As Congress once again weighs a relief bill to help the millions of Americans and businesses that are struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, they must keep those who have been hardest hit by this crisis top of mind. That means ensuring that Black communities and businesses are able to access capital allocations included in the relief package.
Robert F. Smith is vocal about the lack of banking infrastructure in Black communities across the country. Smith told Forbes Magazine this June, “if you think about structural racism and access to capital, 70% of African American communities don’t even have a branch, bank of any type.” Those banking deserts have a big impact on Black businesses’ access to capital. And after the last relief package, Smith worked with members of Congress from across the political divide to expand access to capital for struggling African-American business owners.
Here are 3 things that Congress should do to ensure the next relief bill is able to help all businesses:
Recognize the disproportionate impact the loans process has on Black businesses.
Because so many Black communities lack a bank branch in their neighborhood, many Black-owned businesses have not had the ability to develop long-standing relationships with financial institutions they can tap in times of crisis. Understanding this and addressing it is critical to ensuring that loans and funding will be disbursed equitably.
Partner with Black celebrities and influencers to help get the word out.
In the last relief bill, Smith teamed up with Black celebrities like actor Jamie Foxx, basketball legend Magic Johnson, and actors Meagan Good and La La Anthony to help get the word out that relief funding is available and Black business owners should apply. Engagement like this should be built into plans from the beginning to get the word out to everyone early.
Be intentional about distributing funds equitably.
If we aren’t intentional about making sure that funds are being distributed equitably, by the time we realize there is a problem it might be long after funding has dried up. By placing equitable distribution of funds at the center of business relief legislation, we can build in mechanisms to reach everyone and set benchmarks for evaluation at all points in the process.
To read more about Smith’s impact to help Black-owned businesses secure COVID-19 relief funding, read this blog.