Black entrepreneurs often face significant hurdles to starting new businesses, but Congress may make things a bit easier. Congresswoman Nikema Williams (D-GA) hopes to support Black-owned businesses by creating a new federal grant to HBCUs to fund these endeavors, and her plan has already gained traction.
Grants for minority-owned businesses
As reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Rep. Williams introduced the Minority Entrepreneurship Grant Program Act on Nov. 17. As proposed, the act would set up a new program within the Small Business Administration to provide grants to students seeking to start businesses. The grants would be available to HBCUs and other minority student institutions through an application process. Up to $250,000 would be available for each grant.
Although Williams has proposed similar legislation in the past with little traction, the current bill has several backers in Congress. Williams’ Democratic co-sponsors on this bill are Alma Adams (NC), Dwight Evans (PA) and Norma Torres (CA). She also has one Republican co-sponsor, Brian Fitzpatrick (PA). Fitzpatrick has publicly stated his belief that “the bipartisan Minority Entrepreneurship Grant Program Act will empower minority innovators and entrepreneurs to start their own small businesses,” adding that “I’m proud to join my colleagues on this legislation.”
Possible political and legal challenges
Despite the bipartisan support for Williams’ proposal, other Republicans may not be eager to support this initiative. Furthermore, starting a new federal program aimed at supporting minority recipients may face legal challenges. Ever since the Supreme Court ruled against affirmative action in higher education earlier this year, conservative organizations have been targeting government-funded programs that benefit racial minorities.
In recent months, federal judges have ruled against the multi-million dollar Fearless Fund that provided venture capital for minority women, as well as a separate multi-billion dollar Small Business Administration Business Development Program for minority business owners. And additional lawsuits have popped up around the country, even targeting aid for pregnant women of color.
So far, Rep. Williams has not been deterred by the threat of opposition.
“I can’t base what I’m doing to serve my constituents on what might happen in the future,” the Atlanta Journal-Consitutiton reports her as saying, adding “What I know is the need today is that Black and brown businesses need access to capital.”
Although Williams’ proposed program is likely to face pushback, her determination may help this program finally take off.