Luciana Gómez, owner of Victoria Café in Dallas, Texas, told The Americano that Biden’s rescue plan was critical to the survival of her business. As a small business owner, the pandemic was a “rollercoaster of emotions,” she said.
This year, President Joe Biden passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) to help working families, communities, and small businesses weather the pandemic.
We spoke to five Latino owners of small businesses across the country about how Biden’s rescue plan helped their companies survive. These are their stories:
Alejandra Chávez, chef and owner of Thyme Matters, a restaurant in El Paso, Texas, faced a couple of shutdowns during 2020, and she had to let some of her employees go.
“I am a female restaurant owner who prides herself in being open for 17 years now,” Chávez said. “I felt terrible about having to lay off my employees, and then I felt extremely guilty about all the food that was going to waste because of the shutdown. I was also scared about losing the business altogether. I felt terrified to reopen during a time of a lot of uncertainty both for health and financial reasons.”
Chávez said Biden’s COVID relief plan would help her business recover and added that reopening was also about gaining trust from the community and customers.
“It wasn’t just about the loss of inventory, but having to pull money together to start again from scratch and rebuild a business that frankly was being marketed as not a ‘safe’ place to visit,” Chávez said. “We are a full-service restaurant, so we were not going to survive on takeout only. We had to gain trust from the community and from our customers to get people to want to dine with us again.”
Anthony Alva, the owner of Sunset Private Security in Los Angeles and Victorville, California, said that last year he had to shut down completely because his company’s main revenue came from providing security and hospitality services to small bars, restaurants, special events, and commercial properties.
Alva said the ARP funds would help him invest capital to fund employee retention and pay his business expenses.
“I would like to get all of my employees back to work with us and see people enjoying our client’s drinks, food, and events,” Alva said. “My company is all about providing a safe and enjoyable environment for everyone and if we can do it safely.”
Luciana Gómez, owner of Victoria Café in Dallas, Texas, told The Americano that the ARP funds were critical to the survival of her business. As a small business owner, the pandemic was a “rollercoaster of emotions,” she said.
“There was too much uncertainty, a constant need for reinvention of what we do and how we do it, and a significant loss of traffic that we are still struggling to overcome. That said, on a brighter note, this pandemic has shown the incredible support of our customers, the incredible can-do attitude of my team, a redefinition of what supporting local means, and an opportunity for innovation,” she said.
Lina Mills, the founder and owner of Creative Ideas Catering SF LLC, a full-service catering company based in the San Francisco Bay Area, had to shut down her business on March 13, 2020.
“It was really hard for the first couple of months without knowing how long the situation was going to last,” Mills said. “And that not everybody was going to receive unemployment.”
Mills said the ARP program helped her business survive the pandemic.
“Biden’s ARP plan has helped tremendously because I am now basically the head of household, without sturdy sales,” she said. “We were affected because our sales decreased, and we still have rent, bills, and company responsibilities.”
Furthermore, Biden’s American Jobs Plan is getting high marks from small business owners. A recent survey released by Small Business for America’s Future shows that 76% of small business owners think the American Jobs Plan will help boost the economy, and 72% believe the plan will help small businesses.
Mills said now that businesses are opening back up, she’s “looking forward to hiring back everyone, and going back to providing our food and service to our clients soon.”
Maricia Pérez Rodríguez
Maricia Pérez Rodríguez, owner of Del Alma Publications, LLC, in Zapata, said her small publishing business didn’t shut down because her books are available online. However, several events had to be conducted virtually. She said Biden’s ARP plan allowed her to reinvest in the business and continue producing more culturally relevant books that are needed for today’s growing Latino population.
“In the beginning of the pandemic, it was very scary,” Pérez Rodríguez said. “We did not know how long this would last, how badly it would affect us both personally and in our business. We soon realized this pandemic would be long-lasting and so we conservatively scaled back our expenses in order to prepare for the loss of revenue. We were pleasantly surprised that online sales remained steady as more parents and teachers were looking for resource books during the shutdown.”
Pérez Rodríguez said that now that she and her team are fully vaccinated, they are hopeful for the company’s future.
“Personally, I am most looking forward to resuming in-person events because I truly enjoy meeting people and showing them our books. Zoom meetings have helped, but there is nothing like speaking with someone face to face,” she said.