On Thursday, May 14, the Joint Center hosted an online briefing on fair and equal access to capital for Black businesses in COVID-19 stimulus legislation. The briefing addressed the structural inequities Black businesses face and explored concrete ways that future stimulus proposals can best help Black businesses thrive in the post-COVID-19 economy.
The expert panelists included:
- U.S. Black Chambers President & CEO Ron Busby
- Association for Enterprise Opportunity President & CEO Connie Evans
- Former SBA Deputy Administrator Marie Johns
- TV One Chairman and CEO & Radio One President Alfred Liggins
- Opportunity Finance Network President & CEO Lisa Mensah
- Joint Center Vice President Jessica Fulton (moderator)
We discussed: 1) the importance of Black businesses for our economy 2) structural inequities woven into previous stimulus packages 3) policies to support the long-term recovery of Black businesses.
Panelists highlighted several concerns and policy ideas, including:
- The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) excluded many Black businesses because it focused on businesses with employees and relationships with large banks; Businesses owned by people of color don’t have high-level banking relationships, more than 90% of Black businesses are sole proprietorships, or have a small number of employees;
- the program design was not thoughtful in its relatability to Black-owned businesses;
- Policymakers need to consider the wealth, credit, and trust gaps Black businesses face in COVID-19 stimulus packages;
- Businesses need credit to build a relationship with the bank and lack of wealth means you cannot build necessary credit;
- Systems that were a part of the stimulus packages did not have freely flowing information to ensure community leaders could gain clarity and develop an understanding of how to be first in line for protections and to achieve success in the process;
- Churches were not sufficiently informed and used as vehicles to communicate, the radio was not used to its fullest, institutions like restaurants in Black communities were not open to meet the challenge of information dissemination for Black businesses;
- Lack of communication and articulation in the first stimulus allowed for large corporations to apply for and receive PPP loans before many smaller businesses;
- The marketplace has moved to digital but Black businesses have not kept up because, in some cases, Black people do not have the same certifications, education, training, and access to wealth;
- Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) provide banking and technical assistance for business owners of color, and have proven why they are essential in moments of crisis and recovery;
- Additional funding would help restaff and restock Black businesses to ensure that they can meet significant regulatory and compliance measures that will be imposed;
- Communities need stronger mechanisms in place to get information to Black businesses so they know how to get the resources they need;
- Future stimulus packages have to be geographically targeted instead of using a broad brush program;
- Partnerships between the private sector and CDFIs have been essential to providing assistance during the current crisis;
- Equitable and transparent data tracking of where dollars are going must be implemented so community leaders know whether taxpayer funds are being distributed to businesses equitably.
This is the Joint Center’s fifth online policy forum on COVID-19 and Black communities following an online briefing with Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor Bobby Scott (D-VA) on education and workforce priorities (here), a briefing for CBC staffers on accessible vote-by-mail and safe in-person voting for Black communities (here), a briefing with FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks on COVID-19 and the digital divide and a connectivity stimulus (here), and an online policy forum with CBC Chair Karen Bass (D-CA) on the implications of congressional responses to COVID-19 on Black communities (here).