Photo of Senator Maroney.

State Senator

James Maroney

Representing Milford, Orange, West Haven and Woodbridge

Senator James Maroney Joins Senate Democrats in Approving Free Small Business Internet Education Courses

Today, the Senate passed Senate Bill 3, legislation that will lead to the development of online seminar courses supporting small businesses in developing and expanding online infrastructure for their businesses. State Senator James Maroney (D-Milford) joined Senate Democrats in leading the vote, passing a bill that stands as a major priority of Senate Democrats this year, intended to support small businesses in their recovery from the worst impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"When you support small businesses, you're supporting the community," said Sen. Maroney. "As a small business owner, I know how hard it is to keep up with changes, and this free program creates a way for small business owners to stay on the cutting edge of marketing and other technologies. By investing in in this new program, we are helping those who have suffered recover."

Senate Bill 3, "An Act Requiring The Board of Regents For Higher Education To Develop Seminar Programs For Small Businesses," would see the Board of Regents develop programs designed to aid small businesses with 25 or fewer employees adapt to changing business environments. The programs would offer electronic commerce, social media, cybersecurity and virtual currency courses, among others, and would be available to small businesses by September 1.

Through the programs, up to two small business employees would be able to enroll at no cost in up to five seminar programs, or any courses within seminar programs, at the Northwestern Connecticut Community College Entrepreneurial Center or the Werth Innovation and Entrepreneurial Center at Housatonic Community College. The Connecticut State Colleges and Universities reported that the seminars would be offered online and in-person for businesses.

Since 2014, worldwide e-commerce sales have more than tripled in value, with e-commerce growing sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social media, online platforms and internet presence are all more valuable to market success than they were a decade ago. At the same time, 75% of small businesses experienced a decline of at least 25% in revenue from 2019 to 2020. The Small Business Administration reported that tens of thousands of jobs and hundreds of small businesses were lost just at the beginning of the pandemic, with many still struggling to make full recoveries.

The Connecticut Business and Industry Association testified in support of this bill, noting that many small businesses do not have the ability to invest time and resources into researching online practices. The CBIA said in testimony that it strongly supports the creation of these seminars to aid small businesses in easily accessing reputable material, specifically citing the advantages that cybersecurity training could provide in protecting business and customer data. This legislation follows similar programs in other states; for example, several North Carolina community colleges currently offer free seminars for small businesses to aid job creation and retention.

The bill passed the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee by a unanimous vote. It now heads to the House for further consideration.