A trio of lawmakers spoke Wednesday of the challenges facing Latino business owners and efforts to boost Hispanic-owned small businesses across the country.

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“A lot of Americans from minority groups especially, who felt left out from the economic recovery for so many years, are now starting to experience it and appreciate it,” Curbelo continued. “When it comes to entrepreneurship we know this sentiment of optimism is so critical.”

“The problem is that the traditional banks want you to have A-plus credit rating, they want you to be able to make payroll when you have employees, and they want you to have liquidity,” Espaillat explained.

“And if you have that, the bank comes to you, you don’t have to go to the bank. What you need to have is access to capital to a business that’s fragile, that needs that little extra push.”

Espaillat mentioned energy costs in his hometown of New York City as an example where government can help small businesses. He said he worked with the energy utility while at the state government to help small businesses get new equipment and save money in the process.

“You have the bodegas, have these old fashioned — I’m sure you’ve seen them — refrigeration equipment, they look like a dinosaur and they sound like a dinosaur,” Espaillat said.

“And we helped retrofit, when I was in the state government, 600 businesses with smart energy and other equipment, reducing their energy costs by as high as 50 percent,” he added.

Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón (R), who like Espaillat is on the Small Business Committee, noted that she worked with the New York Democrat to introduce the Housing Victims of Major Disasters Act, which provided rental and housing assistance to victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

González-Colón pointed to companies that paid their employees in Puerto Rico despite them being unable to operate because of the disaster, touting it as one of the major economic recovery successes after the hurricane.

She said that’s one of the ways government can encourage small and large businesses to keep creating jobs even in the face of disaster.

“This is a kind of way of saying ‘thank you,’ and ‘invest,’ and ‘maintain your wages and employment roster,'” said González-Colón.

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