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Written by Rashad Robinson

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Andrea Powe took pride in her hair styling business before the pandemic, but the crisis has made it hard for her to stay open. She submitted an application to receive a Paycheck Protection Program loan through the government's small business stimulus program. After seven weeks of waiting she finally learned her application had been denied just 18 hours after she applied.

While many would like us to believe that Black small business owners like Andrea simply aren’t eligible for the government stimulus, the real story paints a familiar picture of racial inequality and discrimination against Black and brown people. 

Black businesses are often pillars of the community that create pathways to independence for our people that would not otherwise exist. When they disappear, our communities suffer. So, Color Of Change teamed up with the Latino advocacy organization UnidosUS to see if the government's federal loan program for small businesses was actually reaching our communities. Surprise, surprise — it’s not. What we learned is that the government assistance programs have offered more red tape than relief to Black and Latino people.

Among Black and Latinx small-business owners who are still in business, 45%  reported that they will have to shut their doors permanently in the next six months if they don’t receive financial support. But while large corporations are getting government handouts with little accountability, financial support for Black small businesses has been hard to secure. While most small business owners of color are applying for far less than the average loan, only 12% received the full amount of aid they applied for. 41% percent reported being denied assistance all together, and 21% have been left waiting for weeks to hear if their loans are approved as their businesses slowly die.

We’ve got to protect the promise of Black entrepreneurship in our communities and hold our elected officials accountable to us. After all, they needed us to get elected in the first place. Our survey shows we clearly need more from the next Congressional relief package in order to sufficiently support business owners of color. So, we’re asking that you’ll sign the petition to demand that Congress take action immediately to protect our businesses.

We’re calling on our elected officials and corporate leaders to create policy that will truly protect Black business during the pandemic. Here’s how we do that: 

- First, take banks out of the equation and offer direct financial assistance. Banks are notorious for denying Black and brown businesses access to capital. As long as they remain a bottleneck, we stand to lose out on millions. This can help us avoid mass layoffs and restart rehiring.

- Second, stop negative credit reporting until the end of the crisis. Credit has historically been a barrier that has allowed institutions to deny our communities necessary capital. Negative credit reporting during this time is financial malpractice.

- Third, require demographic data to identify recipients of federal assistance. At the moment, we have no way of knowing whether or not taxpayer supported funding is going toward our communities; accountability is required.

I know from first-hand experience that Black businesses are not just where we go to buy things we need. My father has been a self-employed contractor for over 45 years, so my brother and I witnessed first-hand all the unseen extra work it takes to make ends meet as a Black business owner. At the end of the day, he was able to provide for his family, build something that was his and proudly serve his community. That’s what I want for anyone looking to build their own business. So, I hope you will join our fight to save Black businesses during the pandemic.

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Rashad Robinson is President of Color Of Change, the largest online racial justice organization in the country that designs winning strategies to build power for Black communities. Rashad appears regularly in major news media and as a keynote speaker nationally. You follow Color of Change on Twitter at @ColorOfChange.