Several state chambers of commerce dedicated to marginalized communities have focused their time and energy in supporting minority small businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been estimated that at least a third of small businesses will shut down permanently without support, and the figures could be higher for Deaf-owned small businesses. Access to information and resources is all the more important for our community at this time.
Solutions do exist for smaller businesses without the money to adapt their equipment to meet the demand for masks, gowns, gloves, ventilators, hand sanitizers, and other cleaning/medical supplies and keep their employees employed; however, the information is not available in American Sign Language [ASL] or any other sign language. One example would be COVID-19 relief packages that are specific to small businesses with 58 or fewer employees. It can be very confusing for Deaf business owners who need to know about what’s going on, and about the options available to them so they can continue to stay in business.
The Small Business Administration [SBA] claims that over 335,000 Deaf and hard of hearing Americans have businesses of their own. Some community leaders and members have inquired about a national one-stop center for small businesses in the Deaf community.
The National Deaf Chamber of Commerce [NDCC] gained national attention last year in 2019 when their Facebook page went live without much information available to the community. The Deaf Report released a review of the NDCC and their founding documentation shortly after the Facebook page was published; the dissolution of the Deaf Business Association [DBA] under the National Association of the Deaf [NAD] was also mentioned in the same article, with plans being made for the NDCC to be the DBA’s replacement.
Established in late 2018, the NDCC was supposed to be the answer and yet they have done very little, if anything, to support Deaf-owned businesses. Community members have not had any luck hearing back from current NDCC Board members, which does not bode well.
Jason Shaw mentioned the Payroll Protection Program [PPP] loan to our editorial team, a great resource for small businesses. If owners apply for the PPP loan and use it to cover business mortgage/rent, mortgage interest, utility bills, and payroll for all employees, the SBA will forgive it. The NDCC failed to share this information.
The SBA prides itself on being the “second federal agency to provide videophone services directly for the deaf and hard of hearing” with ASL-fluent staff available on their hotline. Deaf business owners can call the hotline and ask for more information about what the SBA can do for them during this economic recession. To reach the hotline, dial 1-855-440-4960.
The National Deaf Chamber of Commerce has had over a year, with nothing to show for it, unfortunately. The need for Deaf small business owners to have a centralized resource on information and support in ASL has been put on the back burner, and it could not have been at a worse time.
Who will answer the Deaf business owners’ call for a national one-stop center now?