NEW BRITAIN - Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz visited Hispanic-owned businesses in the city Monday in recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Bysiewicz was joined by State Rep. Bobby Sanchez in a visit to several businesses, beginning at a CTown Supermarket. On the downtown tour, stops were made at Criollisimo Restaurant, at 340 Arch St., and Negritas Restaurant, at 80 W. Main St.
“It’s important to know that half of the people who are employed in Connecticut are employed by small businesses. If we support small businesses we’re supporting our communities” Bysiewicz said.
Sanchez, who is running for mayor of New Britain against Erin Stewart, said he wants to let residents know it is alright to return to local businesses like stores and restaurants. He said most local businesses are back and need the community’s support. Sanchez said he has heard from local business owners who said their concern was being able to find personnel to work.
“We have quite a few Latino businesses, mostly bodegas, within the city. Many of them were affected terribly due to the pandemic,” Sanchez said. “I’m glad that things are kind of back to normal but there is also that fear of what's going to happen because of the different variants.”
Owner Brenda Torres said she had run her business in the city for the past 35 years with spotlighting Latino American culture, specifically, Puerto Rican cuisine. She said finding staff to work in the restaurant has been a struggle. But Torres has been able to work and keep her business open throughout the pandemic.
“We are in difficult times but we have made sure that everything flows and continues with the best service and the best Puerto Rican food,” Torres said.
Resident Gloria Pimentel was shopping for groceries at CTown Supermarket during the event. Pimentel said she wishes there was more of a spotlight on the issues Latinos face in the community. She said leaders should acknowledge the community well past Hispanic Heritage Month but she is glad they are doing it now.
“It brings some normalcy to life,” Pimental said. “It’s good to have leaders care about the community.”
Bysiewicz said businesses that were hurt most during the pandemic tended to be retail, women-owned, people of color-owned businesses. She said 80 percent of the funding from the Paycheck Protection Program went to white or male owned businesses.
“Unfortunately, the [Paycheck Protection Program] programs did not provide the resources to those businesses in the same way that it did to white-owned businesses,” Bysiewicz said.
The Equity Match Grant Program helps women and women of color-owned businesses. Bysiewicz said 33 percent of that program funding goes to women of color. Sanchez said local businesses need support at the state level and hopes there will be an expansion of existing incentives, with a focus on minority owned businesses.
“We really need to focus on minority owned businesses because they were hurt more than others. Not to say that everyone didn’t get hurt but this is what we’re hearing from our communities. They need that help,” Sanchez said.