NEW BEDFORD — Initially of March, enterprise was so good for Anna Rodriques that she and her husband thought-about shopping for a brand new home. Now Rodriques doesn’t know the way she’s going to pay her payments and finds herself going to meals pantries to assist make ends meet.
Rodriques’ journey as a enterprise proprietor began 24 years in the past, when the manufacturing facility the place she had been working since she was 16 years outdated, Cameo Curtains, immediately closed and she or he determined to remain residence for a number of months since she had two young children she by no means hung out with.
Spending time along with her youngsters concerned bringing them to highschool.
“Swiftly I had individuals asking me If I may transport their youngsters too,” Rodriques stated.
That gave Rodriques the thought to begin her personal transportation service, Anna’s Mini-bus Service. She went out and purchased a van and acquired all of the registrations she wanted.
Over the subsequent twenty years the enterprise grew to 4 15-passenger vans that had been making journeys to 12 faculties in New Bedford along with daycares along with her husband and father-in-law working as drivers.
Initially of the yr, her vans had been transporting near 100 youngsters a day.
“It was truly actually good, it was the most effective yr we’ve had,” Rodriques stated. She even had a ready checklist of potential shoppers.
Then, a few weeks into March, Mayor Jon Mitchell introduced that New Bedford faculties would shut to stop the unfold of COVID-19. They might stay closed for the rest of the spring time period and daycares can be restricted to youngsters of important employees for months, drying up Rodriques’ buyer base.
A number of months later in June Rodriques stated she acquired a letter from the Registry of Motor Automobiles (RMV) notifying her that she would now not be capable to function 15-passenger vans to move faculty youngsters.
The RM regulation prohibiting the transportation of faculty youngsters in 12-passenger and bigger vans went into impact July 1, in accordance with Division of Transportation spokesperson Judith Reardon Riley, however had been “beneath improvement” with the pupil transportation trade for over a decade.
When Riley spoke to the Normal-Occasions final month she didn’t make clear the precise nature of the security considerations associated to the 12+ passenger vans, however the Nationwide Freeway Visitors Security Administration stated full-size vans, particularly 15-passenger vans, are identified to be much less protected than most different automobiles primarily resulting from their propensity to roll over.
Rodriques stated the RMV revoked her registration for the 15-passenger vans and due to that she was compelled to promote them.
“I’ve been residence since March then the RMV hit me with that, nice now I can’t do something,” she stated.
Rodriques tried to get among the smaller 10-passenger vans that the RMV nonetheless permits, however stated between the sum of money the enterprise misplaced in the course of the pandemic and the price of 10-passengers vans, she couldn’t afford them, particularly since COVID-19 pointers would solely enable her to move three youngsters at a time if she did purchase them.
Rodriques stated if the RMV notified her of the brand new rules sooner and it wasn’t a pandemic she would have been on the ball and would have been in a position to get the appropriately-sized automobiles.
In response to Riley, the rules have been on the books for 2 years and the RMV held a lot of data periods previous to the rules going into impact.
As a result of pandemic, the RMV did enable operators of 12-passenger vans to use for a one-year waiver to proceed working, however they didn’t supply 15-passenger van operators the identical alternative.
“It was fairly tousled…they need to have given us a waiver for the 15-passenger automobiles like they did for the 12 they usually didn’t try this, particularly figuring out individuals had been out of labor for thus many months,” Rodriques stated, “I acquired screwed by COVID and screwed by the RMV.”
Rodriques did apply for a Private Paycheck Safety (PPP) mortgage, however since she’s self-employed she stated she solely certified for $1,000.
She has additionally been having points submitting for unemployment as a result of, she stated, somebody used her title and Social Safety quantity to use for unemployment advantages in one other state and she or he is at present attempting to work that out with the unemployment workplace.
“I obtained a letter that somebody had utilized [for unemployment benefits] in my title…I don’t perceive how they acquired my social [security number] to open a declare,” Rodriques stated.
She stated she’s been ready per week for a supervisor on the unemployment workplace to name her again.
“It’s fairly robust,” she stated.
She’s been clearing homes to generate income, nevertheless it nonetheless hasn’t been sufficient to cowl her bills.
“Thank God I’ve been going to PACE …they usually’ve been serving to me out with some meals and stuff,” Rodriques stated, “I by no means had to do this in my life.”
Rodriques by no means pictured herself being somebody who wanted to make use of a meals pantry.
“I used to be doing good,” she stated.
She stated she does really feel unhealthy for everybody in the course of the pandemic however she thinks issues have been tougher for immigrant-owned companies.
“I do really feel that you probably have cash and had been born on this nation you may have a greater probability [to survive],” Rodriques stated.
Rodriques’ household got here to New Bedford from Portugal when she was 10-years outdated after her father came over his sister within the metropolis for 3 months.
“I simply have a lot anger in the direction of this illness and in the direction of every thing, as a result of like I stated it took a lot from me, it’s my livelihood, it is every thing I labored for,” Rodriques stated, “I constructed [my business] from nothing solely to lose it.”
COVID-19 has impacted extra than simply her enterprise, her daughter not too long ago examined optimistic for the illness and is symptomatic with coughing matches and big complications.
“You are feeling so unhealthy as a mom that you would be able to’t go there to assist her,” Rodriques stated, “After all I’m fearful, I’m fearful for myself, I’m fearful for everybody else…this [pandemic] is insane. When is it going to finish? It doesn’t appear like there’s an finish in sight.”
When the pandemic does finish, Rodriques stated it’s her hope to restart her enterprise, despite the fact that she is aware of she’ll have to begin from the start.
Helena DaSilva Hughes, govt director of the Immigrants Help Heart, stated she is working to assist enterprise homeowners like Rodriques, ensuring they learn about grants and loans accessible to small companies.
The New Bedford Financial Growth Council is taking purposes for a grant and mortgage program meant to help small companies which are struggling in the course of the pandemic and Hughes is working with them to ensure immigrant-owned companies learn about this system.
“We need to be sure that companies are included,” Hughes stated.