Clinic Students Provide Resources for Greater New Haven Businesses and Nonprofits

Several dozen Law School students are working together to offer support to organizations in the greater New Haven community as they confront the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last few weeks, the Ludwig Center for Community & Economic Development (CED) and the student-run COVID Student Small Business Support Project have collaborated to develop educational materials and access to legal services for New Haven’s small business community.

Students are working to equip business and nonprofit leaders with information about available government support programs and the recent Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. They are also working to offer legal advice to local organizations about the wide range of issues that COVID-19 presents. Through that support for the community, students hope to help mitigate the pandemic’s economic damage in greater New Haven. Small businesses or nonprofits that would like more information or may need legal advice, can find informational resources and contact information on the Clinic’s website.

In the days prior to passage of the CARES Act, Jeff Schroeder ’21, a student in the Housing Clinic, began organizing the COVID Student Small Business Support Project along with several other second-year law students.

“Obviously this is a really difficult time for a lot of small businesses, nonprofits, and workers in Greater New Haven,” he said. “We’re hopeful that by being a resource, we can support members of the community in navigating the economic and legal impacts of COVID.”

On April 1, 2020, a few days after passage of the CARES Act, Adam Kinkley ’21, Michael Pelle ’21, and Schroeder presented information on the statute to a group of about 20 New Haven nonprofits. Students have continued educational outreach to groups and individual business owners in the weeks since.

Simultaneously, Clinical Associate Professor of Law Anika Singh Lemar and Hannah Abelow ’21, a student in CED, have worked to build capacity to provide legal representation to affected businesses and nonprofits. Drawing on the Clinic’s existing network and resources, the initial research done by the student group, and the growing list of student volunteers, the team is able to offer both informational conversations with local business owners and free legal services to those who show a deeper need.

Abelow ’21 sees this work as integrally connected to the Clinic’s work to ameliorate economic inequality in greater New Haven. “Half of all workers in Connecticut are employed by small businesses — we want to help those businesses stay afloat,” she said. “We are particularly focused on helping those who might have more difficulty getting the relief they need. It’s important that we don’t emerge from this crisis with an even more unequal New Haven because not everyone knew how to navigate the process.”

On April 17 and 18, the COVID Student Small Business Support Project trained approximately 40 additional Law School students to provide information to small businesses and nonprofits in the New Haven region. Over 20 students are now available to take on client representations under the supervision of Lemar and Nathan Baker Clinical Professor of Law Jay Pottenger ’75.

“I am inspired by these students’ commitment to the smallest of small businesses,” Lemar said. “This pandemic is revealing so many of the ways that our economic resources, including small business financing and legal services, are made inaccessible to the poor and the precarious middle class. We hope to do our small part to address those inequities.”