ARPA Insight Stories: Small Business Wage Subsidy Program

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In November 2021, Mayor Brandon M. Scott awarded the Mayor's Office of Employment & Development $30 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to expand workforce development and job placements throughout the city. From this investment, the Mayor's Office of Employment Development designed a $1.5 million initiative to promote local job growth and help unemployed or underemployed residents to recover from the negative economic impacts of the COVID-19 public health emergency. The Small, Minority, and Woman-Owned Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) supports the Mayor's Action Plan for Equitable Neighborhood Development and commitment to ensuring an equitable economic recovery.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many communities have been negatively impacted. While small businesses have been resilient throughout the pandemic, many experienced economic challenges due to loss of customers and lack of employees with over 41.3% of small businesses temporary closed due to the pandemic and 10.1% reporting a decrease in employment due to COVID-19. SBWS aims to address these impacts by employing Baltimoreans in local businesses. For a business to qualify for a subsidy, it must be a Baltimore business, negatively impacted by the pandemic, with 100 or fewer employees and 51% or more business share minority and/or woman owned.

Through the program, also called "The Road to 10," businesses can receive up to three subsidies to hire unemployed or underemployed Baltimore City residents and employ them for at least 10 weeks. During the tenure of the program, over 47 businesses have received subsidies and 254 Baltimore residents have been hired.

Meet Tammira Lucas of The Cube Cowork 

With a mission to create a world where raising a family and running a business is normal, Dr. Tammira Lucas opened The Cube Cowork in 2016. While the Cube Cowork achieved great success, like many other small businesses, The Cube Cowork faced turmoil due as a result of the pandemic. "We had to shut down. No one was working, and when things opened back up we started losing employees because during that transition back to work, some people found better jobs or just made lifestyle changes." Through SBWS, Dr. Lucas was not only able to meet recovery goals by receiving funding to hire employees, but also allowed her to continue her mission. "[SBWS] gave us the opportunity to do exactly what we wanted to do which is hire people from our community into the space. Being a small black-owned business, our goal has always been to support those that look like us in various ways and help them create wealth within their families. And so, this funding opportunity allowed to do that."

Meet Rochelle Hamilton of Amya's Angels Learning Academy

A childcare provider for 5 years and a small business owner for the past 2 years, Rochelle leads Amya's Angels Learning Academy, serving over 47 children and impacting many more lives. At the height of the pandemic, the childcare program saw a drastic decrease in enrollment and was only allowed to enroll children of emergency care workers due to restrictions. Despite the challenges placed by the COVID-19 public health emergency, Rochelle saw the wage subsidy as an opportunity to influence the lives of many members of the community. "It definitely impacted the business because being able to hire more staff means being able to take on more kids. Our staff-to-child ratio has picked up which means we're able to service more people. At first, we were limited with the number of kids we could service because of the staffing issue and with the pandemic, but since we've been able to bring people back to work, we've been able to service more people and we've been doing really well." 

Meet Sylva Lin from The Culinary Architecture

Located in the heart of the South Baltimore community lies Culinary Architecture, a catering business led by Sylva Lin. Committed to opening a business in an area that were considered "troubles areas" for businesses, Sylva opened Culinary Architecture in 2015 to show the potential in this community. "We want to be an example of a business that stays local. I love the people in my community. I think they deserve to see promising and different types of businesses in the community." Nonetheless, Culinary Architecture still took a hit during the pandemic. "The pandemic took a direct hit on us because we faced extra challenges. For a long time during the pandemic we didn't have any orders because no one was ordering. It also made it harder to employ people because people weren't encouraged to get out of the house." The small business work subsidy was not only a stepping stone to the recovery from the pandemic's economic effects but allowed Sylva to truly invest in areas she believed needed the most attention. "There were a lot of things we needed to change and pivot. The grant helped that. You got 10 weeks to train someone, without the stress of going through payroll and we could invest in other things. I believe that employees should have an enjoyable experience working here. They should be able to enjoy their work and the grant allowed us to train our employees in a stress-free way. We employed two people. They still work here and will continue working here."

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