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This Is How You Can Continue To Show Support To Small Businesses

Learn how to support small businesses – even in times of socially distancing.

Business

The coronavirus pandemic has unquestionably affected small businesses in a myriad of ways. From working remotely to dwindling revenues, regular processes are becoming a thing of the past as COVID-19 has forced business owners to significantly scale back their operations.

While the federal government recently rolled out a $2 trillion economic stimulus plan intended to aid US business and the American public, small businesses and entrepreneurs are currently struggling to make ends meet. While designed to slow the spread of the virus, social distancing has stripped small businesses of their in-person customers and all but shattered their cash flow. For many independent business owners, from photographers to hairstylists, the effects of the global pandemic can be challenging, if not devastating.

While undoing the effects of the coronavirus will be a much larger job, not all hope is lost. There are several ways that we can help still support our local businesses. We asked a variety of small business owners how people can aid their companies while we power through these tough times.

Jane, Founder of Nolaskinsentials

"Nolaskinsentials is a millennial, plant-based, cruelty-free skincare brand. We offer a variety of skincare products that cater to all types of concerns as well as skin types. To help provide our customers with accurate/personal recommendations, we also offer free skincare consultations as well!

"We're an e-commerce brand, so it's nothing out of the ordinary for us to continue shipping packages to our Nolababes. In terms of getting orders out in a timely fashion — that has been delayed due to the pandemic. However, we're still trying our very best to make sure everyone receives their items as safely and as quickly as possible.

"Our main concern right now is the safety of not only our customers, but everyone that this pandemic is currently affecting. With that being said, we feel the best option is to stay home and shop online for the things you need, skincare included. The safety risks are significantly lower than having to go out and publicly shop. With so many shortages of products from bigger brands, this is practically the best time to shop small businesses — we're fully stocked and ready to push out orders!

"In terms of remaining positive, I've been able to spend more time with my family for one. I also make it a point every morning to meditate and listen to my body and find out what it is I need to continue pushing through. My customers motivate me as well, they give me the extra 'umph' I need to get through the day. Because, well — acne doesn't stop just because we're in shambles. They truly keep me going, without a doubt."

Gabrielle McBay, Chef, Entrepreneur and Content Creator

"I provide private chef and boutique catering services. My business has definitely experienced unexpected change. As a chef, I work with people and events and now that everyone has been ordered to stay at home, all of my events for most of the year have been cancelled. I'm not sure when the next time is that I'll be able to work...and that's something that I don't think anyone can plan or be ready for. People can patronize small businesses during this time by supporting or sharing their products and services. Many businesses are trying to find new ways to reach customers online.

"Along with being a chef, I'm also a content creator. When COVID-19 started, I wrote a cookbook in 10 days with my followers on Instagram. I wanted to give people an easy cooking guide that will help them feel more comfortable in the kitchen, especially during this time. Patrons can support me by purchasing my new digital cookbook, You Have Food at Home.

"To be honest, it's been challenging to be calm and positive every day. I'd be lying if I said I haven't had my moments or been scared of what the future looks like. One thing I've been doing is giving myself grace to feel. It's OK to be sad or frustrated. But it's not OK to be consumed by fear and sit in worry. My faith motivates me to keep going. I trust God, above all things."

Dr. Alison Mitchell, MD, Founder and CEO, Renewed Hair Co.

"We provide clinically proven restorative hair care products that are 100% organic, non-toxic and yield results in the first 30 days. Our pioneer product, the Renewing Hair Elixir, combats a plethora of hair issues including hair loss, scalp irritation, balding, stunted growth and overall hair health.

"Thankfully, our products are made in the US, so we have been able to stay stocked. We have intensified many processes with our manufacturer and fulfillment company to ensure the utmost sterility and safety for our customers. We have, however, incurred delays in shipping times and processing of orders due to minimum personnel working at our centers. This pandemic has prompted us to be intentional with communication to customers and offering relief with reduced pricing during this time.

"There are many ways to support small businesses like ours during this time -- outside of making a purchase. Sharing a story about our products, liking and commenting on our social media pages and telling others about our hair care products are great ways to support. Also, when considering personal care while at home, giving thought to using Renewed Hair Co is hugely supportive.

