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IFEL’s Johnson: Small Businesses Need More Help from Government

New Jersey must do more to ensure the survival of its small businesses, especially those owned by Blacks and Hispanics that have been impacted most by the pandemic and subsequent state-ordered operating restrictions.

That was the message from Jill Johnson, CEO of the independent nonprofit Institute for Entreprenurial Leadership (IFEL) in Newark, who underscored the plight of small business owners at the New Jersey Business Coalition’s online Town Hall on Jan. 11.

“While many businesses small and large have suffered, we know that some are impacted more than others,” Johnson said. “The restaurant industry has been decimated, and businesses in black and brown communities have experienced a disproportionately high number of business closures.”

Government needs to play a more active role in “creating the efficiencies needed for business owners and nonprofit leaders to focus on survival and growth,” she said.

“In this age of COVID, business owners understand the severity of the situation and want to operate safely,” Johnson said. “The bottom line, though, is that they need to operate so they can make a living and feed their families. This is especially true in communities where there are few other options and no safety nets.”

Johnson said government must get behind the full reopening of day care and schools so that working parents can go back to their jobs.

“If children are not in schools, women are disproportionately impacted,” she said.

Johnson said that even in the best of times, 50% of small businesses fail within five years. Now business owners are facing the added financial hardship brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and operating restrictions.

“It is possible to continue to live your life, and for business to be conducted, even in this age of COVID—our economy, in fact, requires that,” Johnson said.

The New Jersey Business Coalition’s “State of New Jersey Business” online town hall provided an opportunity for business owners and coalition members to discuss the current and future needs of the business community. More than 150 people attended the online meeting, including a dozen state legislators and administration officials.


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