LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Gov. Steve Sisolak held a virtual roundtable discussion focused on helping small businesses on Tuesday. He was joined by Lt. Governor Kate Marshall, Nevada State Treasurer Zach Conine and a group of the state’s small business owners.
Sisolak stated, “We’re going to do a lot more listening than talking,” regarding his desire to hear all the challenges small businesses are facing, so the state can provide answers.
The Nevada state team listened to challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and also received feedback from business owners on how the state can better assist them.
SMALL BUSINESS OWNER RECOMMENDATIONS
Business owners presented ideas to Sisolak on what would help them moving forward:
- Weekly or monthly promotion of a small business
- Rent forgiveness in full or partially if a business has to close due to COVID-19
- A state tax relief for small businesses
The owner of a popular pizzeria in Las Vegas says he and his wife had to close their business due to pandemic fears.
They expressed concern that employees are just getting by, so they come in sick “because they have to eat.”
The business owner says their business was doing well, but closed because they are at-risk individuals. They say they want to get the vaccine before planning to reopen. Their pizzeria reopening has been further delayed due to the difficulty they experienced navigating the vaccine scheduling website.
A business owner on the virtual meeting shared that it would be helpful if there was a centralized online resource where small businesses could go to learn more on how ” to expand their business during a pandemic.” He says business owners looking for resources to overcome new challenges the COVID-19 pandemic introduced.
SMALL BUSINESS ADVOCACY CENTER
The governor had Marshall provide details on the Small Business Advocacy Center that is planned to be a one-stop location to help small businesses take advantage of resources available.
Marshall says data shows, “The difference between a small business being able to keep on going during this time or have to shut its doors can be whether or not they can access the kinds of programs the federal and state and local governments have to help our businesses get through.”
The center will be designed to ensure there is a place where small business owners can go to directly be put in contact with the resources needed to make it through the pandemic.
The three goals Marshall says the center will work to meet are:
- Connecting small businesses to grant programs
- Providing a place small businesses can call for support with business issues
- Identifying concerns, then giving that information to legislature to shape better service
GRANT ASSISTANCE PLAN
As part of Sisolak’s Economic Action Plan laid out in his 2021 State of the State address, he announced his intention to allocate an additional $50 million to provide direct grant assistance to small businesses. Conine gave details on this plan during the virtual meeting.
He says 13,000 businesses applied for the soon to be $100 million PETS grant program, with $150 million requested by small businesses.
“The largest small business assistance program in the history of the state,” Conine noted.
He says through calls made to small business owners to determine need and eligibility for funds, they’ve learned there is a massive need for businesses, and it is not just monetary.
In the next few week, Conine says the additional $50 million in grant funds will be available, pending the legislature passing the bill.
Dir. Michael Brown says he appreciates support received from the local Latin, Las Vegas and Reno Chambers to communicate with small businesses on their needs. Brown says they’re working on diversification — bringing manufacturing and advanced healthcare to Nevada.
MEDIA QUESTION ON GRANT FUNDING
The media presented a question on grant funding and where the additional $50 million for the PETS grant will come from, the general fund or if the funds will come from federal relief dollars yet to be received, or leftover funds from the Cares Act.
State officials clarified that Sisolak worked to acquire those funds from coronavirus relief funds. The deadline to spend those funds was extended, so being resourceful, the “carryover” was approved by the legislature at a 2020 IFC meeting, and then funds went to the general fund. Once reappropriated to 2021 in the upcoming session, it can be appropriated to the PETS program.
At the end of the virtual roundtable discussion Sisolak suggested the media highlight a local small businesses each week, in hopes the exposure would help a business survive the pandemic — encouraging Nevada residents to shop local.