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Small Business Week in Review, Feb. 11-17

Ongoing inflationary pressure, signs of a return to normal after COVID-19, small business actions in Congress, and actions from the Connecticut General Assembly are among the top business news items from the past week.

Inflation response

Inflation continues to pressure businesses, with the Labor Department’s wholesale price index showing a 9.7 percent increase in input prices in January compared to a week earlier. The Federal Reserve is looking to begin rate hikes next month in an effort to rein in inflation, and could accelerate its schedule of rate increases for the remainder of the year.

Higher prices and a surge in COVID-19 cases didn’t deter shoppers in January, though inflation was likely contributing to a boost in sales during the month. Retail sales were up 3.8 percent, following a 2.5 percent decline in December.

A return to normalcy?

With COVID-19 cases on the wane, there are several signs of businesses and government agencies looking for a return to normalcy. These steps include cities removing proof of COVID-19 vaccination requirements, businesses ending mask requirements and implementing dates for returning workers to the office, and the Centers for Disease Control indicating that it will likely ease its recommendations on mask wearing.

Certain companies are also enjoying the release of pent-up demand from consumers as COVID-19 concerns ebb. Hotels, entertainment venues, restaurants, and other attractions have seen an increase in visitors.

Actions in Congress

The Senate Small Business Committee has approved several bills aimed at improving the Small Business Administration’s operations, including disaster response, cybersecurity, and promoting diversity.

A group of Republican lawmakers is raising concerns about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s proposed rule on data reporting for small business lenders, urging it to “exclude as many small financial firms as possible.”

Connecticut legislature

The Connecticut Senate has extended some of Governor Ned Lamont’s executive orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic response. Lamont’s emergency powers, which had been in place for nearly two years after the start of the pandemic, have lapsed.

The Connecticut Business & Industry Association is criticizing the Connecticut General Assembly’s Labor Committee, saying the workplace rules currently proposed by the committee will create undue burdens on small businesses.

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