Small businesses are the lifeblood of New York City. They employ nearly three million New Yorkers – nearly half of the city’s workforce. They are wealth-builders for the families who own them and for communities. A third are owned by people of color, and almost half are operated by immigrant New Yorkers.
Yet our small businesses are struggling to survive, hammered by the pandemic and ensuing economic crisis. There has been an estimated 41 percent decline in the number of small businesses open compared to January 2020, and recent studies suggest that many more may close and never reopen. Minority and women-owned businesses have been hit particularly hard, a recent study found that 85 percent of minority- and women- owned businesses (MWBEs) in New York City may not survive another six months.
In order to ensure a just and equitable economic recovery—one that uplifts working class New Yorkers and leaves no one behind—we must act quickly and boldly to support and protect small businesses across our city. Maya Wiley’s plan to Save our Small Businesses will provide immediate relief to business owners city-wide and center small businesses in our economic recovery.
To accomplish this, a Wiley Administration will:
- Lower the cost of doing business by providing meaningful relief on taxes, fines, fees and regulations.
- Tackle the racial wealth gap by building wealth in communities of color through locally-rooted and employee-centered small business ownership.
- Fight to protect commercial tenants and reduce commercial vacancies.
- Help small businesses increase revenues by making it easier to work with New York City.
- Recognize small businesses as engines of local economic development and champion new and operating small businesses by making it easier to set up shop and grow in New York City.
To lower the cost of doing business, we will:
- Put in place a comprehensive regulatory holiday to provide $100 million in City-level regulatory relief to individual small businesses.
- Use this one-year period to conduct a comprehensive review of current practices leading to a reinvention of how the City interacts with businesses, beginning in 2023.
- Launch a new $30 million Small Business Emergency Grant Program, targeting resources to achieve equity goals.
- Strategically allocate Emergency Grant Funds by prioritizing the zip codes hardest hit by the pandemic, most-distressed industries, and those who have not received adequate State, City, or federal pandemic-related aid.
To tackle the racial wealth gap, we will:
- Secure a $7 million investment in locally-rooted and employee-centered small business ownership.
- Promote local and employee ownership through initiatives that grow worker co-operatives, expanding on the successful model of co-ops like Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA) in the South Bronx.
- Create a strategy to prioritize early childhood education centers and day care centers toward co-op conversion, which are vital to the care economy.
- Preserve local businesses at risk of failure or sale to private equity firms by creating Local Economy Preservation Funds (LEPF) using the Federal Reserve’s Municipal Liquidity Facility.
- Seed democratic investment funds in communities, like Boston’s Ujima Fund, which gives community members decision rights and an ownership stake in funds distributed to local small businesses and infrastructure projects.
- Embrace street vendors as New York City’s smallest businesses, so they can grow and thrive by supporting and collaborating with the Street Vendor Project’s recently launched Small Business Consultation Program, which will provide Street Vendors with tools, resources, and skills to grow their businesses.
To fight to protect commercial tenants and reduce commercial vacancies, we will:
- Increase protections for commercial tenants at the city level by creating a commercial maintenance code similar to the current housing maintenance code to create legally required standards for tenants.
- Expand the existing Commercial Lease Assistance program to include litigation services and representation.
- Support the development of a COVID-19 Recovery Lease Program, where commercial landlords and commercial tenants would be able to enter into a new lease that limits rent increases during the term of the lease.
- Create a partnership between HPD and SBS to fill mixed use developments with subsidized local small businesses.
- Link vacant retail properties from the vacancy list to new and existing worker-owned co-ops and non-profit-owned retail cooperatives.
To help small businesses and make it easier to work with New York City, we will:
- Appoint a Chief Small Business Officer (CSBO) in the Mayor’s Office to lead, over the course of the 1-year regulatory holiday, a commission of small business and City agency representatives in planning a regulatory overhaul to reinvent how the City interacts with small businesses – drastically reducing existing burdens.
- Review current rules and practices, including those that impose punitive fees and fines, with a goal of assessing their potential bias against and disproportionate impacts on women-, immigrant-, Black-, Latinx-, and Asian-owned and operated small businesses.
- Expand the City’s commitment to MWBEs, especially Black- and Latino-owned businesses that are underrepresented in New York City.
- Move beyond just increasing the number of certified MWBEs to a deeper focus on increasing MWBEs’ ability to compete.
- Incentivize other anchor institutions to invest in and procure from locally owned businesses by forming a coalition of corporations, universities, and hospitals to set and reach expanded procurement goals with MWBEs.
- Prioritize local manufacturing businesses as suppliers for New Deal New York projects.
To recognize small businesses as engines of local economic development, we will:
- Reimagine how the City government structures its work to support small businesses as a key pillar of economic development.
- Ease the process for new businesses to get started or pivot to new business models by simplifying the permitting and licensing process.
- Ensure equal uptake of business support by ensuring resources reach low income and other underserved communities through partnerships with locally based organizations.
- Strengthen the City’s existing commercial vacancy registry to provide better insights into challenges surrounding vacancies.
- Expand the Open Streets initiative by making certain open streets permanent by working with the Departments of Transportation and
- Small Business Services to create a clear set of guidelines for small businesses.
- Create a grant program for restaurants to do curbside design and build out.
Maya Wiley understands that a just, equitable, and prosperous economic recovery must focus on uplifting and supporting small businesses across New York City. She is committed to easing burdens and streamlining processes and regulations, enabling businesses to set up quickly, reopen their doors, hire workers, and serve their communities. Our small businesses are the very heart of our city and our economy, and Maya’s plan will place them at the forefront of our recovery efforts.