Cambridge Local First (CLF) and the Sustainable Business Network (SBN) of MA joined forces to create a coalition of business groups to take action in supporting local businesses during the coronavirus epidemic. This coalition is called “Save Our Economy Now!” and includes Boston-based Black Economic Council of MA (BECMA), and the Foundation for Business Equity, along with two national groups–American Independent Business Alliance(AMIBA) and American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC).
This group created a series of demands that would support the survival of small businesses, with a special emphasis on Black and Brown businesses. We are happy to report that this coalition definitely had an impact through petition campaigns, significant public relations efforts, and direct contact with legislators. One of CLF’s co-founders and the Executive Director of SBN, Laury Hammel, who also owns the Longfellow Health Clubs became a spokesperson for Save Our Economy Now! specifically pushing for major changes in the Payroll Protection Program (PPP). Changes were needed, so that small businesses that were shut down could actually benefit from the PPP funding when they opened up. Laury was featured on seven different media outlets where he exposed the inadequacies of the PPP that led to favorable terms for local businesses. He participated in many CLF Community Conversations (notes attached, see calendar for future meetings) and became a de facto consultant for several Cambridge businesses during this complicated PPP process. As summary, small businesses had a big victory as the PPP rules were radically changed for the better including:
- Moved the timeframe for use of the funds to be forgiven from 8 weeks to 24 weeks.
- Reduced the amount of payroll expenses required for debt forgiveness from 75% to 60%.
- Extended the funds used for a loan from two years to five years.
This is one example of the profound power small local businesses can have, when we band together around a common mission. Let’s take this positive experience as an inspiration to continue to promote and support small businesses, and in particular Black and Brown businesses.