22 Mar The ingenuity and grit of small business leaders are key to recovery in Wisconsin
One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Wisconsin’s economy stands at a crossroads between the depths of recession and a return to healthy growth. We need to seize this opportunity for economic recovery by accelerating support for a cornerstone of our prosperity: small businesses.
Wisconsin’s small businesses, numbering nearly half a million enterprises, are vital to the health of our state. Yet they were crushed by the pandemic, with industries like retail, leisure and restaurants in the direct line of fire. Many lacked the financing to get them through lean times and had fewer financial reserves to start with. Overall, the number of small businesses plunged a staggering 29%, killing the livelihood for tens of thousands of Wisconsinites.
These closings have had an especially significant impact on communities of color. We know that employees of these businesses — who often are Black, Latino, or women and are earning low wages — make up a huge share of the 230,000 Wisconsin workers who lost their jobs and have not returned to the workforce. Longstanding structural issues of racial and economic inequities placed additional barriers to many from the start. The types of businesses that people of color own and work in made them further vulnerable. More than half of the Black-owned businesses in Wisconsin, for example, are in the arts, accommodations and food service, and retail sectors — all of which were among the hardest hit.