A Miami business owner has a line of communication open with America’s Commander-in-Chief.
“I feel very honored,” said Pilar Guzman, the owner of Half Moon Empanadas on 79th Street near Biscayne Boulevard.
Before COVID-19, she had 14 empanada eateries all over Miami-Dade County. When the pandemic hit, she had to close all but two.
The federal government’s Payment Protection Program helped her financially navigate through the COVID era.
She had a Zoom conversation with President Joe Biden Monday morning.
“I feel it’s a recognition of many people that look like me, and are like me, women entrepreneurs, Latina entrepreneurs,” said Guzman, who is from Mexico.
Monday's encounter with President Biden wasn't Guzman’s first. A video from Biden’s Twitter feed shows then-President-elect Biden, in January, discussing the PPP, with Guzman emphasizing how small businesses -- as opposed to gigantic corporations -- need government loans to survive the pandemic.
The president hammered home that point at his news conference Monday.
“When the Paycheck Protection Program was passed, a lot of these mom and pop businesses got muscled out of the way by bigger companies that jumped in front of the line," he said.
The administration is establishing a two-week window, starting on Wednesday, in which only businesses with fewer than 20 employees can apply for the forgivable loans. This targets more federal pandemic assistance to the nation’s smallest businesses and ventures owned by women and people of color.
As the COVID situation improves, Guzman is looking forward to opening her shuttered stores and opening two new spaces.
She calls her conversation with Biden a teaching moment.
“He said, I really wanted to speak to you because you educated me,” she said. “He used that word, ‘you educated me,’ on the realities of the struggles of the small businesses, and it's because of you that this program is happening.”