Essaibi-George: Small businesses need a seat at the reopening table

City Councillor at-Large Annissa Essaibi-George of Dorchester is calling for the creation of a task force and a call-in “help line” that she says would support small businesses in Boston as they begin to reopen. She filed her proposals during the council’s online weekly meeting last Wednesday.

“While large industries are well represented in the state’s economic recovery plan, our small businesses do not have a meaningful seat at the table in our plans to reopen,” said Essaibi-George, who also owns her own business, the Stitch House on Dorchester Avenue. 

“To plan for a successful recovery, there is an urgent need to address the significant and costly changes to come for small businesses,” she said. “I am calling for the Small Business Task Force because we need immediate action to ensure our businesses can exist and survive with the uncertainty of reopening.”

The panel would convene small business owners to help inform city policies and to make direct recommendations to the state. Her action received enthusiastic support from her colleagues. 

“I join my colleagues in applauding Councillor Essaibi-George for the hearing orders and for flagging the sad reality that this body, and frankly many folks in the administration, weren’t meaningfully allowed to participate in the conversation around re-opening,” said District 4 Councillor Andrea Campbell.  “There’s obviously incredible value we could have brought, not only because of our unique perspectives, but  also because of the constituents we serve in our respective districts and across the city.” 

Said Council President Kim Janey: “This late file matter will be referred to the small business and workforce committee.” The Council also voted to unanimously adopt the resolution to create the COVID-19 pandemic helpline. 

A COVID-19 hotline, Essaibi-George says, would provide business owners and operators with a direct line of support and inform employees and customers of the safety requirements that operating businesses must follow. 

The Stitch House remains closed, she said. “After a virtual meeting with my employees this weekend, we decided to remain closed until more can be done to guarantee the safety of my staff and my customers. It was an impossible decision made even more difficult by the lack of directives for small and niche businesses.”

She added: “Throughout the pandemic, business owners have been forced to weigh risks for their employees, customers, and the mere existence of their business.”