COVID-19 is remaining ruthless when it comes to its effect on small businesses. Black-owned businesses are feeling the effects even harder.
Black people are approximately 22% of New York City’s population yet out of that only 2% of New York City’s businesses are Black owned. “There’s more of us in the face-to-face serving businesses. So, barber shops, beauty salons, restaurants in a local community. And so, you’re seeing the social distancing mechanism really hurt us more than others,” Andre Perry, a fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, said to The Root.
The Black Business Empowerment Committee (BBE) held a press conference on March 22, addressing the government’s allocation of emergency and recovery spending for COVID-19 relief for Black-owned businesses. BBE is a collective of Black community organizations, churches and business owners who came together to work towards a plan of empowerment for Black-owned businesses. “The Black business community wants to ensure that COVID-19 emergency and recovery dollars––meant to sustain and preserve existing businesses––reaches Black business owners and our community,” said BBE in a statement.
New York City’s Black business community demands a master no–bid contract for no less than 22% of all coronavirus emergency spending. This demand is coming after Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s order to shut down businesses due to COVID-19. “We want elected officials to know that we are watching their actions carefully and we will no longer accept rhetoric in place of economic parity. The Black community will not be left in the COVID-19 boat of despair while white business owners receive the lion’s share of no-bid contracts, and financial relief is doled out to other communities,” said BBE.
There are options for small businesses to remain afloat during this time. There is the New York City Employee Retention Grant Program, which allows small businesses with one to four employees to apply for up to $27,000, but the business must show that they lost 25% of revenue due to COVID-19. The other option for New Yorkers is the New York City Small Business Continuity Fund. This fund is for those who have less than 100 employees and can get $75,000 in interest free loans, but they must have experienced 25% loss in revenue to be able to qualify. Yet, this still begs the question of where do Black businesses get accounted for who may have not met these requirements. What if the business has not been running for six months and they have lost 25% revenue? The BBE is demanding that a $300 million ‘bail out’ fund be set aside for NYC Black businesses to be able to recover from the pandemic. This fund will be managed and disbursed by Harlem Business Alliance, Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement and Harlem Commonwealth Council.
“COVID-19 emergency and recovery spending will be the Black business community’s litmus test for NYC, NYS and federal candidates seeking political office during the 2020 and 2021 election seasons. The Black business community is watching and we will respond accordingly as the 2020 and 2021 election seasons unfold,” said BBE in a statement.