Hispanic business owners share challenges, opportunities over last two years with Sen. Kaine, Rep. Bobby Scott

Shaun H. Ruff

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Hispanic and Latino business owners held a roundtable discussion with Virginia Senator Tim Kaine and Congressman Bobby Scott about the challenges they faced during the pandemic.

Like many other minority-owned businesses, Hispanic and Latino-owned businesses struggled during the pandemic.

That’s aside from the health struggles many families faced because of COVID-19.

“The Latino population in Virginia and nationally has been hit disproportionately hard,” said Kaine.

For the nation’s largest ethnic minority, the last two years of the pandemic have been a struggle.

CEO & President Johnny Garcia of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Coastal Virginia says their conversation with Sen. Kaine and Rep. Scott helped them paint a clearer picture of the realities Latino families and businesses have had to face in the last two years.

“One out of three Hispanic-owned businesses in the 757 failed because they couldn’t apply for the PPP or EIDL or other opportunities that were provided to others,” said Garcia.

The pandemic impacted Hispanic and Latinos the most compared to other ethnic groups and not just economically, but many more Latinos got sick at higher rates too.

“Most families in Latino households are multigenerational,” said Garcia. “And most of us are in the service industry. So we can’t work remote. We can’t work from Zoom.”

The roundtable discussion with the Hispanic Chamber Of Commerce Of Coastal Virginia was held at the ODU Strome Entrepreneurial Center.

They all agree that education and language resources could help get Latino businesses back on track, including a bill Senator Kaine is trying to push in the Senate.

“We have a bill I’m working on, the JOBS Act, which is going to open up more opportunities for Pell Grants for students getting a career and technical education,” said Kaine.

Still, the community remains resilient.

“I used to always say, fey, familia y trabajo. Faith, family and work. And for purposes of the chamber, with an emphasis on the work. This is a very hard-working, entrepreneurial community,” said Kaine.

There are over 300,000 Latinos in Hampton Roads alone and roughly 800,000 across the commonwealth.
Those we spoke to say help for the community is vital as Latino buying power grows more influential.

In the video below, Sen. Tim Kaine discusses the role the Latino community has in Hampton Roads and the challenges the community has faced over the last two years in Spanish.

En este video, el senador Tim Kaine discute el papel de la comunidad latina en Hampton Roads y los desafíos que experimenta a la comunidad durante los últimos dos años.

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