Letter: Congress needs to help businesses like mine stay open

The Detroit News

Time is running out for small businesses like mine. Unless Congress acts immediately to provide emergency relief, Main Streets across America — including in my town of Ann Arbor as well as the greater Detroit area —  might as well hang up giant “Out of Business” signs come January.

This is not where my fellow small business owners and I expected to be when this year started. I began 2020 with plans to take the Betty Brigade, which I founded 18 years ago with $10,000 and a dream, to the next level — to expand our thriving business that specializes in moving, organizing and staging homes for sale and also offers handyman services. 

These ongoing restrictions have forced us to make difficult, often heartbreaking decisions just to survive, McRill writes.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought everything to a screeching halt. We knew the initial 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. 

Since March, our business, which requires us to go into other peoples’ homes, has plummeted to just 25% of our pre-pandemic level. I’ve managed through careful planning to keep nine employees on my payroll, but without help, this is unsustainable past the end of the month.  

Many of us small business owners were fortunate to keep our heads above water and employees on our payroll thanks to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) passed by Congress in March as part of the CARES Act. At the time, I really believed it would be enough to keep my business going, never imagining that the pandemic would continue its path of devastation through this year and beyond. 

It has, and we need help. 

I’ll let the numbers tell the story. I’m a proud member of Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses Voices program, and a survey last month found that 42% of program members have been forced to lay off employees or cut compensation. More than half had to stop paying themselves and a third dipped into personal savings to keep their business 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. 

Many of our small business competitors are large national and multinational companies. While they, too, have been adversely affected by the lockdown, their size and greater access to capital put many in a position to weather this terrible storm in a way not possible for small businesses like mine.

I’m so grateful to legislators for the bipartisan approach Congress took in March to pass the PPP loan program. It helped me meet my payroll and keep my team, some of whom have been with me for more than a decade, intact. I urge them to do the same now by joining together before year’s end to pass the emergency COVID relief package, which includes funds that will help keep my business — and thousands like mine — afloat.

It’s not just the future of my small business that’s at stake. It’s the future of our nation’s cities and towns, our Main Streets, where small business owners are at the core of what ensures that communities can thrive. I’m so proud to be part of what makes Michigan a great place to live and work, and to have built a small business that invests in our community of Ann Arbor — from providing jobs and supporting organizations including the Humane Society and Habitat for Humanity, to participating in city-wide cleanups and  giving referrals to hundreds of other small businesses for cleaning, junk removal, estate sales and much more. 

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

Sharon McRill, Ann Arbor