Petition to open small businesses by May 1 gaining traction

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Across Houston, businesses sit empty and employees who relied on pay day are getting nothing.

It's a grim picture that spurred Jon Silberman to create the Houston Coronavirus Business Group and a petition to re-open small businesses in Houston.

"Most small business people don't have huge savings," said Silberman. "They don't have a lot of extra cushion. They've got debts, they've got all kinds of obligations. When their income goes to zero, it's a massive, massive problem."

He said the financial crisis is here and the dire need for money is playing out.

The commercial real estate broker and part owner of NAI Partners said only 30 percent of his tenants were able to pay April's rent. He knew they needed an advocate.

"We need to get back to business essentially by May 1st or sooner," said Silberman. "We feel like the draconian lockdown needs to be lifted and certain things can be implemented to manage the risk, but you don't have to shut everything down."

Silberman said an online petition to lift the 'stay-at-home' order after April 30 now has 300 signatures from small to medium sized business owners, representing more than 20,000 out-of-work Houstonians.

The petition will be attached to a letter addressed to Mayor Sylvester Turner, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Gov. Greg Abbott.

"Most people who are suffering feel like there's a balance in there, and they are willing to take the risk, the health care risk, to be able to support themselves and their family at some level."

The letter includes 10 recommendations to responsibly re-open small businesses, including limiting occupancy inside a store, taking temperatures before entering a business and restrictions for vulnerable populations.

Silberman and his group said they understand this is a no-win situation, and that re-opening business during the pandemic comes with risk. But he said someone must advocate for small business owners and their employees who face financial ruin if the shutdown continues through May.

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