HONOLULU (KHON2) — COVID and the mounting recession has made it more difficult for small and mid-size businesses to succeed.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “In June 2021, 6.2 million people did not work at all or worked fewer hours because their employer closed or lost business due to the coronavirus pandemic. This is down from 7.9 million in May 2021 and from 49.8 million in May 2020.”

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The U.S. Federal Reserve said that “about 400,000 establishments closed in the second quarter of 2020 only to reopen thereafter; these temporary closures accounted for 1.8 million of the nearly 3 million jobs lost to closures in that quarter. The surge of reopenings in the third quarter, at about 370,000, nearly made up for the second-quarter temporary closures; though these reopenings brought back only 1.2 million jobs.”

Sen. Ed Case testified before the House Small Business Committee on June 29, 2021 and said, “This economic crisis has had a profound impact on Hawai’i’s small businesses, which are the lifeblood of my state. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hawai‘i had 135,567 small businesses, roughly 1 business for every 10 people.”

He added that “although it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact number of small businesses we lost due to the pandemic, late last year Yelp estimated that well over a thousand businesses in Hawai‘i permanently closed because of the pandemic. Sadly this includes Hawai‘i institutions with long roots in the community, like Loves Bakery, Likelike Drive-in and many more.”

As a result of the tumultuous economic scenario that has unfolded since March 2020, Mayor Rick Blangiardi said that the City and County of Honolulu is launching the Oʻahu Business Recovery grant program on Jan. 30 at 8 a.m.

The City’s Office of Economic Revitalization and the Chamber of Commerce Hawai’i are partnering on this venture that will bring $10 million in grants to hundreds of O’ahu’s small businesses. In particular, it will help those businesses that endured a 25 percent drop in revenue or more during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One of my top priorities is stabilizing small businesses as we emerge from the pandemic,” said Mayor Rick Blangiardi. “I encourage eligible Oʻahu companies that have been financially affected by the pandemic to see if they can qualify and if so, take advantage of this opportunity.”

“Small businesses are the foundation of our economy and many are still recovering from the impacts of COVID-19,” said Chamber of Commerce Hawaii President & CEO Sherry Menor-McNamara.

The program will open online and will allow up to 400 businesses to apply. The grants range from $15,000 to $50,000 and will be based on first come first served until the funds are depleted. The amount awarded will depend on revenue lost based on each business’s net income for 2020 and 2021 once compared to their 2019 reported income.

The website will offer applications online in ‘Ōlelo Hawaiian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Tagalog and Spanish. Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce Hawai’i will be working with business owners whose first language is not English to ensure they understand how to apply and have enough time to navigate the application process.

OER and the Chamber will also be providing a webinar on Wednesday, Jan. 11 at 2 p.m. City Officials said that no account is needed to access the webinar and that those who cannot attend at that time will be able to watch the video which will remain posted.

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“As the pandemic has evolved, so have the issues facing our small business community. We are pleased to partner with the City and County of Honolulu to administer this program. Using federal funding to support small businesses is key to their continued recovery,” added McNamara.