While many businesses have come forward to support health care workers and first responders fight COVID-19, at least one group affected by the pandemic may have been forgotten: other businesses.
Carlos Medina, chairman of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey said that his organization has been helping members apply for government relief funds – a free service – but is not getting support from large companies.
“This crisis is hitting diverse and small businesses more than the general population,” Medina said. And while the New Jersey Economic Development Authority has provided some assistance to chambers, other businesses are not helping.
“Our payroll has doubled,” Medina said, as the Hispanic Chamber added staff to provide services to members. “Our bills are going up.” When he’s asked large companies for help, Medina said the response that they are “only working on the healthcare aspect right now.”
Jeff Cantor, who leads the New Jersey State Veterans Chamber of Commerce, echoed Medina’s concerns. And he said his members face an additional challenge: state agencies are not honoring the law that sets aside 3 percent of state contracts for companies owned by disabled veterans.
“Virtually no one is enforcing this law,” Cantor said. He named the departments of Health, Transportation and Treasury.
Press officials for the Treasury and Health departments did not respond to requests for comment. Stephen Schapiro, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation, said in an emailed statement that the agency is “actively working with the New Jersey State Veteran’s Chamber of Commerce to develop the necessary contractual language for the appropriate administration of the Service-Disabled Veteran-owned Small Business Set-Aside Program. The language is in the final review phase. NJDOT looks forward to implementation of the program.”
Medina said members of the diverse chambers will not forget which businesses did not respond to calls for help. The big companies, he said, “need to pivot and embrace their consumers.”
The calls by Medina and Cantor may be having an effect. On May 15, Wells Fargo and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce announced that their organizations were among 70 such groups around the country that would receive relief grants. The bank and the national chamber said the grants would total $100,000.