En Español Know Your Rights
Source: Staten Island Advance
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

A Faint Pulse on Main Street

STATEN
ISLAND
,
N.Y. — If Sherrian Cumberbatch can’t secure a loan to put a deposit down on a
skyrocketing water bill, she may have to shut down the Laundromat she has owned
and operated in Port Richmond for the past 19 years. 

"People are not coming
in like they used to," said Ms. Cumberbatch, owner of the Bright Star
Laundromat at 176 Port Richmond
Ave. She said business is down more than half over
the past year. 

"Your business is your
job," she added. "If your business goes, then you have to go back
into the community for a job."


As the nation’s unemployment
rate hovers above 10 percent and small-business owners fight to maintain their
livelihood in lower-income areas that have been decimated by the recession, Ms.
Cumberbatch and several residents gathered inside a Port Richmond hair salon
yesterday, carrying signs and chanting in Spanish with President Obama’s State
of the Union repeat of his campaign promise to create new jobs ringing fresh
from Wednesday night.


"(The president) said
a lot of things about generating jobs, but we haven’t seen anything here,"
said Sara Dominguez, manager of La Nueva Imagen Beauty Salon at 464 Port Richmond Ave,
the site of yesterday’s gathering for the release of a report by the
Make the Road New York organization.

The report showed that
while Wall Street continues to thrive with the bailout, Main Street, U.S.A. is
dying with an overwhelming per- centage of customers or business lost due to
the reces-sion. 

"It’s gone way down.
It’s very noticeable," Ms. Dominguez said of her salon’s plummeting
business in Port Richmond. "There’s no work, so nobody has any money to
get their hair cut."


The report, titled "Main
Street

Policy Pulse: Small Business Views on Financial Reform,"
is based on a
survey of more than 1,200 small business owners from 14 states, including New York.


Those polled said banks
pose the biggest obstacle to keeping a small business on solid financial
ground, and 67 percent support the creation of a consumer financial protection
agency.


Asked about the impacts of
the recession on small businesses, 71 percent said they lost customers or
business due to the recession; 41 percent used personal savings or credit cards
to cover expenses; 32 percent have seen their business’ credit card terms
deteriorate; 9 percent accepted a loan at a higher interest rate; 14 percent
have been turned down by a new lender; and 15 percent have been rejected by a
past lender.

Make the Road New York organizer Gouri Goyal said the lack of support from banks
is causing the small business owner, particularly the minority or immigrant small
business owner, to get "hit twice" since access to credit and lending
has dried up, and the customer base has been hit by job loss, loss of the home,
or both.


"A double-squeeze, if you will," said Ms Goyal, of Manhattan.
"Right now everything seems to be
frozen. "It’s like, we applied for good credit, but Wall Street gets this
huge bailout and Main Street
gets left behind."


And ignored.

Funding a small business is
tough enough, especially during a recession. When an immigrant business owner
walks into a mainstream bank to apply for a loan, it’s nearly impossible to
speak with a lender, said Sam Owusu-Sekyere, secretary of the Ghanaian Civic
Association.


"There’s
nobody to tell them who to go see when the doors open," Owusu-Sekyere, of New Brighton, said.
"We believe the banks should be more open-minded. If our taxes are helping
them, they should be more open to helping us."