NCET Biz Tips: Pandemic taught lessons for a stronger future

Zach Conine

Zach Conine

As Nevada continues its recovery from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, those of us who work in public service are proud of the ways that the state supported tens of thousands of its small businesses and thousands of its homeowners during troubled times.

Equally important, we’re now looking at those emergency programs to learn lessons that will help the state of Nevada provide better support for its small businesses and homeowners during good times and bad — not just during the crisis of a pandemic. We’ll be talking with members of the Nevada Legislature during their next session about ways to implement some of those lessons.

In mid-2020, as the effects of the pandemic hammered small businesses across Nevada, the state government launched its Pandemic Emergency Technical Support Grant Program to provide $10,000 grants into the hands of small-business owners. We focused on businesses owned by members of disadvantaged groups as well as bar and restaurant owners, who were particularly hard-hit. Other grants helped keep tiny home-based businesses afloat and assisted nonprofits, cultural groups and Chambers of Commerce.

We’re proud that more than 9,400 businesses received much-needed assistance from a total of $102 million in grants. Firms owned by members of disadvantaged groups accounted for 57 percent of the grants. We’re proud, too, that we vetted every single one of those businesses — even the tiniest and most obscure — to ensure we helped only legitimate entrepreneurs.

In talking with business owners, we learned that many of them are uncertain how to navigate through state, local and federal agencies that offer important assistance. In response, legislators approved a new Office of Small Business Advocacy that’s been launched in the office of Lt. Gov. Lisa Cano Burkhead.

We were reminded, too, of serious difficulties that small businesses continue to face in accessing the capital they need to grow. We’ll be talking with lawmakers in the coming session about expanding access to capital for small businesses to help resolve this issue.

We’re proud, too, of the effective use of $368 million through the Coronavirus Housing Assistance Program to help homeowners and renters stay in their homes during the crisis. We found that landlords, banks and mortgage lenders were quite cooperative in helping their communities weather this storm, and we learned that many homeowners would appreciate more education so they better understand how the mortgage financing system works.

Looking forward, Nevada has received $2.6 billion in federal funds through the American Rescue Plan. Our leaders have been conducting public meetings throughout the state to learn about the needs that might be addressed by those funds. Affordable housing for our state’s workers clearly is one priority. So is affordable childcare to support parents who are eager to return to the workforce. We want to ensure we use this one-time funding wisely to strengthen the foundation for long-term success of Nevada.

The tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic touched every resident of Nevada. But the lessons we learned through our response to the needs of our businesses and residents will help build a state that is better prepared to meet any challenges that may arise in our future.

Zach Conine serves as the 23rd Nevada state treasurer.

Learn about the upcoming election from Jon Ralston, CEO of the Nevada Independent, at NCET’s Biz Bite on Oct. 26. 

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