"This company was founded on faith, and that same faith is what we are standing on to get through this difficult time. We began with a mission to help others solve devastating hair issues and through this pandemic our desire will remain the same. Though times are tough, our loyal customers still deserve to keep their hair healthy and flourishing. We know that this will pass, and we are determined to weather the storm until it does."

Kia Marie, Owner and Lead Event Planner for Kia Marie Events

"Kia Marie Events services includes event planning, event design, event management and one-on-one mentorship in event planning. It's the home for exclusive events for people who love to be elegantly entertained.

"We all are going through some form of change. I'm encouraging my clients to postpone their events instead of canceling. So far, we've postponed two events and two weddings into the fall season and the summer of 2021. The positive change is that I've been able to look at my business as a whole. I'm in the process of a rebrand and this has given me some time to enhance the Kia Marie Events experience for our clients.

"During this time, it's important for small businesses to let their past, present and future customers know that they are still in business. We can support small businesses by purchasing gift cards, online shopping, supporting local meal delivery services and sharing business offerings through social media platforms. If you have income coming in, invest in your business by signing up for memberships, coaching and industry educational courses. As for Kia Marie Events, we ask that clients support by postponing their events instead of canceling them. We are here to help our clients navigate and manage this process.

"When it comes to staying positive, I read daily affirmations, check on my circle daily and invest in my business. I also take breaks when needed. At first, I was bogged down with making sure my business was OK. But God has already confirmed that He has that part covered. So, for me keeping my head high, spending time with my family and keeping in touch with like-minded people keeps me calm and balanced."

Miriam Milord, Founder and Creative Director for BCakeNY

"BCakeNY is a custom cake studio located in Brooklyn, New York. Founded in 2009, we are dedicated to creating specialty cakes for all occasions. Our mission is to transfer our clients' vision into extraordinarily unique and delicious cakes. Our store front in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn is a community staple and we have been serving our clients over a decade now.

"BCakeNY has been majorly impacted by the pandemic. We mainly create cakes for large events like weddings and birthday parties and to keep people safe it was necessary to implement social distancing and ban large gatherings. For us this meant massive cancellations and layoffs. We had to immediately adjust to the new customer need of small cakes for at-home celebrations and virtual parties. We are working with a small staff now, from 18 down to five. It has been a tough adjustment, but we appreciate that we can still provide a service and jobs for a few employees.

"We support our neighborhood businesses by ordering in from restaurants or purchasing gift cards for friends and family. Small businesses are suffering, and we are trying to support our community as best as we can. We are offering smaller-sized custom cakes that can be ordered online for delivery or pick up. We also ship and deliver cake jars. When you order on our website, you can also donate a cupcake to our healthcare workers which we deliver to our local hospitals every week. Times are difficult for everyone and if you can't purchase from your favorite small biz right now, you can always support them by simply liking and sharing their social media posts.

"My employees and clients keep me motivated, we want to continue to provide jobs and joy. Birthdays still happen every day and smiles and joy are so needed right now. We work hard for that every day, despite the uncertainty of these times."

Fatima, Makeup Artist, Content Creator and Beauty Influencer

"I offer beauty services to clients for weddings, fashion shows, photo shoots and special events. With this being prom, graduation and wedding season, my appointments have been postponed until further notice.

"Some of the most effective ways to support small businesses during this time is to like and share their social media content as well as purchasing their products. Being home more allows me time to work on my craft, brainstorm and research different things that inspire me.

"What really keeps me motivated is the people who are still reaching out to me and letting me know when this is all over, they still want me to be a part of their most memorable moments."

Mecca Gamble McConnell, Photographer

"My company, Mecca Gamble Photography, offers brand photography for women of color. Due to the stay-at-home orders, I can't shoot, and I've had to cancel, reschedule and refund a number of shoots and upcoming events.

"Customers can support my business by rescheduling or booking future dates on the calendar. Right now, I am really leaning on my faith and my family. Professionally, I have a group of colleagues who support me and keep me encouraged. During this time, I am enjoying the opportunity to learn new things."

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Featured image via Mecca Gamble McConnell/Instagram

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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