At the beginning of the outbreak, Lloyd could not get protective equipment for his workers, who were packing food in close proximity and delivering 14,000 meals door-to-door every day -- sometimes to senior citizens, who are especially susceptible to the virus. He made his own sanitizer, masks and wipes, while also breaking up shifts to space people out and discontinuing office coffee to cut down on staff interactions.
Only in recent weeks has he received some supplies from donations and the city of Boston. His first order of face shields arrived last week.
Lloyd worked every connection he had to get safety supplies, calling vendors, the state and nonprofits. But everyone was in the same boat -- there was a national shortage. He wishes there had been a central location where he could have sourced these materials from the beginning.
"It was nerve-wracking," he said. "It was a very, very surreal experience -- trying not to kill myself or kill somebody else."
Lloyd just signed up for Protect MA, a new online portal that hopes to avoid many of the problems he faced over the past two months. Launched by the nonprofit Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, the initiative connects black- and Latino-owned suppliers of safety equipment with other black- and Latino-owned businesses looking to reopen after a months-long stay-at-home advisory.
Segun Idowu, the council's executive director, said minority businesses in the Bay State were hit particularly hard during quarantine, especially restaurants, salons and gyms. A study by the Brookings Institution last month showed that COVID-19 may disproportionately affect businesses owned by minorities and women because of existing economic barriers.
And now that businesses are reopening, many of Idowu's 300 member businesses are attempting to find safety equipment through word of mouth.
"That is no way to cover thousands and thousands of minority businesses that are going to need this across the state," he said. "We know that it is important to have a one-stop shop for this stuff."
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