Opinion | Federal Resources Are Available For Small Business

In 2014, Congresswoman Velazquez released a report on the small business impact of Hurricane Sandy. Photo via the Congresswoman's Facebook page.

In 2014, Congresswoman Velazquez released a report on the small business impact of Hurricane Sandy. Photo via the Congresswoman’s Facebook page.

Editor’s note: The Lo-Down is preparing for a year long reporting project around small business survival on the Lower East Side. Recently we heard from the office of U.S. Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, who wanted to get the word out about federal resources available to business owners. Velazquez is ranking member of the House Committee on Small Business. She authored this article. 

New York City has always been defined by its small businesses, with 190,445 small companies employing half the private sector workforce throughout all five boroughs. These retailers, producers and artisans do more than fuel our local economies by supporting local jobs. They also add to our communities, providing creativity, character, diversity and a sense of identity.

The Lower East Side, in particular, has a rich tradition of entrepreneurship. Whether it is Katz’s Deli, Guss’ Pickles or Russ & Daughters, our neighborhood’s storefront businesses help lend our community its vibrancy. Running a small business is never easy, however, and in recent years, conditions have only become more challenging for the LES’ and New York’s local entrepreneurs.

According to recent survey data, more than two-thirds of NYC small business owners say they are still recovering from the most recent economic downturn. That’s more than any other major metropolitan area that was surveyed. There’s also significant uncertainty among our entrepreneurs about expanding this year. Less than one-in-four small business owners have plans to hire in the next six months.

Meanwhile, to keep operating and make payroll, many entrepreneurs are making significant personal sacrifices. 43% of NYC small business owners said they carry business costs on a personal credit card. 30% took out a personal loan and 37% delayed their own personal compensation to continue funding their operations and paying their employees.

Thankfully, there are a range of federal resources available to help New York businesses stay afloat, grow and add employees to their payrolls. The Small Business Administration (SBA) operates a range of initiatives that can help small companies obtain affordable loans and capital. Through its two largest lending programs, more than half a billion dollars has been extended to NYC small businesses in the last two years. The SBA also provides a number of counseling services to assist entrepreneurs. For a potential business owner who is just getting started, these entrepreneurial development programs can be especially beneficial.

Two Manhattan-based Small Business Development Centers are available with these types of services for New York firms – one at Pace University and the other at Baruch College. The City of New York also provides similar, parallel services through its Office of Small Business Services.

It is important we continue supporting resources like these to help New York and LES firms grow and succeed. New York’s economy depends on a strong small business sector and our local communities would not be the same without this entrepreneurial base. I encourage New Yorkers to familiarize themselves with these initiatives. For my part, I will continue working with my colleagues in Congress to ensure we invest in tools that assist small businesses, the backbone of our nation’s and our city’s economy.