By Briana Thomas, Special to the AFRO
On Sept. 17, Council member Charles Allen of Ward 6 introduced legislations that could help support small business owners manage the cost of owning and operating a business in D.C.
The two bills, The Small and Local Business Assistance Amendment Act of 2019 and Longtime Resident Business Preservation Amendment Act of 2019, are aimed at financially supporting the District’s longtime and new small businesses, according to a Sept. 17 news release.
The cost of living and working in D.C. has been a citywide problem for residents and businesses alike, and Allen said small business owners are expressing that rent is too expensive.
“Small businesses are part of what makes our communities special. Think of any neighborhood and you immediately think of a favorite local business. They hire locally and keep District dollars local,” said Council member Allen in the news release. “Small business owners are raising the alarm that the rent is too high and we’ve seen some businesses already forced to close their doors. These are the businesses and people who made D.C. what it is today.”
According to the news release, the Small Business Bill will support owners by creating a tax relief credit of 20 percent (up to $10,000 annually) for rent paid or property taxes paid by business tenants. The goal is to shoulder some of the financial pressure that small tenants experience when property taxes rise and landlords have to increase leaser’s rent to offset the tax increase.
Also, the same bill will provide property tax relief to landlords that rent their space to local businesses rather than a national chain. This is in addition to a credit enhancement program for business owners that guarantee rental support for up to three years, according to the news release.
Allen told the AFRO Sep. 26 that these incentives will help landlords make better decisions when it comes to supporting local small businesses.
“We are trying to create financial incentives that help the property owner and landlord make a better decision, make sure they choose local and then we are trying to have a tax credit that goes directly to that local business itself. So we are trying to hit this from a couple different angles,” Allen said.
In 2015, there were 72, 837 small businesses in the District, and those businesses employed a little less than half of the city’s workforce, according to data from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
While new small businesses may need help getting started, longtime businesses need help to stay open.
The Longtime Resident Business Act will offer assistance through grants and low-interest loans to D.C. entrepreneurs who have been contributing to the District’s commercial scene for at least 20 years– or 15 years if its a smaller store, according to the news release.
Allen said the bill is geared toward legacy businesses that have had an impact on the community throughout the years like, the historic black-owned Ben’s Chili Bowl, which has been operating since 1958.
“When we think about our longtime legacy businesses, we’re thinking about businesses that distinctively contribute to the character and the history of not just our city, but are particular to a corridor or a neighborhood community. And whether I’m talking to that new upstart business or the business that’s been here for 50 years, they’re singing the same blues. They’ve got huge property tax issues and rising rents.”
Allen said that the bills need to be a high priority and, without city funding, D.C. will lose longtime businesses, entrepreneurs and jobs.
Both of the bills are co-sponsored by Council members At-large David Grosso (I) and Elissa Silverman (I).