday, the Public Advocate stressed the need to support small businesses “after so many were devastated and forced to close over the past two years.”

“As we see the light at the end of this pandemic, small businesses are still reeling from its long-term economic impacts,” said Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants. “The pandemic has immensely hurt small businesses, which provide our city with jobs, tax revenue, and invaluable neighborhood character; they are one of the backbones of this city.

“In Spring 2020, most were required to close for what was at the time an indefinite period of time without comprehensive financial buffers or safety nets,” he added. “Many small businesses–approximately half helmed by immigrants–fell through the cracks as language access faltered and an increased reliance on technology left low-tech, mom-and-pop businesses in the dark.”

The public advocate called for making significant investments in, not cuts to, the Department of Small Business Services.

He emphasized that “it is unacceptable to see that the city funding outlined in the FY 2023 preliminary budget for SBS is $124 million, down roughly 30% from FY 2022’s city funding of $184 million.”

Recently, the mayor has called for a number of commitments to small businesses in his “Rebuild, Renew, Reinvent” report, including launching a small business opportunity fund, investing in Business Improvement Districts, reforming and expanding the city’s M/WBE program, and ensuring small businesses face fewer unnecessary fines and penalties, amongst others.

The public advocate questioned, “how their successful implementation and sustainability are possible with significant budget cuts to SBS,” also recommended by the mayor.

For small businesses in New York to thrive, Williams said the city needs a fully funded and operational Department of SBS.

“As the pandemic devastated small businesses across the city, M/WBEs and non-traditional small businesses were hit especially hard,” he said. “Action must be taken to further support minority, immigrant, and women-owned businesses, many of which were unable to receive or apply to relief programs run by the city, state, and federal governments.”

The public advocate also continued his push for Int. 1990, which would require SBS to create an interest-free loan program for small businesses, non-profit organizations, and freelance workers who were forced to close or operate at reduced capacity due to the pandemic; additional financial and legal support for street vendors; and full investment in the Worker Cooperative Business Development Initiative.

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