State officials work to remove barriers to assistance for small businesses during challenging times

Eleven months into the pandemic, small businesses are still fighting every day to stay open.

Now some in the Twin Cities are learning about how they may qualify for assistance during the challenging times. 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS went to the HmongTown Marketplace in St. Paul to find out about the struggles vendors are facing and the help that’s available.

"I don’t make anything, so it’s really tough for me. .. Some days I only make $50," said Jada Vang, who owns a food business inside HmongTown Marketplace.

Vang said she loves creating meals for customers. But since the COVID-19 crisis began, she’s gone in debt.

"You spend your money to buy stuff to make it, but when you’ve got your food prepared and there’s nobody, you have to throw your food away, you lose that money and you have bills to pay," Vang said.

Just like Vang, Sai Xiong, who owns Povhaum Studio, hopes the pandemic won’t shatter his goals to expand his screen printing company.

"Anxiety, it can cause fear to small businesses like myself to pursue and continue my dream, and I think it is a scary time," Xiong said.

So, the Minnesota Small Business Administration and the Small Business Development Center visited HmongTown Marketplace to remove barriers to help.

"We try and help them figure out a way to reimagine their business, to remain in business and to remain viable," Bruce Strong, state director with the Small Business Development Center, said.

The clock is still ticking. The Small Business Administration wants all kinds of business owners to know there is still money on the table.

"Last year, about 20 of them took part in our programs," District Director for the Minnesota Small Business Administration Brian McDonald said. "But there are about 150 vendors here … These programs are really a lifeline for small businesses."

The Minnesota SBA said the Paycheck Protection Program provides loans during the pandemic, even if a business has just one employee, and borrowers may be eligible for up to 100% loan forgiveness.

Toua Xiong, the owner of HmongTown Marketplace, said he hopes their futures are strong as they work through the struggles of the pandemic.

"What do you do so you have a better life? What do you do so the next generation is not suffering?" Toua Xiong asked. "So as a business person today, your job is a big job."

To learn more about how to get help from the SBA, click here. To also learn more about getting assistance via the Small Business Development Center, click here.