About 60 Louisiana business owners met virtually with members of Congress Wednesday as part of a campaign to get more pandemic relief for small businesses.
“We’re thankful for the second round of (Paycheck Protection Program) funds, but that’s a short-term solution,” said Anna Tusa, who owns New Orleans restaurants Briquette and New Orleans Creole Cookery, along with Briquette Wine Room, a space for private events. Tusa said Congress needs to look at actions that will help small businesses in the long term, such as expanding access to capital, liability protection and affordable health care for employees.
Business at Briquette and Briquette Wine Room, which are both located in the Warehouse District, has dropped off by 80% because the convention business in New Orleans has dried up due to the pandemic and efforts to control the spread of the disease. At New Orleans Creole Cookery, located in the French Quarter, business has dropped off 60%. That’s forced Tusa to furlough employees and dip into her personal savings to keep the businesses going. “This is a hard time, and we’re not the only ones hurting,” she said.
Tusa has tried to keep her employees working and money coming in by partnering with Revolution Foods to prepare meals for needy residents and sponsoring creative events, such as wine dinners at her restaurants. But her properties are in tourist areas of the city, so it’s been difficult to lure people away from their neighborhoods, she said.
“We’re scrappers. We survived Katrina,” she said. “This is a struggle.”
The Virtual Hill Day was sponsored by Goldman Sachs and the company’s 10,000 Small Business Voices program, which aims to help small businesses grow.
Ben Johnson, founder of Techneaux, a Lafayette-based information technology services company, said he was participating in the program to pass along information to people such as U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, R-Lafayette.
“We want to educate the people in government that represent us about our business concerns,” Johnson said. “We want to plant seeds. We think that’s how you help your business.”
Techneaux has been forced into a work from home operation and revenue has dropped 25%, Johnson said. “Luckily, we’re in good shape financially,” he said, noting that he followed the advice of successful businessmen such as Warren Buffett and Michael Bloomberg about keeping cash reserves in case of bad economic times.