Member Day Testimony to the Small Business Committee
Washington, April 23, 2020
Chair Velázquez, Ranking Member Chabot and members of the Small Business Committee:
As a former Committee member, I’m grateful to be able to share the profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Hawai’i small businesses.
Small businesses are the lifeblood of my state. Hawai‘i has 132,640 small businesses; that’s about 1 business for every 11 people. They are also smaller than those in most other states. A vast majority employ less than 100 people, with the average just 12 people. Yet small businesses employ a majority of Hawaii’s workforce.
Our small businesses are also the most diverse in the nation. 62.6 percent are minority-owned businesses, by far the highest. More than a quarter of Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander-owned businesses are found in Hawai‘i.
As Hawaii’s largest industry is tourism and hospitality, with international and domestic travel dried up and stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions at home, our economy and small businesses are especially hard hit by COVID-19. Just weeks ago our unemployment rate was one of the nation’s lowest at just 2.6%. Today more than one-third of Hawaii’s labor force has filed unemployment claims, and our small businesses are hanging by a thread if they are not already closed.
This Committee’s incredibly hard work has been a lifeline to them just throughout our nation. Especially important are your efforts to ensure the immigrant and underbanked communities are not left behind.
Equally important are the small businesses of the tourism industry. They were some of the first impacted by this pandemic, and they’ll be some of the last to recover.
As we continue our efforts together, I urge the Committee to consider Hawaii’s unique needs. While existing programs provide temporary relief, greater assistance will be needed to keep these small businesses, and a very significant portion of my Hawaii’s economy, alive until the state can reopen for business.
I continue to stand ready to assist. Mahalo!