PORTLAND, Maine — When the pandemic shut down companies in March, it didn’t give Michelle Souliere a break from working her unbiased guide retailer.
Exhausted and pressured, Souliere labored “like a maniac” for months after the town shutdowns, submitting mail orders, establishing on-line methods and researching coronavirus security protocols.
When the store reopened in July, she discovered it surreal when prospects would ask her how her “day without work” was.
They had been “utterly oblivious to the battle for survival that small enterprise homeowners on the town had been present process,” she mentioned.
Portland small enterprise homeowners, like Souliere on the Inexperienced Hand Bookshop, are in a troublesome predicament. Many supported the citywide motion that established wage will increase and hazard pay for employees at high-risk jobs, which Portland voters handed by a 62-38 margin in November.
Souliere mentioned it’s unfair to place workers in conditions the place they aren’t incomes a dwelling wage, particularly whereas they continue to be at greater threat for coronavirus as front-line employees in the course of the pandemic.
On the similar time, she and others try to maintain their companies afloat with out shedding employees since unemployment benefits are set to expire and Senate Majority Chief Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, shelved talks of a federal relief package months ago.
However as new coronavirus instances peak, the winter retail season appears bleak for small enterprise homeowners, who typically work alongside the few employees they make use of.
Souliere says she and her husband, Coast Metropolis Comics’ proprietor Tristan Gallagher, have been “forward of the curve” on the minimal wage situation as a result of they acknowledge that the present $12 charge shouldn’t be a dwelling wage — “particularly in Portland the place housing prices are so uncontrolled,” Souliere mentioned.
They’re each working “greater than full-time” and preserving only a few on payroll. Proper now, she employs one and Gallagher employs three.
When the state final week announced a second round of Financial Restoration grants could be issued from federal CARES Act funds, Souliere was relieved to get a portion of the $54-million package deal.
“We are able to pay a few of that pileup of payments and debt now.” she mentioned. “I really feel like I’m not hanging from fairly as skinny a thread as I used to be earlier than.”
Noah Defilippis, who owns the unbiased reward store retailer Pinecone + Chickadee, sees these grants as essential to fill the hole for small enterprise homeowners, and loosen the stress between them and employees.
“There must be extra of that to assist native companies in order that they don’t really feel like they should lay off workers,” mentioned Defilippis, who supported greater wages for Portland employees. “This yr we need to hopefully simply break even and have the ability to assist out our employees in any means we are able to.”