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Visiting small businesses affected by recent unrest

6/12/2020 2:50:16 PM

Hamse Warfa

Meeting with Minneapolis business owners affected by unrest

Many of the shops, restaurants and other small businesses damaged and destroyed during recent unrest are Black-owned, Immigrant-owned or both. As an entrepreneur who identifies as Black and immigrant myself, I know that it takes ten times more work to launch a business. I know the challenges of living in Minnesota, where "nice" doesn't always extend to people who look like me. I understand the expressions of grief and frustration that inspired the peaceful protestors to take to the streets after the killing of George Floyd. I feel it too.

As DEED Commissioner Steve Grove and I, along with other state leaders, have visited and talked with business owners and community residents in St. Paul and Minneapolis we have learned the depth of their losses. They witnessed millions of dollars in property damage, stolen merchandise, and lost income. Business owners tell us they lost not just their inventory and equipment, but they also lost sleep—on the nights of the unrest, and the nights afterward; worried about what would come next and whether they would survive. When their windows were shattered, so was their sense of security and peace in the neighborhood. Both need intentional, community-centered rebuilding efforts.

inside Sunrise Plaza visiting with Hmong business owners

Here's what we heard from Mariano Espinoza, Latino Community Specialist for the City of Minneapolis: "There are no words to describe the losses, pain and suffering. Our businesses were destroyed, our neighborhoods were vandalized. There is no food and jobs. We are facing an economic and social crisis... We need help to rebuild a new community."

We're listening to what business owners and community leaders need to recover or rebuild. And we're working with other government leaders to make existing resources available as soon as possible and identify additional resources that may be available. We're working with local leaders on a disaster declaration to unlock additional federal assistance, supporting other state and federal requests for immediate and long-term funding, and exploring other options to make more resources available to small business owners and displaced workers. 

As difficult as these circumstances are, these visits give me a reason for hope. It's inspiring to hear the determination of business owners to rebuild and reopen. It's encouraging to see residents and community members pitching in to help clean up damage. 

Local businesses, big and small have contributed to meet the immediate needs of food, clean-up, debris removal, and more. The Department of Commerce is meeting with businesses to assist with their insurance claims. This is a team effort from the state of Minnesota and our community partners.

DEED is committed to continuing to listen to small business owners and seeking solutions with community input. We are in this for the long-term, as partners. If you are an affected business owner, please contact officeofeconomicopportunity@state.mn.us.

Hamse Warfa is DEED's Deputy Commissioner for Workforce Development.

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