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To the Honorable Governor Lamont and Leaders of the General Assembly:
As you know, Connecticut businesses continue to be severely impacted by the COVID‐19 pandemic. Across every sector, employers have operated under extreme uncertainty for more than seven months, finding new ways to operate while also keeping their employees and customers safe. These efforts have been particularly difficult for Connecticut’s many small businesses, who last year collectively employed more than 730,000 people in our state. Given the unique impact of the pandemic on these employers and their employees, we write today to request that resources be made available from existing federal CARES Act funding to directly support Connecticut small businesses, and to help ensure they can and will be a key part of our state’s economic recovery in the months and years ahead.
In March, the CARES Act stimulus bill was passed by Congress and signed into law, sending nearly $1.4 billion dollars to Connecticut. It is our understanding that while much of this funding has been allocated or earmarked, hundreds of millions of unallocated dollars remain. The creation of a new small business grant program with $70 million in funding (approximately 5% of Connecticut’s total stimulus funding) would send a lifeline to thousands of local businesses that are struggling to remain open right now. These businesses cannot wait for additional action from Congress – they need access to available federal funding, and they need it now.
Connecticut’s neighboring states are already taking clear steps with their own federal stimulus allocations to help their small businesses. Rhode Island’s “Restore RI” program has set aside $60 million for small businesses that have experienced a revenue loss due to COVID‐19 of at least 30%. And just this week, New Jersey announced a new $100 million program of a similar nature. These states and others are recognizing that waiting for additional federal action on a second stimulus is no longer a viable option, and that the economic cost of letting more small businesses fail will far outpace the cost of a modest grant program.
Connecticut does not need to mimic any specific model, but there are key elements that should be part of our program. For instance, both Rhode Island and New Jersey use an appropriate ceiling of 50 full‐time employees in their criteria; a cap that is any lower than 50 would leave far too many businesses out in the cold. Additionally, both states find ways to acknowledge that the hospitality industry has been uniquely harmed by COVID, offering some additional help to these businesses while still keeping the program open to all sectors.
Connecticut has been a national leader in combating the COVID‐19 crisis, and we commend your work as state leaders to understand that Connecticut can prioritize public health without losing sight of its economic future. We can continue to be leaders in these areas now by creating a new grant program to aid small businesses in need. Thank you for your consideration, and we are at your disposal if we can provide additional insight or information.
Chris DiPentima, President & CEO, Connecticut Business & Industry Association
Scott Dolch, Executive Director, CT Restaurant Association
Robert Murdock, President, CT Convention & Sports Bureau
Timothy G. Phelan, President, CT Retail Merchants Association
Shiran Nicholson, President & Founder, CT Event Industry Coalition
Steven Tagliatela, President, CT Tourism Coalition
Wayne Pesce, President, CT Food Association
Tony Sheridan, President, Chamber of Commerce and Eastern Connecticut
Ginny Kozlowski, Executive Director, CT Lodging Association
Julio A. Concepcion, Executive Director, Hartford Chamber of Commerce
Mary Ellen Dombrowski, President, CT River Valley Chamber of Commerce
Larry McHugh, President, Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce
Andrew Markowski, Connecticut State Director, National Federation of Independent Business