Jason and Jillian Cotter put everything they had on the line to establish a new business at the revitalized Kilburn Mill in the South End of New Bedford – and then the pandemic hit. Because the business opened in 2020 and not before September 1st of 2019, it is ineligible to receive state or federal COVID-19 relief funds.

The Dough Company Cafe and Eatery, or DoCo, opened at 127 West Rodney French Boulevard last July. The Cotters and their business partner, chef Alia Asher, knew they were swimming against the tide, but they had no choice. Everything they had was invested in the business and then some. They had to open and hope for the best. The bill collectors were not willing to wait until after the pandemic passes to get paid.

For the Cotters and Asher, it would be sink or swim.

Jillian Cotter told me last week that she and her partners had big plans for DoCo. In addition to serving breakfast, lunch, and light dinners, there would be meeting space, and they would offer entertainment and catering services. Most of that has been put on hold due to COVID restrictions.

Jillian struggles to comprehend how we can send hundreds of billions of dollars overseas in foreign aid and debate whether to give stimulus checks to folks who have lost nothing during the COVID crisis while denying a small start-up business any financial assistance at all.

It is crazy.

The Cotters employ roughly 15 people whose lives depend right now upon DoCo remaining open. Cotter tells me they are battling to stay afloat, but she doesn't know how much longer the business can survive under existing conditions.

The government has devastated small businesses with restrictions and regulations. Many businesses have collapsed under the weight of those mandates. Still, others like DoCo are struggling to survive.

Small businesses are the backbone of America and need our help if they are to survive. It is absurd that large companies such as Tom Brady's TB12 can receive more than a million dollars in COVID relief yet the Cotters are not eligible for a nickel's worth of assistance.

Seek out and support local businesses in your community that might be in dire need of your support right now.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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