Small businesses face big challenges, local organizations and lawmakers offer support


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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — El Paso’s small businesses are seeing an increase in activity as shoppers head out in the warm weather to spend stimulus checks while state lawmakers and local organizations continue to develop ways to alleviate the ongoing challenges. 

State Rep. Claudia Ordaz Perez is working on a bill that will provide access to capital for micro-businesses, small businesses with 20 or fewer employees. 

“We’re also hearing that tax relief is another issue,” Ordaz Perez told KTSM 9 News. “When we’re talking about micro-businesses, the lack of access to capital is an issue.” 

Ordaz Perez said many micro-businesses in El Paso faced issues with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP program) for various reasons and that her bill is designed to specifically help those business owners and their employees. 

The bill is a partnership with the governor’s office, the state of Texas and the private sector that will create a revolving loan program for small businesses with a 0-percent interest rate.

“I just got off the phone with a small business in El Paso that told me because of COVID-19, they’ve racked up like $90,000 in debt, their credit cards are maxed out and they don’t know where to go now,” said Ordaz Perez. 

Ordaz Perez explained that the state of Texas is going to provide funds for the loans upfront and that if a small business were to default on a loan, the cost will be picked up by the private sector.

“If small businesses win, everyone wins,” said Ordaz Perez. 

Capacity expansions for businesses across Texas is leading Gov. Greg Abbott and other state lawmakers to pursue policies that would protect businesses from litigation if someone claims to have contracted COVID-19 at the location. 

On Monday, Abbott held a small business roundtable where he promised to protect businesses from lawsuits as long as the business is operating in good faith. 

“It’s hard for anyone to really know where they may have been exposed to COVID,” said Abbott. “And that’s one thing that would make a lawsuit like this be so frivolous … While we still believe a business would be successful in defending themselves against this litigation, they would still come out to be a loser because of all the money they had to spend defending themselves. They should not even have to spend that money.”

Back in the Borderland, the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (EPHCC) is encouraging business owners to be entrepreneurial in their ongoing mission to expand clientele.

“Sit down and take a deep breath and think about what they’re good at and how to continue to do that and find new markets of customers using technology, using different ways to serve customers, different ways to connect to a customer,” Cindy Ramos-Davidson, EPHCC CEO.

At On Next Sunday, a women’s boutique in East El Paso that also has an online store, owner Erika Williams says they’ve seen an increase in business over the last week as people receive their stimulus checks and tax refunds.

Williams says she continues to observe and respond to changes in consumer behavior.

“We’re just being agile and doing whatever we need to do,” she says. “Jumping forward, and going towards that, and seeing what works.”

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