Canada is launching a $221 million business loan program to uplift Black business owners in the country, who have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

According to Global News, the loan will be distributed over four years, with the federal government contributing $93 million to the total, while Canadian financial institutions will cover the remaining amount.

A total of $53 million will go toward helping Black entrepreneurs access funding, mentorship, financial planning and business training. The program has also allocated $6.5 million for research, which will help collect data to identify the barriers facing Black business owners. The financial institutions will contribute loans ranging between $25,000 and $250,000.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the plan at a Wednesday press conference. 

“The pandemic has shone a light on the inequalities that disproportionately hurt Black Canadians, and has underscored the need to restart our economy in a way that allows all Canadians an equal chance to succeed," Trudeau said in a statement. 

The program, which was made possible with the leadership of Black business owners and Black-led organizations, is Canada’s first-ever program for Black entrepreneurs.

"As we move forward, this program will help support Black entrepreneurs and create new opportunities for Black-owned businesses, so they are well-positioned for our economic recovery,” the PM said.

Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade said the "government is taking real action to support Black entrepreneurs." 

“For too long, Black entrepreneurs and business owners have faced systemic barriers to their success, and the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on them," Ng said. "With Canada’s first-ever Black Entrepreneurship Program, our government is taking real action to support Black entrepreneurs recovering from COVID-19, and empower them to start up, innovate, grow, and succeed. We will continue to do whatever it takes to support all small business owners and entrepreneurs across the country.”

Bardish Chagger, Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, said the program reflects the country's commitment to diversity and inclusion.

"This program was created through collaboration with Black-led organizations, because Black Canadians know what their communities need best," Chagger said. "This is another step towards removing the systemic barriers that exist within our society to create a truly inclusive Canada.”

Amid ongoing protests in Canada and America, several initiatives have been launched to uplift Black communities. The Black Professionals in Tech Network, a program for young Black professionals in tech and business, created one of those initiatives in August. According to Betakit, the tech network partnered with several Canadian companies who pledged “to create a more reflective, supportive and transformational space for Black tech professionals in Canada.”

BlackNorth, another Canadian initiative, is focused on eliminating systemic barriers for Black-owned businesses. The Coalition of Innovation Leaders Against Racism also has similar aspirations, looking to “create pathways” for Black innovators. 

According to CTV News, The Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce requested $165 million from the government in June, looking to help Black business owners who didn't qualify for assistance.

“Many Black business owners in the country have not been able to get any financing or any funding to support them,” Andria Barrett, president of the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce, said at a press conference. “We want COVID-19 funding for the Black business community.”

Trudeau said Black businesses are the backbone of the community.

“We need an economic recovery that’s inclusive and equitable for all Canadians,” the prime minster said. “An investment in Black excellence is an investment in economic empowerment, and economic empowerment is an essential part of justice.”