MIAMI (CBSMiami) — South Florida businesses have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, but some harder than others. That is why a local law firm is offering free legal services, specifically to Black-owned businesses, a group being disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Samella Watson, founder and CEO of Sebiya, a travel management system and mobile app, helps with guest experience and individual service.

“I care about guests just as much as [the hotels] care, said Watson. “I try to continue to move forward. I’ve dumped myself into my workload. It’s hard because my customers, are heavily affected,” said Watson.

But now there are no guests, which means Watson doesn’t have any business.

Her customers include boutique hotels and short-term rentals like Airbnb’s, which were just banned in the City of Miami Beach earlier in the week.

Watson, like many small business owners, are suffering but on top of that, she is a Black small business owner.

According to a University of California at Santa Cruz analysis, 40% of small Black business owners weren’t working in April, that’s compared to 17% of small business owners who are white.

With the recent calls for change across the country following the death of George Floyd, it’s an added emotional toll.

The National Business League points out that many black businesses lack the capacity, scale, and technical assistance to survive this pandemic and they are also benefiting less from federal stimulus programs.

Michelle White with AXS Law Group, believes that’s all part of systemic racism.

“It made us stop and think and actually having discussions about what can we do, what can our role be that will actually help people in our community,” said White. “To have impact instead of just talking.”

Through an initiative, White and her law firm are offering free legal services to business owners like Watson.

“It’s a privilege, “said White. “It’s not something that the average person maybe would think to seek out legal help. It’s expensive and you have to know who to talk to.”

From helping with trademark protection to how to apply for PPP Loans, White hopes more people and businesses who want to be allies can offer their support, but more importantly, take action and offer their services.

Frances Wang

Comments