Democratic senators have up the ante on COVID-19 relief support for businesses owned by people of color. Recently Capitol Hill representatives introduced new legislation aimed at investing in Black-owned businesses.
According to the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) proposed the Minority Business Resiliency Act, a multi-step bill centered around the improvement of the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). The bill involves officially making the agency permanent, expanding its grant-making authority, introducing new regional offices, and broadening its networking reach with fellow federal agencies.
Currently, the MBDA supports businesses owned by people of color in all industries; including tech companies, construction, and manufacturing firms.
Earlier this year, Sen. Booker — alongside Sen. Cardin — proposed a similar bill that would block underrepresented small businesses from going under as a result of the pandemic.
“Minority-owned businesses are key drivers of growth in towns and communities across the country, but often face steep challenges when it comes to things like access to capital, mentorship, and training,” Booker said, according to a U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship news release.
The National Bureau of Economic Research revealed the number of African-American business owners plummeted from 1.1 million in February 2020 to 640,000 in April.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light to the disparities already facing minority-owned small businesses,” Sen. Harris said. “With over 40% of Black small businesses closed due to COVID-19, its imperative Congress ensure that we are doing everything we can to support and lift up these businesses, particularly during a health and economic pandemic. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing the Minority Business Resiliency Act— enhancing and making MBDA permanent will provide the resources and funding needed for minority-owned businesses to succeed in California and across the nation.”
In addition to the Minority Business Resiliency Act, Sen. Kamala Harris is also proposing the COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force Act. The bill aims to provide healthcare workers and those involved in COVID testing bias and anti-racism training. According to Black Enterprise, the bill is said to create a $200 million grant program for hospitals, state, local, Tribal, and territorial public health departments.
As of now, the Minority Business Resiliency Act and COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force Act are still in motion.
Editorial Note: This piece has been updated with additional information since it was initially published.