Main Street Alliance: On the State of the Union

In reaction to President Biden’s State of the Union speech last night, Co-Executive Director of Main Street Alliance Chanda Causer had this to say:

“Last night, President Biden spoke directly to the American people about the progress of the last year in the face of deep challenges, as well as his optimism for the future. The Biden-Harris economic strategy is producing historic results, in large part due to the public investment of the American Rescue Plan. Entrepreneurship and business investment rebounded, and the economy achieved its fastest job growth in American history. Six million small businesses were supported, and over 5 million new ones were created. It’s important to emphasize that this progress is occurring amidst an historic shift from the old, outdated trickle-down approach to one that centers workers, families, and what small businesses need – public investment. 

However, there is still more work to do to rebuild the economy centered on resilience, security, and sustainability. We still need to replenish grant funds like the Restaurant Relief Fund to make sure those who were forced to the back of the line through racist lawsuits receive the support they deserve. We appreciate the President’s commitment in his first year, and we remain committed to solving our child care crisis and making sure everyone can access paid leave, something small businesses desperately need. A renewed resolve by the administration is also needed to strengthen supply chains, tackle monopolies, expand access to health care and lower drug costs. After one year we can look back on plenty of accomplishments, and Main Street Alliance looks forward to holding the administration and Congress accountable for continued equitable progress.”

Quotes from Main Street Alliance Members on Policies Highlighted in the State of the Union:

On the Need for Paid Leave:

Akshata Nayak, Little Patakha Kids, Jericho, VT:

“I had surgery at the end of 2019 to take care of the fibroids that had bothered me during my pregnancy (and continued to bother me after). Between recovery from that and the pandemic starting in March 2020 and now Ava being home (daycare was closed) – I knew I had to close The Orange Owl. It was a gut wrenching decision because it was a brand I built over 10 years…I am self employed so I can’t access paid family leave or medical leave like people in some regular jobs do. But if there was some provision available that could have helped me during that time, I know it would have reduced the stress we went through.”

Brea Starmer, Lions+Tigers, Seattle, WA:

“National paid family leave is critical for working families, and it’s needed for businesses like my own and the ones we serve. As an entrepreneur and mother of three, I know how hard it is to stay in the workforce while balancing work and childcare. A national paid leave program will level the playing field between small and large businesses to retain talented employees, especially women, who need time to care for themselves and their family.”

Leah Messer, Charleston, WV: 

“Paid leave would be a game-changer for West Virginia families, too many of whom are facing the challenges of substance abuse disorder. West Virginia has the highest rate of opioid deaths in the country. I am imploring Senator Joe Manchin to put his support behind this critical program. Now might be the only time we can get it done, and any delay is more lives lost. What’s more, this program would support business owners like me.”

On Reining in Monopoly Power:

Sarah Piepenburg, Vinaigrette, Minneapolis, MN:

“At the height of the pandemic, Amazon’s unchecked dominance had a devastating impact on my business, going far beyond what fair competition allows. Amazon has undercut my business in many ways. Last April our logistics partner told us they were dropping us from our distribution route. They had signed a contract with Amazon worth one million dollars. By cornering the supply chain, Amazon’s dominance over shipping also made it impossible for our usual supplier to send us bottles.”

Guadelupe Ramirez, AlterNatives Boutique, Richmond, VA:

“Small advertisers are left to the whims of Facebook’s flawed automated systems, and we don’t qualify for human-level customer assistance to help solve problems we have on the platform.

When I would try to run ads promoting our business and our mission-driven work, Facebook’s automated system often would block them. Ads about the goods and wares of Indigenous communities or those already living with the consequences of climate change all were blocked by an algorithm. There was no feedback or recourse.”

On the need for Accessible and Affordable Child Care:

Patrick DePula, Salvatore’s Tomato Pies, Madison, WI:

“As an employer running several businesses, staffing has been challenging. We pay well, provide health insurance and are a great place to work. But many structural issues in our economy are keeping people on the sideline, including lack of access to reliable, affordable and flexible child care. Capping child care costs at 7% for most families and setting a floor wage of $15 an hour for child care educators… is long overdue. Let’s get it done.”

Marcia St. Hilaire-Finn, Bright Start Early Care, Washington, DC:

“If we truly want to give parents choices, we need to offer options for providing and receiving care while meeting household expenses and saving for emergencies and the future, including substantially expanded access to high-quality, affordable child care and prekindergarten. When parents have access to high-quality, affordable child care, their ability to work increases, and so does their household income. Wishing away a need for public investments like paid leave also leaves behind child care small business owners who, like me, has personally paid out of pocket to help ensure my employees do not go without pay when they are ill so we can be open to provide child care.”

Daniel Swenson-Klatt, Butter Bakery Cafe, Minneapolis, MN:

“My applicant pool is severely limited by access and affordability to high-quality child care.  I need a level playing field to allow employees with children who’d love to work in customer service settings be able to afford and easily access a child care center or family child care program. But as things stand now, those staff members with children work limited hours.”

On Corporations Paying their Fair Share of Taxes:

McKeller Crosby, Natasha Crosby Realty, Richmond, VA:

“COVID-19 has driven home how essential it is to fund our communities and provide relief to the Black-owned businesses, the Latino-owned businesses, and the mom-and-pops hit hardest by the pandemic. Now, with all of us already pitching in — small business owners, their employees, people of all races and walks of life — it’s now time for big corporations to pitch in as well.” 

Sara McDowell, The Media Squirrel, Charleston, WV: 

“I don’t mind paying taxes. I don’t mind paying my fair share of taxes because I know where it goes. Local schools. Local hospitals. First responders. And more. All critical components to building healthy and strong communities. But if we want to build healthy, strong, and economically thriving communities, well, we’ve got to address the current taxation system. The Biden-Harris administration’s Build Back Better American recovery package does just that.”

On Affordable Health Care:

Michelle Tressler, Hinterland Brewing, Green Bay, WI:

“I struggle to negotiate reasonable health insurance premiums for my 100 employees. Only about one quarter of my employees currently participate in the insurance I offer because it’s so expensive, with premiums as high as $2,000 per month for families. Not too many people can take $2,000 out of their net pay every month.”