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Small Businesses Needed Help; LISC & Citizens Stepped In

In early March it was business as usual. By March 16th it was anything but.

The COVID-19 pandemic had reached Connecticut and public health officials quickly endorsed the closure of all non-essential businesses in order to slow the spread of the virus. The economic impact from these closures has been tremendous – by late May more than a third of Connecticut’s workforce had filed for unemployment. In many urban communities of color, small businesses are the lifeblood of neighborhoods, providing jobs and critical goods and services. However, minority-owned businesses have experienced the greatest difficulty in accessing government resources during a time they’re needed most. Minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs) are more likely to be unbanked or underbanked and may also face additional language and cultural barriers to receiving federal funds. 

We’re grateful to Citizens Bank for responding to the need among Connecticut’s small business community and for recognizing LISC’s role as a leader in the community development sector to deploy these resources.
— Jim Horan, LISC CT Executive Director

For forty years, LISC has worked in communities of color and alongside their residents, bringing resources to historically marginalized and under-resourced neighborhoods. LISC is pleased to partner with Citizens Bank to provide financial relief to small businesses suffering most. 

“The power of LISC is in its role as an intermediary, connecting resources and technical assistance to build the capacity of community-based organizations and small businesses in historically disinvested places. We’re grateful to Citizens Bank for responding to the need among Connecticut’s small business community and for recognizing LISC’s role as a leader in the community development sector to deploy these resources,” said LISC Connecticut Executive Director, Jim Horan. 

“We are proud to partner with LISC to support small businesses because we know small businesses are so important to the fabric of our communities,” says Lisa Maass, President of Citizens Bank Connecticut.  “Supporting small business owners means supporting the neighborhood ecosystem and their employees as they deliver critical products and services to customers.  Providing them with funds to manage through these challenging times is a lifeline we hope will have a big impact. ”

Through the LISC Connecticut and Citizens Bank Small Business Recovery Fund, 20 small businesses, all MWBEs, were awarded grants up to $5,000 to provide critical financial relief to help keep their doors open.

Sadie Marshall, owner of Sadie’s Professional Cleaning Services in New Haven, had experienced a significant drop in revenue once the pandemic hit. “Everyone was in panic mode. There was lack of work and no money coming in. We had nothing. I felt as if I was going to lose my business. My employees were scared and some of them chose not to work because they were afraid they were going to catch the virus and bring it home to their children.” However, this grant funding from LISC and Citizens Bank is giving her renewed hope. “We were able to pay the bills and have money left over for us to grow our business. We are truly grateful for this opportunity. We’re excited to get back to work serving our community with COVID-19 and Crime Scene Cleaning. We thank God for LISC & Citizens banks generosity. Thank you for investing in the future of Sadie’s Pro Cleaning and our Extreme Cleaning Subdivision: Neat Freaks Antiviral Squad."

Kay & Mitchell - Team Members of Sadie's Professional Cleaners
Kay & Mitchell - Team Members of Sadie's Professional Cleaners

In Groton, Jennifer Conyers, owner of Loks Salon, took a chance and fulfilled her lifelong dream by opening a salon nearly 13 years ago in partnership with her cousin. In 2017, she assumed full ownership. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she was employing 4 individuals – 3 of whom had been with the salon since it opened in 2007. Despite the new challenges COVID will present in working with clients, Jennifer said, “We are excited to get back to our space, each other and our clients, regardless of what our new normal entails…This grant will help us to continue to grow and allow us to follow through on plans to update prior to the COVID-19 shutdown.”

Jennifer and her team from Loks Salon in Groton.
Jennifer and her team from Loks Salon in Groton.

Even though essential businesses could continue to operate during this time, it hasn’t resulted in the same level of income needed to survive. Tony D’s Auto Repair in Bloomfield is such an example. “We have lost more than half of our financial support,” says co-owner Suzanne Drakes. Opened nearly 12 years ago by Barbadian natives, Suzanne and her husband Grantley "Tony" Drakes, Tony D’s Auto Repair was made possible by the assistance of friends, relatives, and “the help of God,” according to Suzanne. Cutting personal expenses and working extra jobs from home to earn additional cash ultimately allowed them to purchase the business. A grant from LISC and Citizens will support them in keeping inventory stocked and bills paid, “We would like to take this time to thank LISC for its assistance at this dire time in our lives.”

These are just a few of the many stories of small businesses impacted by COVID-19 in our communities. LISC is grateful for the support of Citizens Bank in providing critical resources during this unprecedented time. While these twenty grants serving businesses in communities in Greater Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, and New London will provide vital relief, we know the need is much greater. LISC opened the Citizens Bank Small Business Recovery Fund application on April 20th and within eight hours had reached its capacity of 100 applications. Additional support for Connecticut businesses has been made possible through LISC’s national small business grant program, sponsored by Verizon, Lowes, and Sam’s Club.

To learn more about LISC’s work supporting small businesses, click here. To see the complete list of grant recipients, click here.

If you would like to contribute to our efforts supporting small businesses, please contact Kasey LaFlam.