The COVID-19 pandemic has caused incredible hardships for businesses all over the world, and especially for small businesses. With downward-trending revenues, many small businesses have had to lay off employees or even shut down completely. Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, Robert F. Smith, rightly predicted that the pandemic in the United States would be disproportionately harder on minority-owned small businesses than for almost any other type.
Unfortunately, for many small businesses in neighborhoods with larger populations of non-white residents, the U.S.’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) doesn’t solve for pre-COVID difficulties in profit and cash liquidity. According to the Brookings Institution, the PPP funding delay between businesses in mostly-Black and mostly-white neighborhoods increased to almost three weeks, in part, due to the absence of cash buffers to stay afloat. This was especially prevalent for businesses without paid employees, including work as a real estate agent or in independent contracting.
Smith devoted his attention to improving the PPP’s availability by collaborating with the White House in order to ensure the funds were distributed as fairly as possible to those in need. According to Smith, one of the biggest challenges the PPP was designed to mitigate included making sure that small and medium-sized businesses were considered for support in the first place with an established percentage of funding specific to them.
Working with fellow financial experts and White House officials, Smith made it easier for community institutions to secure funds for minority-owned small businesses that are essential for employment where underserved communities work and live. Smith’s team continues to work with institutions like the National Bankers Association and Our Fair Share to better enable local banks and other financial institutions the ability to process PPP funds so minority-owned small businesses receive proper assistance.
For Robert F. Smith, guaranteeing the survival and supporting the prosperity of minority-owned small businesses is fundamental to breaking down systemic barriers in the United States and fostering support that creates lasting change for the communities who need it most.