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Thousands of small businesses like mine might not survive until spring without further help

While I appreciate Congress’ effort to pass a small business relief bill, the simple truth is that it will afford only some of us the opportunity to limp into April.

Dobra Bielinski at her Jefferson Park shop, Delightful Pastries
Provided photo

Delightful Pastries’ 21st anniversary is in April. I’m not sure we’ll make it.

While I appreciate Congress’ effort to pass a small business relief bill, the simple truth is that it will afford only some of us the opportunity to limp into April. For other businesses, perhaps mine included, it won’t be enough.

The relief package, signed by President Donald Trump on Sunday, falls far short of what’s essential to keeping many small businesses afloat, especially as we approach the darkest days of the pandemic, and with a COVID-19 vaccine still many months away for most Americans. If we want to ensure that small businesses can keep our doors open and our employees on payroll, we need a long-term recovery agenda that puts small businesses — the backbones of our communities — front and center.

Trust me, this is not where I expected to be when this year started.

My company, Delightful Pastries in Chicago’s Jefferson Park, has been particularly hard-hit. My business relied on catering desserts and pastries for gatherings, parties and events. Those catered events — office parties, business breakfasts, weddings, christenings, birthday parties — have all disappeared. So, too, have the farmers markets, where 20% of our sales are derived.

We knew the shutdowns and ongoing restrictions were important to the health and safety of all Americans. But for hard-hit businesses like mine, these ongoing restrictions have forced us to make difficult, often heartbreaking decisions just to survive.

The result: My company’s revenue is down 40% and, much to my regret, I have been forced to terminate 25% of my workers. I cut my own pay 25% and used personal savings to help my small business survive.

The economic damage isn’t isolated to my business. My suppliers have taken a hit from a significant decrease in orders. I have put off a significant amount of reinvestment into my company, equipment and building. Undoubtedly, this is taking a toll on my business partners and service providers — and their employees, too.

Quite simply, even with vaccine distribution in progress, there is no end in sight for my small business.

My story is not unique. I’m part of the Goldman Sachs “10,000 Small Businesses Voices” community, and a survey last month found that 42% of us have been forced to lay off employees or cut compensation, more than half of us have had to stop paying ourselves and a third have dipped into personal savings to keep our businesses operational. It’s even more bleak for Black small business owners — 61% have forgone paying themselves and 58% report using personal savings to stay open.

The new federal pandemic relief bill will help bridge the gap for small businesses over the next 8 to 10 weeks, but that will fall short of the time it will take for a return to business as usual.

While grateful to Congress for agreeing on a relief package, I’m pleading, as a small business owner, for our elected officials to step up with a comprehensive plan for small businesses. We employ nearly half the private sector workforce, and we need greater access to long-term capital, liability protection, and affordable health care and child care for our employees.

It’s not just the future of my small business that’s at stake. It’s the future of our city and its vibrant neighborhoods — where small business owners are at the core of thriving communities and make substantial donations.

Please join me and other small business owners in urging members of Congress to help us stay open for business.

Dobra Bielinski is the owner of Delightful Pastries in Jefferson Park.

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