Equity gaps still exist in New Hampshire’s business assistance program

Governor says state is working to address needs, but is it enough?
Sununu Presser

Photo by Josh Rogers/NHPR

The state’s emergency relief program is making an effort to close equity gaps for New Hampshire small businesses with a new round of CARES Act funding.

Gov. Chris Sununu said at an Oct. 22 press conference that the Governor’s Office For Emergency Relief and Recovery is working alongside groups like the Covid-19 Equity Response Team toward ensuring equal access to a second round of $100 million in Main Street relief funds.

“They’re making sure that the tools are available as well. So we’ve talked about whether it’s English as a second language, making sure there’s translation services or whatever it might be to make sure that all those barriers are overcome and it can be successful,” Sununu said.

Business owners of color wrote an open letter to Sununu over the summer saying that the state’s Black, brown and immigrant communities have not been benefiting equally from Covid-19 relief funding because of a lack of information about available resources from the state. They requested an allocation of $5 million in CARES Act funds for communities of color and new immigrant communities.

The Covid-19 Equity Response Team also made recommendations this summer to provide more equitable allocation of resources like CARES funds to disadvantaged communities, which included improving notification about the funds.

‘Kind of frustrating’

Courtney Daniel is a Black business owner of a stationery company based in Portsmouth. She said she didn’t find out about the first round of funds until the application cycle was almost over, through connections of her own.

“It was kind of frustrating. I felt like it was, again, me finding out at the last minute, so to speak. It was a lot of run around and nothing was right in one place,” she said.

Daniel wasn’t eligible for Main Street Relief Funds the first time and won’t be eligible this time either because she doesn’t have any employees, one of the requirements to access funds.

Daniel moved to New Hampshire from Georgia 10 years ago. She said when she started looking for other Black-owned businesses, networking opportunities and resources for her business online, she found nothing. Providing support to those businesses across the state is just as important as providing the money, she said.

“I would love to see where the state has these kinds of resources where, it’s more panel discussions, it’s more ways for people to get exposure and to connect with one another. Because you just having a business here in New Hampshire is just that, me having a business in New Hampshire,” she said. “It’s important to have those relationships especially when you have 2% or less minority business owners here in a state that is pretty much all white.”

The state’s emergency relief office did not respond to additional questions about how it was looking to improve equity and outreach.

The deadline to apply for this round of Main Street relief funding is Oct. 30. For more information, visit goferr.nh.gov.

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